The political and moral crisis caused by the Vietnam War was not an abstract public policy; it affected my family. While not all my relatives opposed the Vietnam War, my cousins who did, struggled to avoid fighting in Vietnam. Their social-economic status largely determined their options. My working class cousins joined the Coast Guard or Navy; the middle class cousin went to college.
Nor were the women in my family immune from the effects of the draft. One cousin as a young mother had to move with her infant every few months for several years to keep her husband legally one step ahead of the draft board, a viable tactic in the pre-computer world.
Looking back it is shocking for me to think how young they were when they made these life-altering decisions, 18 to 24 years old. And how quickly they abandoned their parents’ generation’s belief in “My Country Right or Wrong” for their generation’s adage “Question Authority.”
The decisions they had to make about what to do about an unjust war continue to raise questions relevant today. What is a just war? Do you have a duty to serve your country? Is it your duty to oppose your own government, when it is conducting an illegal and immoral war?
Today we fight our wars very differently. Less than 1% of eligible Americans fight in our foreign wars, in part due to the fact there is no draft, nor will there be one anytime soon-- a legacy of the resistance to the Vietnam war.
I want to make The Draft and the Vietnam Generation to explore this critical period of American history through the eyes of young people who rejected war and become a force to be reckoned with.