My father kept his draft card on his dresser. I had heard about, and read about, people who burned their draft cards to protest the military draft for the Vietnam War. A dramatic act like that was designed to get attention, after all. But my father, like most people his age in the late 1960s, didn’t do that. And it seems like a terribly relevant thing in this election season.
Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury cartoon from a few days ago hit this nail right on the head with regard to the Republican nominee for president. He avoided going to Vietnam in order to knock on people’s doors in France, trying to convert them to the Mormon faith. I know what I think about those people when they knock on my door here at home. They’re persistent, irritating, and frankly just arrogant to think that their religion is so much better than whatever mine might be. I’m sure the French had the same exasperation with him in 1968 as I would with someone at my door today. But hey, it was better than the alternative for him.
So I want to hear Willard M. Romney talk about foreign policy at one of the upcoming debates. A man who knocked on doors in religion’s name at a time when other Americans were dying has got nothing at all to say on that score.
My father’s draft number didn’t come up, and I’ll always be grateful for that. But men just like my father did go to the war, and did get injured or killed, while Mr. Romney did otherwise. And nobody save for Garry Trudeau seems to want to point this out.
I’ve been to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC a couple of times. It’s a very moving experience, even if you don’t know anyone whose name appears on it. The last time I was there, I looked for people with my name, and my father’s name, who are in fact on the wall. Since I have a common name, I found nine instances of where I could find my name, and my father’s name, up on that wall. I thought about going to find one of them, to see what it felt like, but I decided against it. I chose the path of being grateful that things worked out as they did, instead. And I mourned for those who weren’t as lucky as I was.
But I know a name that was never remotely in any position to be put on that wall. And there isn’t anything he can say to undo the reasons for why this was. But I’d love to hear somebody ask him to try.
UPDATE: Apparently a bit of a correction is in order. According to John McCain’s file on Mitt Romney, which is entertaining in its own right, the Republican nominee drew a high draft number in 1970 (his number was 300, based on his birthday of March 12), and he avoided service on this basis. But I’ll stand by my larger point that knocking on doors in France wasn’t the type of service he should hold out as something noble. But he apparently lived in a castle, though.