Within the last few days I have been rooting through some old and musty piles of papers. Among them I found the January 13, 1969, issue of "Suppression", an underground periodical published in and around the State University of Albany campus. It contains an article by a young man I remember rather fondly, though it amuses me now to see how seriously he took himself and how important he thought his thoughts and actions were. He, of course, was the younger me - known in that innocent time as "Dick Evans". I've decided to republish that article from 1969 - written one week before I turned in my draft cards to the U.S. attorney and became a draft resister - right here in my blog. I may follow up in a few days with some commentary and information about context and about what happened next.
Why I'm Breaking Off From Selective Servitude
by Dick Evans
Henry Thoreau wrote in 1849 that “under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison…the only house in a slave state where the free man can abide with honor.” It happens that I cannot quite agree with this statement. But because the American government today is imprisoning many unjustly, because we still have what is in many ways a “slave state”, and because something in Thoreau’s attitude rings true for me, I have chosen to begin with his words in my explanation of why I am willing to go to prison.
The man who has been drafted is a slave of the state. He is serving it involuntarily, directing his life for two or more years according to the dictates and directives of “superior” officers. He is not free to choose his own job, to quit and go home, to live where he wants, do what he wants, or in any way shape his personal life-style in accordance with a privately worked out system of values. He can even find himself murdering “enemies” he really has nothing against.
No matter that a selected few, myself included, are exempted from military service by the law itself because they are pacifists. No matter that countless others are deferred while they serve the “national interest” in other ways. No matter that the rich, the educated and the powerful find ways out. The brutal fact is that America is enslaving her sons in order to fight a dirty and dishonorable war.
We have an opportunity, I think, not only to wash our hands of this system and this war, not only to work covertly for peace and freedom, but also to speak openly and declare the truth as we see it. Washing one’s hands is easy, any old deferment will do. Real, as opposed to symbolic, anti-draft work is more dangerous, but it is best carried out in secret (underground) and is relatively secure. But speaking the truth in the open, being honest and hopefully unafraid, telling it like it is with our lives as well as our words, is the kind of thing that leads to prison.
Albany could post an honor roll of resisters: Brooks Smith, Steve Trimm, Stanley Bennett, John Beauvais, and Dan Morrison. All of them are good men: honest, brave and gentle people who will probably be sent to Allenwood, Danbury, Lewisburg or Petersburg. Their lives and acts are shattering the myth that America can have her war and freedom, too. They are saying that the draft is a prison, that the draft is slavery, that the draft is illegitimate, and that they – the sons of America’s middle and working classes – are therefore using their lives as a counter-friction against the draft machine.
So going to prison has its postive side. The shocking audacity of doing so deliberately is enough to open many heads and raise many doubts. Through its association with resisters the movement acquires an aura of seriousness not easily laughed off by the man in the street. When Steve Trimm is arrested and I turn in my draft cards and leave my civilian service job, the very illegality of these actions should lend a paradoxical kind of legitimacy to my whole anti-war position. In the months after that I will speak and write and agitate, trying for as wide an audience as possible.
Draft counseling is still important. Demonstrations are still important. The creation of an underground railway for deserters and draft-dodgers is still important. But there is a real need for bravery and open resistance that says “I will not be a slave, and I will not be ashamed to be free.” This need, in my overweaning pride, I am hesitatingly joining with others to fill.
Labels: autobiography, draft resistance, prison