David Harris draft resister:
"I am now 71 and the war that defined my coming of age is deep in my rearview mirror, but the question it raised, “What do I do when my country is wrong?” lives on.
For those looking for an answer today, here are some lessons I learned:
We are all responsible for what our country does. Doing nothing is picking a side.
We are never powerless. Under the worst of circumstances, we control our own behavior.
We are never isolated. We all have a constituency of friends and family who watch us. That is where politics begins.
Reality is made by what we do, not what we talk about. Values that are not embodied in behavior do not exist.
People can change, if we provide them the opportunity to do so. Movements thrive by engaging all comers, not by calling people names, breaking windows or making threats.Whatever the risks, we cannot lose by standing up for what is right. That’s what allows us to be the people we want to be."
I Picked Prison Over Fighting in Vietnam - The New York Times
by David Harris
Growing up in Fresno, Calif., I believed in “my country, right or wrong,” just like everyone I knew. I could not have anticipated that when I came of age I would realize that my country was wrong and that I would have to do something about it. When I did, everything changed for me.
I went from Fresno High School Boy of the Year 1963, Stanford Class of 1967, to Prisoner 4697-159, C Block, maximum security, La Tuna Federal Correctional Institution, near El Paso.
I was among the quarter-million to half-million men who violated the law that required us to register for military service and face deployment to Vietnam — the draft. About 25,000 of us were indicted for our disobedience, almost 9,000 convicted and 3,250 jailed. I am proud to have been one of the men who, from behind bars, helped pull our country out of its moral quagmire.
I was just 20 when I first stepped outside the law. After months of late-night dorm-room conversations and soul searching, I decided doing so was my duty as a citizen. It was 1966 and draft calls were escalating every month as the American Army in Southeast Asia built up to half a million men, dozens of whom were coming home in coffins every week. I had just been elected Stanford student body president on a “radical” platform calling for an end to the university’s cooperation with the war, and I had already refused to accept a student deferment that would have allowed me to avoid the draft and probably sent a poor person in my stead. But I knew that even such valuable protest was an insufficient response to the moral arithmetic of sending an army thousands of miles from home to kill more than two million people for no good reason.