May 05, 2004

value of the dollar

It is incredible how much being a Dad changes one’s outlook on the world. People told me when my wife was pregnant that “everything changes” and I assumed they were talking just about priorities and day to day lifestyle. Little did I realize that it would change me in profound and fundamental ways.

I think about the future far more now than I did pre-Fatherhood. And I’m not talking about retirement planning, but rather the big sweep of history: the world which we will leave to our offspring and in turn, they will leave to theirs.

These matters are weighing heavy today because of the thought provoking op-ed written by William Broyels, Jr. entitled A War for Us, Fought by Them. You should definitely read that piece if you haven’t already. Broyels ends with a call to reinstate the draft, and while I do not agree with his ultimate conclusion, his argument is very persuasive.

The startling fact in that op-ed was the that only one of 535 members of Congress has a child actively engaged in military operations in the Middle East. On reflection, I’m not shocked by this, but still, it is an amazing statistic that reflects how the power elite in our country are manipulating circumstances to their benefit. Broyels envisions a solution through an objective, no deferment draft that will force the children of privilege into the ranks of the military and thereby approximate the wealthy’s participation in conflicts of our past.

The central problem with Broyel’s argument is that he believes that a Congress which consistently and systematically forfeits its power to decide whether to go to war would make more sober decisions if they were personally vested in the matter. I wish I shared at least that optimism. I for one have lost faith that our current legislators can ever be trusted to do the right thing if it means that some of their number could have their tenure jeopardized by a tough vote.

I am betting that Shrub would have towed a Swift boat by canoe all the way to Hanoi if that were necessary to present the right image of the Bush family to the public. The elite often sacrifice their own to maintain their station and their kids tend to tow the line for the family because that is the course of their own access to wealth and power. Sadly, Broyel’s version of the draft would only affect the vote of those occasional legislators who put the needs of our country over retaining their positions of power and prestige. The drums beat loudly these days and now there is a strong possibility of a draft for whatever real or imagined rationale.

When you have a young son, the drums get your undivided attention.

I have always imagined that I would teach my son the same lessons my Father taught me about country, duty and honor. As a young man, I believed in America as the leader of the free world. Having been steeped in the history of our sacrifices in the War to End All Wars and World War II, if called I would have risked life and limb to advance the cause of freedom in this world. This Cause was greater than myself and therefore worthy of my last full measure.

I remember well when the selective service registration was resumed during the early days of the Reagan administration. I had a little lump in my throat as I dropped off the card knowing of the tumult in the Middle East, but I knew without a doubt that if called, I would go. Twenty-four years and a few questionable foreign ventures later, I’m not so sure I’d encourage my son to analyze duty in the same way, and this realization aggravates a deep angst inside myself.

America’s leadership is obviously bent on flexing its muscle to peruse an agenda that is ostensibly American, but is in fact primarily about consolidating power. This radical change of course in policy and behavior is decidedly un-American. Our former allies understand the enormity of the shift and thus have given us their ire rather than their support for a new world order.

Inwardly too we are coming apart. Sound politics now rules over sound policy. Sound bites rule over sound logic. And in a horrible symbol of how far we have slid, in a collective panic we have rushed to shred our Charters of Freedom and throw our human rights legacy into the trash can following the attacks on September 11th. We have arrived at a new and different reality where one is hard pressed to find what clear values America still stands for other than, perhaps, the value of the dollar.

Clearly, our most vicious preemptive strike has been against the State of Reason.

The nobility or ignobility of a war does not impact the honor of the service of those who have given their all in military service. I have the utmost respect for our soldiers in Iraq. They serve in my name and their oath is to protect me-for that I am forever indebted to them. It is not inconsistent to assert that I strongly object to how this Administration is squandering our youth in a war waged on false pretenses.

My Son will be draft eligible in thirteen years which is a long time. Time enough for me to hope that America can get itself turned around. But that hope is increasingly a thin reed and I must contemplate the reality of the world as it will be then. Clearly this administration is going to leave things in a mess for some time to come, so there is a greater probability than some realize that my Son might be conscripted to serve.

Serving and dying for a big cause is much different than what we are asking our Sons and Daughters to do now. While it would be a personal tragedy of the greatest proportions, I could eventually deal with a Son who died in the cause of freedom. One can make sense of that. But could I make sense out of his death in defense of the right of Congressmen to use the Congressional country club and Plutocrats to have a villa in Vail? That is a different calculus altogether. Torn between honest patriotism and a more realistic view of our current national direction, I honestly do not know what I would tell an eighteen year old son if he were drafted today. Fortunately, I have over a decade before I might be asked, “what would you do Dad?”

I pray we make good use of that time, because right now, I am terrified of my answer to that question.

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