Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day thoughts.

The closest I ever came to joining the Army was back in 1974 when I pilfered my brother's draft card. Vietnam was raging and America still had a draft, so my brother, 21 months older than I, had a draft card.

IDs, like a draft card or a driver's license were different back then. Basically, they were cardstock with angular computer type and the ornate seal of whatever governing body issued them. They contained your personal information, name, date of birth, height, weight and eye color, but no hologram or photo.

So, when they ended the draft in 1974, and my brother got his driver's license, I got his Selective Service card, so I could drink, too. (The drinking age in New York back then was 18. And bartenders and liquor store owners were not nearly as strict as they are today.)

Before we had proper drinking ID, we would send my friend Fred into liquor stores to buy our booze. Fred was tall, broad, tough-looking and black and fewer people would dare question him. One time he came back to the car holding a case of beer and laughing.

"They asked for ID," he said.

We asked him what he did--he had none.

"I said, 'no one asked for ID in Vietnam,' and they gave me the beer."

Back then, if you were a certain age you had to register for the draft and when the time came you got the aforementioned draft card. Again in the wake of Vietnam, America went to an all volunteer army.

This means, in most cases, an army of the very poor and very desperate. Most of middle class America, these days, knows no one in the armed forces. So when the inevitable wars do come, they're fought by other people--people we don't know who live in parts of the country we flyover.

This makes the wars we fight much less real for most of us. We hear about them on the news after Kim and Kanye's wedding. They become part of the great American side-show.

I never wanted to be in the army, but there was something fairer and more honest about a universal draft.

Today we feign Memorial Day as we barbecue and are besieged by commercials for mattress sales.

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