Dishonest (and disabling) deferment

Lest anyone think I was condemning everyone who received a draft deferment during the Vietnam war in my prior post, I was not. In fact, it wasn't my goal even to condemn draft dodgers.

My complaint is not with people who saved their own skin. All of us have done things that were less than brave at one time or another. My problem is with those who have spent decades convincing themselves that their simple (and forgivable) acts of cowardice were of a high moral caliber. For many of them, this process started when they were in college, when they began to feel a bit guilty about the fact that because of their middle class backgrounds, it was they who got to go to college and receive a student deferment while their less-well-off (or not as bright) counterparts had to go and serve, often being blown to bits. Fairly or unfairly, the deferment system put the former in a serious moral quandary. All too often there was only one way to resolve this in a manner consistent with -- what's the word? manhood! (Yeah, I'm afraid that's it. Many of their dads served in WWII, and such issues -- laughable as they are in academia today -- loomed large in those days.)

So, if you grew up in one of those typical middle class baby boom households and you avoided service, whether by deferment or by draft dodging, you were less than a man. Not an easy thing. Probably not as bad as being a homo, but maybe something approaching it.

How to solve the manhood problem? Why, by radical opposition to the immoral war, of course! The more ferocious the opposition, the more manly the draft dodger became. I cannot tell you how many aging radicals I've known who related countless "war stories" about how "I was there in Chicago in 68" when "heads were bloodied" and the rest of it. They sound much like old veterans carrying on about military service, and no doubt they were schooled in sounding that way by dads who related their WWII service to them when they were boys.

The problem is that avoiding service is still avoiding service. It is less than admirable, and less than manly. And again, while I think it is eminently forgivable, in order to be forgiven and in order to move on, it is necessary to acknowledge what you did.

I have more respect -- a lot more respect -- for the guys who just avoided service and aren't proud of it than for those who imagine it's a badge of honor. Yet the latter never stop lording it over the former that they are morally superior.

Since when is it morally superior to spend much of a lifetime in denial? To disguise cowardice as virtue? I think that's what the anti-war draft dodgers have done, and I think it is what those who will not acknowledge their mistakes are continuing to do. Believe me, I realize it's a tough acknowledgement to make -- for it's an admission to something less than manhood.

But it takes a man to admit to a mistake -- especially such a longstanding one, and it's why I think those who are proud of their draft avoidance and antiwar stance are less manly than those who aren't. The former are stuck -- because their manhood is permanently disabled by dishonesty -- while the latter can move on.

This is, of course, counterintuitive according to the popular wisdom that prevails. (But that's why I felt the need for another post.)

MORE: The irony is compounded by the fact that the draft-deferment kids were steeped in the then-prevailing middle class morality, which accounts (IMO) for their original desire to be seen as morally righteous. What occured was a classic case of rationalization often aggravated by social pressures and even mass hysteria.

Not that I'd expect the massive societal damage this caused (and continues to cause) to be solved with a blog post.

posted by Eric on 02.19.07 at 09:09 AM










Comments

Even more annoying than moralistic draft dodgers are the anti-war, anti-military folks who insist that any hawk who doesn't enlist is a hypocrite. And let's not forget the folks who cry crocodile tears about dead soldiers for the television cameras, but can't help spewing hatred about everything those soldiers did. Disgusting.

Nick Kasoff
The Thug Report

Nick Kasoff - The Thug Report   ·  February 19, 2007 12:03 PM

You jerks. You are so stupid. So inane. This country, the US. (16 million one thousand pound bombs) murdered, at least, 8 million ) Vietnamese, because of faulty logic. Your so screwed up; but we're going to fight back. Your creating the battle and your going to face up to the consequence of your death squads. You fascists created WWII and your going to create WWIII.

David Lucier
Santa Cruz, CA

David Lucier   ·  February 19, 2007 10:45 PM

But you didn't explain how "we" "fascists" "created" WWII.

Eric Scheie   ·  February 19, 2007 10:55 PM

Eric,

Don't waste your breath, or your bandwidth for that matter. He is from Santa Cruz, after all.

cjd   ·  February 19, 2007 11:50 PM

David, much of the murdering took place after we left, by communists who the left insisted were just "nationalists". Eric's comments on this dead on target. I missed service in Vietnam myself because I was in college (albiet a military college), I entered expecting to go there but in the end neither I (nor any of my classmates as far as I know) ever made there. Hence I've always been ambivalent about my own past. Eric expressed my sentiments well.

Joe Lammers   ·  February 20, 2007 8:46 PM

"but we're going to fight back. Your creating the battle and your going to face up to the consequence of your death squads. You fascists created WWII and your going to create WWIII."

BTW, what does this incoherent statement mean? The US fought facism in WWII, and communism was at least as pernicious and destructive as facism.

Joe Lammers   ·  February 20, 2007 8:50 PM

"I was wrong"-the hardest sentence to speak in the English language.

Jon Thompson   ·  February 21, 2007 4:29 AM

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