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February 23, 2004

OK, so this one's political too

But I'll make it as short as I can.

I was briefly famous in Buffalo, New York in the very early 1980s for publicly declaring my refusal to register for the draft. I was interviewed on television and radio and in the (then) two local newspapers, and spoke at rallies here and there.

Jimmy Carter had just restarted draft registration in response to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. It was a pointless and yet incendiary policy, one that served only to make global tension worse. It was an inept attempt to appeal to the right by a president who — by the standards of the time, at least — seemed to be slumping ever rightward.

Global politics and such aside, the main reason I refused to register is that I was a pacifist. I felt it immoral to take another person's life, especially in situations not involving self-defense. We're thinking, rational creatures, I felt, and there are no disagreements that can't be resolved non-violently — or at least alleviated — if one just works hard enough at it.

That's a naïve belief, but I still mostly feel that way. I've met people who were depraved and violent. I've talked to others who seem the picture of sanity, but who refuse to connect their seemingly innocuous actions with the suffering those actions cause.

And I'm still an optimist about human nature, for the most part. I've seen hideously bigoted people sit down and discuss things politely and constructively with the very people they despise, seen hardened ideologues crack their skulls and let the light of contrary information in.

Despite being forced to what I think is a more realistic definition of "self-defense," and recognizing that there are some causes where non-violent activists won't prevail without giving their own lives (Rachel Corrie comes to mind), I've gotten to the ripe old age I am today, twice the age I was when I was pushing resistance to the draft, with my thoughts about the validity of political violence basically intact. I still feel it's wrong to kill a person for political reasons, whether in wartime, through terrorism, or in the gas chamber.

And people like those David Neiwert describes here damn well better hope that most folks agree with me, because they are really pushing the boundaries of what might be considered "self-defense." That's all I'm saying.

Posted by Chris Clarke at February 23, 2004 03:31 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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I saw that on its cross-post at American Street. Scary stuff, that.

I remember late last year posting about how much life seems to resemble an Atwood novel, and was pooh-poohed by a few readers. I want to say "I told you so," but there's little pleasure in it!

Posted by: Rana at February 23, 2004 04:46 PM
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