Thursday, September 09, 2004

Glass Houses


I don't know anyone who went to Vietnam--do you? Guys I knew had student deferrments. When, incredibly, the government switched to a lottery system and ordinary, unmarried undergraduates were no longer exempt, Lyle went to Divinity School, George got a shrink to certify that he was gay, and poor Alex, who got the worst of it, was forced to join the National Guard, which tied him up for 6 years.

People like us didn't do military--any more than we bowled or drove American cars. During the student strike of 1970, in the absence of an ROTC program, the SDS chapter at Lake Forest College considered a proposal to name the pump house, a small ornamental gazebo-like structure at the entrance to Faculty Circle, "ROTC building" and blow it up. Or at least to take a few turns around it waving signs.

Maybe when the story of George Bush's career in the National Guard breaks out of the elite media into the news shows and papers that the General Public actually reads and watch, and they get a view of what it was like for the privileged, and even semi-privileged like me and my contemporaries it will give them a turn.


Barney said...

Actually, I knew quite a few people, several in my own family, who served in Vietnam (or is it Viet Nam?). But then, I grew up in a working-class Irish Catholic family in the rust belt, who drove American made cars (some of us were making them), and spent many happy hours in bowling alleys. The same people now shouldering a disproportionate share of the burden in the nightmare we call Iraq. The horror of all this is that they will vote overwhelmingly for George Bush.

Eugene V. Debs once observed that 'wars are to make rich men richer and poor men die.' Patricians like Bush have always escaped military duty. The problem is that the criticism is coming from people who took the same opportunities to avoid service.

H. E. said...

I know, and I'm stumped. I have some students in ROTC and also active duty military who have been sent back to finish their education. During the last election they said they were supporting Bush because they "wanted to keep their jobs." Once the Iraq war was on some were expressing reservations: one Army guy said that of course he didn't want to go to Iraq--he was in for the educational benefits; only the Marines actually wanted to fight.

The ROTC and returning military students are some of the best I have. Their perception is that military service is the only opportunity they have to better themselves, to get training to make them employable and college degrees. They don't see it any alternative options for providing these benefits as a real possibility.

I appreciate the need for a strong military and appreciate their commitment--unlike many of my colleagues--but I believe the current war has been badly botched and, more importantly, that there are much cheaper ways to provide the training, education and opportunities they get in the military.

How do you get that one across?

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