Remembance and Honor
I was four years old in 1948, when the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors sprang up. I didn't have any sense of there being a war at all and certainly wasn't aware that there were people who would refuse to go to war, for reasons of conscience or otherwise.
In 1962 I married James Douglas Thomason because he didn't want to be drafted. OOPS! Big Mistake! His conscience wasn't speaking to him and I was too naive to ask him to consider his other options. I was busy trying to get a life, make some money, pay the rent, and go to school and I really didn't question why there was a draft and who was going.
By 1967 I had left that unhealthy situation and was working full time and going to school. I certainly knew about the Viet Nam war -- and a lot of other things -- then and worked with some folks who supported draft resistors. We would go to the induction center to support the people who were refusing to be inducted and wave them off to jail. Those were some brave motherfuckers.
I was caught up in the anti-war movement, protesting DOW chemical which manufactured Napalm and other horrors and continues to do so, protesting the war. I didn't think much about the situations of people who for whatever reasons of necessity, patriotism, or need went to Viet Name.
But when those planes hit the Trade Center buildings I knew that the Untited States Government would go on the attack. And I thought that the people in the United States who would be damages most would be the youth who had joined the military as a way of trying to get a job and some education. Because I knew that the draft had never ended, that the "All Volunteer" military was just an economic and class draft.
So I joined up with The Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors to work on the GI Rights Hotline to do what I could to help these people get out of the military.
So today I honor with great sorrow those who have entered the military because of poverty and the lies of the recruiting system and who have killed, been killed. I honor those who have been damaged in their minds, hearts, and souls, by being in the military. And I honor those who came to an awareness that they could not and would not be a part of war and sought and continue to seek to leave the military in any way they can -- "by any means necessary" as Malcolm X said.
I know that there will be many television specials and programs about memorial day. My favorite of these -- though perhaps it was not so intended -- will be the movie "Ali", shown two nights ago. It's a pretty good movie. And while Muhammed Ali's brave refusal to go to war is only a part of the story it's there, with Ali saying "No Viet Cong ever called me 'nigger'" and telling the media how they had failed him.
So I honor him, glad that he is still with us, and glad that he is receiving honors like the one from the ACLU last June 12, which stated "“This award honors Muhammad Ali for what may have been the toughest fight of his career -- being stripped of his World Heavyweight title and prosecuted for draft evasion in 1967 after refusing on religious grounds to fight in the Vietnam War.”
And I hope that he will continue to be a hero and a model to those who have been entrapped by the military recruiting machine and that others will find hope and support in his words and his actions.