Diane Clancy graduated from Trinity College in Hartford in 1971. She lives in Greenfield, MA where she is an artist and activist who suffers from several debilitating chronic illnesses. She has raised a daughter alone and now shares her life with a woman who is a photographer.
I felt very mixed about the draft lottery. I was glad that it would level the playing ground a little by making all men more equally vulnerable instead of more vulnerable by race, class and educational opportunity. However, I was also outraged that many men serving in Vietnam didn’t have the same chances as the people I was going to school with
I was also both angry and relieved that as a woman I didn’t have to face the draft for myself. I didn’t like preferential treatment for women, but I was also relieved that I didn’t have to face the same decisions about whether to go to jail, to Canada or to serve, that some of the men I knew were facing. It felt like a privilege (similar to the privilege that white, upper class men had before the draft). I also felt deprived – because I couldn’t make the same dramatic statements and choices that men could. I didn’t have a draft card, so I couldn’t choose to burn it. I didn’t get the same moral pulpit to speak and make choices from. I felt alone in some ways.
If I had been drafted, I would have tried to be a conscientious objector – war was and remains against my values. I am grateful to the people who have served and are serving to protect our country. At this point in time I do think we need a standing army – and we need people who are ready to give their lives for our freedom. But I think we need to do a lot more diplomatic work towards peaceful resolution. I think non-violence can be a powerful weapon. Look at the Danish in World War II. Unfortunately I don’t know whether the US wants to live in harmony with others rather than make others follow our will.
I was also scared because it made some of the men I loved potentially vulnerable by putting them into the positions of either having to go to Canada, to jail or to serve in a war they didn’t believe in. If they served they also faced fighting, killing innocent civilians, and potential disability or death. Our dying wouldn’t have mattered as much if it were a war we believed in. But we were demonstrating a lot and trying to convince people to put pressure on the government to stop this wrong war. That is not a good place to serve from – thinking that the war is wrong. Many of my friends went for conscientious objector status because I went to a school with a very active value system, which was anti-war, pro-community building, and for building bridges across differences.
Some of us, (including me) considered joining the military to have an equal place from which to speak with other soldiers. We weren’t angry at the troops; we wanted to work with them. I never saw disrespect toward soldiers. I had a friend whose husband had served and he and I talked quite a lot. It saddened me (but I understood) how grateful he was to have someone who hadn’t served want to hear about what he had experienced and how he was thinking and feeling. For me, I treasured this time.
One of my older brothers joined the service. He was in the Special Forces. I have always been very proud of him. We don’t always share the same political values (we usually don’t), but I know him to be a good, kind human being who has integrity and respects others. Those are the kind of people I want serving to protect this country.
Part of the reason I was so angry about the draft was that we, of course especially my male friends, were old enough to draft and send to war and have many of us die, but we weren’t old enough to vote. Young men were sent to kill and be killed but weren’t considered mature enough to help make decisions and elect those that were sending us over to Vietnam. You can see that even though I didn’t serve (and couldn’t have because of my health as I later realized), I took the draft very personally – that my peer group, people my age, were being sent to war, especially without voting rights!
So I paid a lot of attention to the lottery numbers of the men in my life. The results were really important to me. I knew my boyfriend and many of my friends would apply for conscientious objector status if their numbers were low – or would go to Canada. But I worried terribly about my younger brother because I didn’t know what he would do.
It became very important for me to know what my number would have been. Even if I wouldn’t be drafted, it still made me feel a little bit more connected to the whole process instead of just being on the outside of it all. (I went to a mainly male school). The night of the first lottery in 1969 was very nerve-racking for me. We all gathered together in a public area in the school and watched as they drew the numbers. I felt like a fraud because my neck wasn’t on the line, but I was still horrified knowing that this would greatly impact thousands of lives that night. It turned out that those I was closest to either had high numbers, were conscientious objectors, or had health problems that they hoped would eventually cause them to receive a 4F. My boyfriend had a pretty low number, but he expected to be 4F. My brother had a high number so, in a sense, I was protected from the full effect that some had. I was relieved and guilty.
I did know some men who had low numbers and because I was so politically active I knew evaders and resistors. Most of the time I was with other people, too, so I trusted someone would be there who would know what to do if the police went after one of these men. I knew lots of these people were ready for these scenarios even though we never strategized together at the time.
There was a scary moment for me was when I was giving someone a long, long ride (someone who was staying in the house I was staying in). The tires had very low treads on the new used car I had bought. I was on the way to get new tires and the police stopped me because of the tires. I was absolutely terrified that the police would ask to see the draft card or identification of the person I was with. I kept practicing the name I was supposed to call him as we drove. I knew him by his real name and by the name on his documents. I wanted to make sure I did it right. Also, I kept trying to decide what to do if they caught him – what was the appropriate, responsible action? Fortunately, they never checked, but I still remember how frightened I felt as we sat there on the side of the road.
Another time, my boyfriend and I had borrowed my mom’s car for a long trip (several hundred miles). The car was having problems and we had to go slowly on an interstate as we were figuring how to get off to get the car fixed. The police pulled us over as suspicious. It was again terrifying to me. He had his draft card, but apparently they thought we were members of the Weather Underground, a group that was willing to use violence to end the War in Vietnam. They thought we were on the run from an action. I never did those kind of things. I considered such actions, even thought intended to stop the violence in Vietnam, as part of the violence, but I was so scared we would get pulled into the system without protection.
I guess now I probably believe in compulsory national service for everyone. I think it’s good for everyone to serve in some way. Definitely women too! I think it’s possible that so many people crossing paths and working together with such a mix of race, class, gender, sexual identity (yes, gay people should serve), and ability (I think it makes sense for disabled people to serve also – with accommodations) would truly help people accept difference more. There would have to be supervision and structure so that societal norms weren’t played out – so it would be a responsible, educational, growth experience besides service. But lots of good work could get done. There are many ways to serve besides being soldiers. And then everyone should have lifetime national health insurance.
Another thing about the lottery for me was that I became very aware of a division resulting from that night of the drawing of numbers. It was horrible sitting there as the men I cared about were divided into different groups: those all of a sudden at enormous risk with low numbers, those who were safe with high numbers and those with mid-risk from medium numbers. I imagined the insecurity for the mid-risk – it was still unknown whether they would be called. I ended up feeling very isolated and alone – it was like before we were all in this together and we weren’t together any more – just individuals now.
As for the anti-war movement it changed things some – not a lot – to me. I could feel a different weight or lightness from those with different numbers, so for individuals it was different. But many of us were very passionate about stopping the war – it had little or nothing to do with serving or not serving. I was never at risk of being drafted yet I was as passionate as anyone. Also there were certainly many people active in the anti-war movement that were too old to draft or even serve. Maybe some people didn’t care as much about the war if they weren’t at risk of being drafted – but they weren’t the ones who were very active.
Another woman had stories to tell about the men who returned from Vietnam with invisible scars – psychological wounds. She participated in several arenas in which she saw close up the toll the war took on the souls of these men. At the V.A. she administered tests to returning vets and through talking to them and debriefing them, she saw how alienated they felt, surrounded by professionals who had no appreciation for what they had been through. Many had turned to drugs and alcohol as a response to the violence they’d witnessed. She thinks the dissonance between their post-war life back here and what they had been living through in Vietnam was too much to bear. Then she encountered many of these same and similarly desperate vets through A.A. She saw the intensity of their anger and felt it was at a different level than others in the circle. For too many of them there was a tragic lack of self-control and the places they went with drugs and alcohol were so self-destructive. Inevitably, for those trying to stay in a marriage or raise children, this rage was destructive to those around them. In her mind the internal pain these men were dealing with from what they had witnessed and participated in was so extreme that drugs and alcohol were used in ultimately dangerous ways to numb the intense feelings inside them. Normal social restraint was just not there for these men. She felt that many of them were trying really hard to do the right thing, to be
responsible, but there was a lion inside them, an enormous pile of anger and violence, which never healed and would come out in rage. Layered onto this was the enormous difference between World War II vets and Vietnam vets. The former felt they had done something to be really proud of – stopping the Nazis and restoring democracy to Europe. Many Vietnam vets felt that what they did in the war was wrong and the results were guilt and shame.
The fact is that in the ‘60’s I certainly thought women should be drafted if men were. To me, it was a part of women’s independence, which meant having to take the bad with the good. Now I believe in compulsory national service for everyone. I think it’s good for everyone to serve in some way. Definitely women, too! I think it’s possible that so many people crossing paths and working together with such a mix of race, class, gender, sexual identity – yes, gay people should serve! – and ability – I think it makes sense for gay people to serve, too, with accommodations – would truly help people accept difference more. There would have to be training and supervision so that societal norms weren’t played out and so the service would be a responsible, educational, growth experience for everyone involved. But lots of good work could get done…and the society would change for the better. And maybe with everyone having a stake we’d be in less of a hurry to go to war…