There was a draft for Nam. As my brother Alain said, “low number = screwed.”
How to stay out of the draft? All those strategies. Like inhale from a vacuum bag and agitate your asthma before your physical. Talk about liking boys and wetting your bed and get a letter from a sympathetic psychologist or psychiatrist. Cut off the right amount of your trigger finger and you can’t shoot a gun.
Or leave the country. Escape.
Tim O’Brien talks about leaving in The Things They Carried. How leaving means giving up your family and your history and your connections. How embarrassing it would be to explain. How lonely it would be. And O’Brien says that he just didn’t have the courage to leave. So he went to Nam instead.
What is the meaning of courage? We’re always told it takes courage to go to war. Or is it courage to survive war, the daily stress and boredom and fear?
What about the courage to refuse war, to deny its validity. Refusing to go.
To leave family and history and connections must be a truly courageous act.