The more things change…
The presidential race this year caused a lot of us to remember (and misremember) the events of some three decades ago. Here are some of the things I think I remember.
There was this crazy-bad war, and its dubious theoretical basis had been underpinned with what were eventually recognized as lies and misrepresentations. Before this was clear, a lot of very brave young Americans had died, and their ghosts haunt us still.
We had a draft then, and the lives of the young men were ruled by its arcane numbering systems: I-A, II-S, I-Y, 4-F. Those with the right connections, the right strategy, could get the right numbers. The war was overwhelmingly fought on the ground by those who were black, brown or poor white. They didn’t get the right numbers.
Our two presidential candidates of today were both children of privilege and could easily avoid the draft. Choices were made. While there was absolutely nothing dishonorable about serving in the National Guard, it was well understood at the time that it was unlikely the guard would ever be deployed to scenic Southeast Asia. Berkeley, maybe.
Those with a streak of idealism volunteered. They were wounded, lost limbs, served time in those prison camps. Three decades later their sacrifice, their heroism, would be attacked by those who avoided it all and “got on with their lives.” It is a mad world, indeed.
But this is a different time, a different war, things are different right? I don’t think so.
Today, our National Guard members serve as de facto draftees, and those in power direct them into another international misadventure. It seems to be the same crowd who screwed it up in 1991. This war is really starting to walk like a duck.
You know, we had some great music going on 30 years ago, and every night as I look at the faces of our dead young men and women on the TV screen, a particular song by Pete Seeger plays in my head:
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.