is fair to assume that war resistance may not be popular in a lot of
circles, but in the long haul what really are the accomplishments of
war? Few to nil in my opinion except for mass destruction and death.
The question is: has the time come for war resistance and will it at
some point become a force for mighty social change?
War resistance is simple. You "don't
sign up." You fail to register for the Selective Service System. You
refuse induction in the Army. You "fail" to serve on purpose.
Men have refused to serve in small numbers over all of the last
century in all wars and have served prison sentences. There has also
been conscientious objection, which was set up by the government to
allow those with a religious objection to do alternative service.
There have been several of them also. Alternative service means that
those people with the CO status did work that was deemed useful to
society. In World War Two they worked in mental hospitals, as guinea
pigs in medical experiments or in the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Some did forest fire fighting.
So, considering that you could do alternative service why would you
ever go to prison? Hopefully, by not cooperating with the system you
are changing the system, you are doing a stronger act, an act of civil
disobedience that contributes to a world that is free from war, that
helps the world consider that there may be alternatives to the use of
violence to solve its problems. Just think if we had a million COs or
war refusers. That might get people to sit up and take notice.
Conscientious objection is based on a religious objection and is only
granted if you have what the draft board considers a sincere belief.
Some people's objections to serving are not based on this, so this
becomes a problem for them too which should be changed. Many others
don't know they could be COs. They haven't heard of it. And they could
qualify for the status on religious grounds easily. Maybe we need
Congress to change the laws and spread the word about conscientious
In the 1960s we were heavily involved in fighting the Vietnam War and
there were massive protests. The Civil Rights had been going on and
many people were growing their hair long and "dropping out". As a
youth in those days you could not help but be affected.
In High School, I was an honor roll student, an active participant in
soccer and baseball, a co-president of the student body and when I met
another boy who was doing this, who was not going to register, I said,
"Yes, this is it."
Ah, the folly of youth, eh? But I thought it was the right thing to
do. It made a clear statement that I would not participate in a system
whose sole purpose was the taking of life. This is conscientious,
religious objection based on an interpretation of Jesus's message to
us. I also think that it is a logical choice in a mad world. At some
point we have to say no more of this nonsense. Jesus, too, would have
been a "draft dodger"!
My last point is that with all the disease and poverty and nuclear
bombs and famine in the world we need to do something, anything. My
hope is that war resistance or conscientious objection may serve these
ends. Human life has evolved for thousands of years. Maybe someday war
resistance will be a part of that evolution towards a more peaceful,
was a war resister during the Vietnam War and served a year and a half
in prison. He is a Quaker and lives in Silver Spring, MD. He can be