Does America really value all human life as such? Anti-abortion v. the Vietnam-era draft

At a personal level, I certainly believe in the western idea that every human life is sacred, and this could even be true of “non-human persons”.

But when I confront the usual arguments from the “right to life”, especially anti-abortion lobbies, I really wonder how consistent we (or “they”)  are.

When I grew up, men were subjected to male-only military conscription.  There was even a national security argument that conventional war capability, as in Vietnam, kept nuclear war threats at bay. With some twists, that sort of view could even apply today (as when dealing with North Korea).

There was also a deferment system.  At one time that had included fathers, and Kennedy even wanted to defer men from the draft if they got married.  Think of the implications:  if you don’t have sexual intercourse likely to lead to fatherhood, you are personally more expendable.  That makes some sense to fascist.  The family deferments had been eliminated by about 1965 as the Vietnam buildup exploded, but student deferments remained until 1969, when a lottery was implemented.

Despite my own history with my own expulsion as a freshman from William and Mary in 1961 as a “latent homosexual”, I got back into the pool (partly out of shame) and was eventually moved from 4-F to 1-A.  But I went to graduate school first and, as an assistant instructor in mathematics, was in a position to flunk people (which I did) and increase their exposure to the draft. When I finally was drafted myself, in 1968, I was somewhat sheltered from any deployment by my own education.

So, we had a system that decided that some men were more “valuable” than others, in which I gleefully participated. This would set up my own “conflict of interest” situation in the mid 1990s as I started my first book, largely on gays in the military (challenging the ban and “don’t ask don’t tell”), while working for a company that sold insurance specifically to military officers.

But the system of who was more valuable had shifted from “family men” to nerds with science and math backgrounds, potentially the Turing types who would protect the world from the dominoes of Communism just as it had with Fascism.

But, of course, I had grown up in a world where men were supposed to make themselves fungible to protect women and children until they had run their gauntlets and started their own families.  Consider the men needed as firemen (in the days before women’s advancements) and other dangerous jobs.  Sebastian Junger says he “paid his dues” as an arborist.

And we have presidents (Clinton, Obama, and now Trump) who avoided the draft or voluntary military service. And one of these presidents, Trump, is going out of his way to keep transgender people out.

But the whole system gave me a somewhat jaded value system (that is, as a matter of logic, some people are “better” than other people)  of what could make people valuable to me personally.  This was particularly evident in my days at NIH in 1962, right during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  That value system can comport with fascism – and survivor of the fittest.  But attempts to make everyone “equal” by pretense can lead to authoritarianism, too (Communism).  Some people are more “equal” than others, and the leftovers tend to become “expendable” anyway.  Then, you have the same idea with the Christian “Rapture” and the remaining leftovers, who fend for themselves and die off.

We come back to the determination of the anti-abortion lobby and its demands to impose its views on everyone in the name of protecting all life.  It is certainly true that the sentience of the unborn seems to appear earlier than we used to think.   We can note here that Roe v. Wade was decided in January 1973 (the plaintiff would later personally regret her participation), and conscription effectively ended in early 1973, shortly after the Vietnam peace plan was announced in January.  However, the Selective Service system remains in place, the registration of women gets proposed, and in 1981 the Supreme Court had upheld the idea that male-only draft registration was constitutionally permissible.

I wonder if this expands to contraception.  A philosopher says that someone has to exist to have rights.  An unconceived baby (as opposed to unborn) sounds like an oxymoron.  But family potential or future lineage might have meaning in the grand scheme of things.  That’s a topic for later.

(Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 2 PM EDT)

Link to Wikipedia story on US conscription.

Link to my own DADT-1 reference (1997). Note “CH2 additional conclusion” at the end of the file.

Link to Wikipedia list of presidents avoiding conscription