Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Men born the year I was born were the first of our generation who were not obliged to register for the draft. The guys who were seniors when I was a junior had draft cards-- my class did not. Nevertheless, the War, and the draft, and the cultural politics surrounding these things were formative debates as I approached my majority, and I think it is fascinating that these old arguments still rage. Frankly, I would like to think that if I'd been called to go that I'd have moved to Winnipeg, but I know that it wouldn't have played out that way. I doubt that I'd have found myself in Saigon, but for sure, if I'd gotten that letter, my personal beliefs about the War notwithstanding, my stupid sense of duty would have seen me in khakis. I'm just as glad it didn't play out that way, believe me, and I am persuaded that the way I saw things back then was in need of rethinking. Well, after all, what doesn't benefit from re-thinking, right? So the fact that John Kerry went, and served honorably, and returned, and spoke out , again honorably, seems more impressive to me now than it did at the time. The culture back then was different. I know a lot of people who worked the system pretty hard to avoid the trip to the jungle, and I still respect that impulse, but there is no getting around the fact that what Kerry did was impressive. Can we say it was the right thing to do? It seems that way, doesn't it? Was what Bush did the pusillanimous thing that it now seems? Well yes, it does seem to have been, even if he actually did serve out his stretch. How obvious were the answers to those questions back then? Rather less obvious, I'd say. That happens sometimes in morally ambiguous situations. One of the things that puts it in perspective, I think, is that Kerry opposed the war, and went, while Bush says he favored it, and took the rich boy way out. This timeline tells the story in a pretty pointed way, and although I don't necessarily always buy the idea that the child is father to the man, it is nevertheless pretty revealing.

In a funny way the fact that Bush lay low for Vietnam forshadows his initial response following the September 11 attack. He went to ground both times, as far as I'm concerned.

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