This Veteran’s day, let us thank all the people in our military who fight to protect our freedoms and lives. Let us also remember the vigilante street soldiers who have been imprisoned and killed in their pursuit to uphold our Bill of Rights; such as, the Black Panthers and all the soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement.
Service to your country should be a calling, because it is an immeasurable sacrifice. While our country depends on soldiers (of all forms) to protect civilian rights, our country also has a responsibility to those soldiers’ rights. Their rights which were violated by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Their rights which are violated by inter-military rape. The rights violated by the draft.
The military draft has been openly controversial in American history, and we should all recognize this controversy as well-founded and justified. The American draft policy has been argued to be sexist, as all males residing in the US between ages 18-26 must be registered with the Selective Service System (SSS). This policy does not factor in transgender people: if I am male-bodied and identify as a woman, do I have to surrender to the draft? If I am born intersex and identify as an intersex individual, am I exempt? One of the SSS’s campaigns is “REGISTER: it’s what a man’s got to do. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s the law.” That’s enough to make you shudder. All the campaign is missing is some helmet-clad pinup girl poking her chest out, her right hand at a salute.
The draft has also been infamous within minority communities. How can a country systematically oppress minorities, then require them to uphold said country. No one condensed the argument better than Muhammad Ali. Ali was drafted for the Vietnam War. He vocally opposed the war through refusing to submit to the draft. Ali declared, “Ain’t no Viet Cong ever called me ‘nigger.’ They didn’t lynch me, put dogs on me, rob me of my nationality, rape my mother and father. I’m not gon’ die fighting for rights Negroes can’t get. You won’t even stand up for me right here at home. I’ll die fighting you, if I’m gon’ die.”
We exist in a world of child soldiers—both abroad and here at home. We exist in a governmental system of international conflict and interdependence. We exist in a society where soldiers are both the police and the gangbangers. Soldiers are both crack babies and single parents. Soldiers are both first generation students and detained juvenile truants. Soldiers are both non-citizens and patriots. Soldiers are both refugees and Section 8 squatters. Solders are both foster kids and incest survivors. So, this Veteran’s Day, let us remember all the soldiers, alive and fallen, who fight for freedom while they are simultaneously being denied it. To all the SOULdiers, thank you for your daily service.