Friday, June 28, 2013

Debate on conscription raises questions about "morality" of shared sacrifice, among different generations

Yesterday, I reported on more idling discussion about national service and occasional calls for resuming conscription.  It raises a debate, that availability to share the risks in defending freedom is a moral issue, or at least it was when I was growing up.  On the other hand, freedom from involuntary servitude ought to be a fundamental right.  There’s always been a clash between these ideas in my own mind.  It also raises the idea that times change, that behavior that was condemned in the past will not be today.  But how should people whose acts seemed evasive, cowardly, or maybe courageous (depending on how you look at things) during the times they came of age be judged today?
How should be people “evaluated” if they were actually convicted for crimes, that would no longer apply today?
It has been common to accuse some politicians of evading or “dodging” military service, such as Bill Clinton.
President Carter, in 1977.  issued a pardon for men who had violated the Selective Act between 1964 and 1973,  But a pardon does not remove a conviction from someone’s record.  There is still the view that during that particular period, men were expected to step up and share a common risk of the community.  As we know from history, that risk may have been misconstrued.  President Ford had offered a more selective clemency plan, requiring some public or community service, link here..  You can check the Wikipedia page on draft evasion here.

The DOJ page on that pardon is here
My history is unusual.  Because of my “psychiatric” history after my expulsion from William and Mary in 1961 for admitting “latent homosexuality”, I was marked 4-F after my first draft physical in 1964 in Richmond.  I considered this a blight on my “reputation” (long before the days of “online reputation”), and retook the physical in Kansas City (from graduate school) in 1966 and was marked 1-Y.  I asked for another one and passed as 1-A with a physical in August 1967.  I got a draft notice in January 1968, with induction on Feb. 22, giving me time to finish my M.A. at the University of Kansas.  I “volunteered” for two years and went in on Feb. 8.
I had a hard time with Basic, got recycled into Special Training Company, but eventually got stronger physically.  But I was sheltered by my graduate degree and got an “01E20” MOS and didn’t have to go to Vietnam and be exposed to “sacrifice” (which can mean sacrifice for others). Others went and took increased risk because I was sheltered. 
This couldn’t happen today.  With a volunteer military, if I didn’t meet the physical strength standards (regardless of lifting DADT), I simply wouldn’t be accepted.  Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it.
It raises questions about my history, though.   Was it “right” that I was earning a living by working for a company that sold life insurance for military officers when the debate over the military gay ban erupted in 1993?  I eventually transferred in 1997 away from the situation – more on that in a future post. 

My upbringing, though, made a big deal of the moral aspect of “getting out of things” that others have to put themselves through.  It raises moral questions that we don’t like to talk about today.  

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