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vaietweiL4 ..3mmaummumpammismonmw. 71411111% had been burned off. “He told me he had been on the turning frame for three months. They turn him every few hours. He said he first didn’t think it was right to go to Canada as some guys were doing, but that if he had it to do over again he would. He said there was no sense to war. The man on the frame was white.” The doctor The doctor was a Jew and a psychiatrist, from the South, who as president of his high school class had organized a memorial for Martin Luther King. Writing of heroin addiction among the “grunts,” the doctor maintained, “I learned that there were 40,000 GI heroin addicts in Vietnam. I think of those addicts I have seen in withdrawal: they lie there, weeping like babies, shivering, their noses running. They come from places of desperation. I can only reason that drugs help our men from their own desperation and guilt from killing and destroying, from violating their consciences, from desecrating life. And can I help them, when telling them the truth would only deepen their desperation?” Jed In 1968, Jed, an anglo kid of social prominence, wrote to his draft board, “I hereby renounce my [student deferment].” A student with top grades, he relinquished a right he didn’t have to give up; he was the only person of the hundreds I talked to with college deferments who voluntarily made such a gesture. Jed felt that the student classification was elitist, and asked instead to be classified as a conscientious objector. His draft board responded to such striking honesty by immediately ordering him to military duty. Quoting David S. Muzzey to the effect that “it is not the church that makes people good, but good people that make the church,” he proceeded to lecture the military about the cause of peace, all with total politeness. Yet, it was obvious to me and to the military that Jed, who looked like a baby-faced choir boy, would go to the penitentiary before he would serve in uniform; he had a kind of steel in him no swaggering John Wayne movie could ever emulate. Watching that kid of social prestige make the moral stand that he did, and seeing its impact on the military, convinced me all the more that a draft law should be without exemptions for the so-called high-born. The generals and colonels were nervous about the boy; they were glad to get him out of their hair. Jed had their number and they knew it. The Roman Catholics The Roman Catholic kids of Irish, German, and Italian descent, mostly from the North, made up at least half of the enlisted men who came to my office. Their chaplains prided themselves on being “real men,” but it was an out-ofdate manhood of no relevancy in terms of Vietnam. “Sure, Pat,” asked Father Flannigan with a touch of fake Irish brogue at an administrative hearing, “now how would you like for some dirty communist to rape your dear old mother?” Pat, my client, replied, “Have you ever seen my mother?” The Catholics were full of John XXIII. Every time one of the R.C. soldiers would mention that particular pope, you would see the chaplain wince. Educated at rinky-dink, economically poor Catholic colleges around the country, they knew that Vietnam was a lie. Their blood fathers, good soldiers in World War II, believed that Vietnam was the same type of war, and often deserted their sons. Funny, mischievous, half mean, smart, brave, they were among my favorites. Mexican -Americans According to Chance and Circumstance, “In the average rifle company, the strength was 50 percent composed of Negroes, Southwestern MexicanAmericans, Puerto Ricans, Guamanians, Nisei, and so on. But a real cross-section of American youth, almost never.” My friends at the local office of the American Friends Service Committee placed a cross on a map of San Antonio at the home address of each person killed in combat. On the West Side where the Mexican-Americans mostly live, there was a sea of crosses. In Alamo Heights, Olmos Park and Terrell Hills, where the “best people” live, there were virtually no crosses at all. We tried to do something about such flagrant disparity by going into the barrios and telling the young to legally resist. One brown body in a GI coffin, one white body; uno por uno. They ran us out. Mexican-Americans, deeply patriotic, are conservative on this point. Besides, if you kill someone in the barrio you go to Huntsville; kill a “gook” in Vietnam, you get a medal, a pension maybe, and points toward a civil service joba chance to escape the ghetto. Not only do we whites discriminate against blacks and browns in civilian life, denying them the full benefits of our society, but also we trade on our racist attitudes to tempt minorities to become regulars in the military where there is a semblance of racial equality, albeit in the most undemocratic of all institutions. Once, after observing a black sergeant bullying some conscientious-objector soldier applicants, I asked him why he remained in as reactionary an atmosphere as the army. He replied with an argument I could not answer: “I come from Mississippi. I’d have to go back and pick cotton. Why don’t you go back to Mississippi and pick cotton, Mr. Maverick?” There were dozens of ways to keep out of the Vietnam war if you had money, the right religion, status, and a white skin. Medical doctors found excuses for the children of the well-born to remain in civilian life. Divinity schools became havens from the draft. “The Dallas Cowboys had ten players assigned to the same National Guard division at the same time,” claim the authors of Chance and Circumstance. Deals were made on occupational deferments. College students were exempt until Richard Nixon, of all people, did away with the deferment. There were professional “Sergeant Bilkos,” regulars who avoided combat while the citizen soldiers, the Juan Tortillas, went off to fight. “The result,” Kingman Brewster, Yale University president, declared, “was a cynical avoidance of service, a corruption of the aims of education, a tarnishing of the national spirit . . . and a cops-and-robbers view of national obligation.” That national obligation, by the way, was almost not met at all by the sons of congressmen, nor did members of Congress go off and serve as they did in such significant numbers during World War II. Yet, year after year the national legislators financed an undeclared, illegal war while the few brave members of Congress opposing the Vietnam war like Wayne Morse were wiped out at the polls. We Americans, as members of the United Nations, resolved that “. . . mankind owes to the child the best it has to give.” Well, to the children of Indochina we gave our best: thousands upon thousands napalmed, indiscriminate bombings, over a million left orphans, all to the accompaniment of Kennedy’s rhetoric, the bravado of Johnson, and finally the piety of Nixon, rooted, he claimed, in the Quaker tradition. Between ourselves and our allies we expended over 14,304,532 tons of ground, sea, and air munitions. Four and a half million Indochinese civilians were killed, wounded, or made homeless after Nixon became president. Forty thou 19 THE TEXAS OBSERVER