Sunday, October 19, 2008

Skeletons in the Closet

Note: This was my very first post on my blog four years ago when Bush was running for his second term against Senator John Kerry. It's worth repeating because the same thing is happening now. This time it's not so much about a military record, but rather actions in the distant past that candidates are using against one another. I want to say, "Please, stop it already. Each of you just tell me how you'd run the country differently than it's being run now to make things better.

I was a teenager and college student during the late 60s and early 70s. Most of the presidential candidates during the last 10 years have been my age or a bit older. So often these candidates are judged on what choices they made during the 60s and 70s when they were impressionable young adults, who really had no idea what they wanted to do or where they would be when they were 50-60 years old. They were active participants in their decade and culture as we all were and they did things that kids did at that age. Of course now a student at Harvard (or Hawaii Pacific University or North Idaho College or University of Idaho or Matanuska-Susitna College) who has aspirations to be president or the very least a public servant may think twice about being offered a joint at a party on a Friday night after a long week of classes, tests, papers and labs, but in the 60’s this kind of behavior had yet to be used against anyone.

On December 1, 1969, the United States began a new method* of drafting young men to fight the war in Vietnam: It held a lottery. It worked like this: Each day of the year was printed on a piece of paper. These pieces of paper, representing each potential draftee's birthday, were placed in blue plastic capsules. Then all 366 capsules (one for each day of the year, including leap years) were placed in a large glass jar. As millions watched on TV or listened on radio, the capsules were drawn from the jar, one by one. The first date drawn was assigned a draft number of "one"; the next date drawn received draft number "two"; and so on, until each day of the year -- each potential birthday -- had been drawn from the jar and assigned a draft number. After the lottery, draftees were called for duty in order of their draft number, beginning with number "one," proceeding to number "two," and so on, until the military's manpower needs were met. So if you drew a low number in the lottery, you were likely to be drafted; if you drew a high number, you probably wouldn't be. In this particular draft**, anyone who received a number lower than 196 was eventually called to report; anyone who received 196 or higher was not. (

On that night I was watching the lottery with my boyfriend and his fraternity brothers and their girls friends. You have to know....and I do, since I was there...that almost all of them were hoping for a high number. Meaning if their birthday was May 1, they prayed that the May 1 ball was 366th ball drawn. There were tears and cheers that night and the conversation groups that formed, (high number groups and low numbers groups) had topics ranging from enlistment, to staying in college for as long as possible, to moving to Canada, to having a friend of someone's Dad make a call, or having Dad make a call to see if there was a way to avoid the draft. That night the feeling was that nobody thought any less of anyone in any group. If you were lucky enough to have the grades and the dollars to stay in college that was great. If you could move to Canada that was okay, too. If your Dad was a retired General and could get you in the reserves that was okay...or if you had to go and you figured out a way to get sent home by being wounded enough times without getting killed, then that was okay and if you wanted to enlist the next day that was just fine, too. My point didn't make a difference what your choice was, because it was your choice. Nobody thought any less of these articulate, intelligent young men. We just didn't want them killed in a seemingly senseless war. Sound familiar?

So why do we chastise candidates for their actions of some 30 years ago? I think we should just look at their political record from the recent past. Look at things they've done in their job working for a better America and make decisions based on that.

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