Nation of Apathy: How I learned to stop worrying and love the draft
By Emily J. Yates, an Iraq veteran against the war
The phrase “no, thank you” is ubiquitous to American culture. It’s used to deflect all manner of advances – a simple, standardized mantra of dismissal, indicating politely, “I’m not interested, and please leave.” Have time for a quick survey? Can I tell you about our long-distance plan? Have you thought about a career in the U.S. Army? We toss a “no, thank you” over our shoulder, moving briskly past all that is undesirable, uninviting, uninteresting – in other words, unworthy of our attention.
I heard a whole slew of “no, thank you”s recently. It was down at the wharf in San Francisco, where thousands of tourists had flocked for the festivities of Fleet Week – a red-white-and-blue-spattered celebration of the American military, complete with taxpayer-funded flyovers by the Blue Angels. Hundreds of sailors and Marines in crisp dress uniforms flooded the piers, and military recruiters lined the pathways, almost visibly salivating over the prospect of making their quota early this month. An Iraq veteran myself, I stood in the midst of the crowd with several other veterans and allies of Iraq Veterans Against the War, handing out informational flyers containing military suicide statistics.
“Support the troops’ right to heal!” we called out above the roar of the jets passing over our heads for the umpteenth time. People swerved around us, gripping plastic souvenir bags emblazoned with variations on “GO ARMY.” Avoiding eye contact. “Stop the deployment of traumatized troops!” Faces forward, they kept moving – young, old and middle-aged alike – and if the Angels weren’t roaring overhead, I’d hear a “No, thank you” as they passed by. They weren’t interested in hearing the unpleasant things we had to say, the gentle reminders that the bright and shiny military wooing them with its seemingly bottomless budget is comprised of actual human people who are not, shockingly, invincible. But why should they listen? Why should they care? After all, they have the option of “no, thank you.”
The problem of American apathy, particularly toward ongoing U.S. overseas military involvement and its consequences, has not always existed. During all American wars before 1973, ...
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