"The war in Vietnam and the Selective Service Act are unconstitutional."
July 4, 2014 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Carl Wilson: soul of the Beach Boys, voice of God Only Knows and Good Vibrations, and... draft dodger.
posted by paleyellowwithorange (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Conscientious objector.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:34 PM on July 4, 2014 [14 favorites]

It was possible to apply for conscientious objector in a legal and above-board manner, but Wilson didn't do that until after failing to report to the draft board when scheduled. And filed his CO paperwork after deadline. tl;dr: This had legal complications that went on for years.

So he was both, really.
posted by ardgedee at 3:08 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

From Wikipedia "Those who practice draft evasion are sometimes pejoratively referred to as "draft dodgers," a term which was made popular during the Vietnam War."

If we're going to refer to his actions with that term, let's be fair and refer to the selective service system as "the fucked up classist/racist system" and call it even....fair enough?
posted by HuronBob at 3:13 PM on July 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have mixed feelings about the term "Draft Dodger". Yes, it's certainly pejorative, but as a kid who grew up in Los Angeles rooting for the Angels, it helped take down the Dodgers a peg.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:32 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dennis Wilson was the soul of the Beach Boys.
posted by snofoam at 3:33 PM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't know, it sounds like he couldn't be bothered to do the bare ass minimum and it's pretty fucked up to talk about how classist the draft was in defense of a filthy rich rock star.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:39 PM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Teenagers don't pay attention to stuff they don't want to, like will their girfriend get pregnant, or will they get drafted. On the latter point, I speak from unfortunate experience. Wilson did file the CO papers, he was just late. Others got the notice and left the country. That is also a choice that I respect.

If Mr. Buchanan, the author of the linked webpage, feels he has the authority to label Wilson a "draft dodger," I am interested in what he has to say about Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Kristol, and of course, George W. Bush. Chickenhawks all. I note that Atty. Buchanan's biography shows him to have begun making his mark with his mouth in high school, in the late '70s, but somehow never managed to serve in the military.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:40 PM on July 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

instead ordered Wilson to begin preforming his community service as an orderly at a Los Angeles veterans hospital.  
Wilson refused to do the community service as order

One more thing to loathe him for beyond "kokomo."
posted by jpe at 3:47 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

About 4% of young men to refuse induction went on to do any prison time. (Please do not press me for documentation, that figure is just from my memory of that time and being a draft resistor.)

I actually appeared before the draft board in Hawthorne, California. Since this was the Beach Boys' home city, it is likely that he went before them also. . .

But for Wilson to use his fame and position to try to weasel his way out of harsher consequences does not sit well.

(I did not do prison time either. I flunked the hearing test, repeatedly, and was declared 1-Y.)
posted by Danf at 4:04 PM on July 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Isn't it very difficult to get CO status without having a heavy religious background? I have heard that they look askance on secular philosophical opposition to serving.

I remember a friend in college got really into William Everson, who described having been a CO in WW2 in his memoirs. It sounds like they were treated almost like prisoners, in some kind of work camp.
posted by thelonius at 4:58 PM on July 4, 2014

Yes, it was nearly impossible to get CO status without correct religious affiliation. Even though I was in a Quaker college in 1970, when I turned 18, the Richmond, IN draft board would have turned down my CO application, although it was a moot point given my 2-S (student) deferment, and my later lottery number of 299. They hated Earlham College, whose Quakers didn't even fight Hitler.

My CO application included a letter from my godmother, my pastor, and my father. My father's letter was very touching. He said (and he was and Army captain in post-WWII in Berlin, a psychiatrist) that he believed it was a man's duty to serve his country. But then he went on to say that I (heavily involved in the anti-war movement in high school) had done more for my beliefs than he had done for his. He also added that I was the only one of his six children who was always a nature boy, keeping and caring for animals. What a nice guy, my dad, despite all those dinner-table conversations pitting a hippie against a behaviorist!

Blessed be the peacemakers. (Although, I have to say, in the mid-70's, I waffled on pacifism as an effective strategy, although I was never in a position to join the Weather Underground, thank God. Instead, I joined a cult. Yep, the 70's: even stranger than the 60's.)
posted by kozad at 5:30 PM on July 4, 2014 [16 favorites]

I flunked the hearing test, repeatedly, and was declared 1-Y

You were lucky. When I took the physical, the guy ahead of me was from my town. He had briefly been in the Navy, before being discharged for his varicose veins. He also had a criminal record long enough that he had to ask for another sheet of paper. In the hearing-test booth, he misunderstood the instructions and held the button down the whole time. I came with a letter from the head of the Eye & Ear department at Mass General, describing my being deaf in one ear since early childhood.

I was classified 1A and got drafted. The guy ahead of me in line? He was deferred because of his "impaired hearing."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:34 PM on July 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

My dad was a CO during Vietnam. He was extremely lucky to get community service instead of jail time. He spent a year working in a VA hospital. I think it helped that his dad was a veteran.

I will always remain proud of him for standing up for his principles.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:55 PM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

They hated Earlham College, whose Quakers didn't even fight Hitler.

Fight! Fight! Inner light!
Kill, Quakers, kill!

Smash 'em, bash 'em, beat 'em senseless!
Do we have consensus?
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:16 PM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've always found it slightly strange to condemn people for not wanting to take part in a dirty, imperialist war nor wanting to serve jail time for their refusal or having to "volunteer" for replacement service. If a system is morally wrong, it's morally right to refuse to let yourself be punished by it for rejecting it.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:09 AM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I see your point, MartinWisse, but I don't think it is possible to be a citizen of a country and only participate in the rules you agree with. I've paid taxes to support many things I don't agree with. Also, refusing to go to war and accepting the consequences, whether prison or alternate service, makes a much more powerful statement (to me).
posted by snofoam at 1:22 AM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

martinwisse--I was active in opposing the Vietnam War and my wife worked as a counselor for the Quaker's during the war. However, it seems to me the danger of your position is deciding who gets to be the moral arbiter of what is and is not a "dirty/imperialistic" war or other public policy. The moral thing to do is take the alternative service/consequences or surrender the other privileges offered by the country of residence. Nothing wrong with moving to another country as you are at least taking responsibility for your own position. I think the same is/was true of the civil rights movement. Take the jail time, pay the fines but don't skip out on bail.
posted by rmhsinc at 2:52 AM on July 5, 2014

> Yes, it was nearly impossible to get CO status without correct religious affiliation.

This is not true. I'm sorry it didn't work for you, but that doesn't mean it was "nearly impossible." I was completely open about my lack of religion in my application (to the notoriously conservative Long Beach draft board, no less) and got my CO status without problem. It all depended on the board (and probably on the weather and the state of the members' digestion when they got around to your application).
posted by languagehat at 6:50 AM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, I completely agree with MartinWisse: fuck war and the people who make it, and I refuse to judge anyone who opts out on whatever terms make sense to them. If everybody refused to fight, there wouldn't be any war.
posted by languagehat at 6:51 AM on July 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I came with a letter from the head of the Eye & Ear department at Mass General, describing my being deaf in one ear since early childhood.

I was classified 1A and got drafted.

I also had and still have legitimately bad hearing. But after flunking the test, they had me sit by this open window (it was a cold morning, at least for SoCal) and re-tested me at intervals, several times. Then I saw a specialist, who, while reading my doctor's letter, quietly said, while standing behind me, "what was your name again?" I sort of heard it but sort of did not, so I said, "did you say something?' and that was that. I was out of there. . .
posted by Danf at 6:58 AM on July 5, 2014

It all depended on the board

Yes, it did. The boards had quotas. Since I was examined and subsequently drafted in the era before the lottery, when student deferments were given out, and since I lived in a board district where most of my peers - unlike me - went to college, I was SOL. The board had to meet their quota, and about the only kids in my batch who weren't in college were me and that kid with the varicose veins. This was in 1967.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:24 AM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

I recall some court rulings that specifically said you didn't have to identify with a particular religion to be classified as a CO but that came after many had been drafted despite their claims. Similarly there was a ruling, the Supreme Court's, I believe, that said the boards' habit of moving those who objected to the draft to the top of the draft list was unconstitutional. The draft went through many changes over the duration of the war.
posted by etaoin at 5:23 PM on July 5, 2014

« Older All I'm really saying is "Sebald is great"   |   Armchair Travel to Vietnam and Cambodia Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments