Seeds: The Vietnam War spurred on one of the most pervasive counter-culture movements in American History, the hippies. The hippies preached about peace and ran demonstrations against the Vietnam War. After the Pentagon Papers were released (papers that exposed that the government lied about how the United States got involved in the Vietnam War), the anti-war movement expanded beyond just the hippies. Hundreds of men tried to dodge the draft by moving to Canada, faking medical conditions, claiming to be homosexual, having young children, or registering as a Conscientious Objector (members of “Peace Churches” like the Mennonites or Quakers who were not required to serve militarily).
Core: Muhammad Ali famously refused the draft on this day in 1967 by stating that it conflicted with his Muslim beliefs. As a consequence, he was stripped of his heavyweight title,and convicted of draft evasion a little over a month later. He was sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000, and banned from boxing for 3 years. The Supreme Court overturned his conviction a few weeks later.
Skin: During the 1960’s, draft dodging was viewed as an “un-American” and near-blasphemous. While many looked upon it as a cowardly move, one must consider that men didn’t always avoid the war for fear of their own safety (although that was definitely a factor for some), many disagreed with what the war stood for.
Leaves: The topic of dodging the draft during the Vietnam War still comes up in today’s presidential elections, especially when it come to discussions about Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, both of whom could have served in Vietnam. Sanders avoided the draft by applying as a Conscientious Objector, while Trump was in college and failed the medical exam necessary to join the armed forces.
Food For Thought: Do you think that Trump or Sanders purposefully avoided the draft? Do you think that avoiding the draft was ethical? Do you think the fact that neither candidate served in the army should affect their standings as candidates? Do you think that we should have a draft in the future?