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Free At Last: Military Draft Enrollment No Longer Needed for Student Loans
September 26, 2021
by William P. Meyers

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I have not been to graduate school. Most people have not, but in my case that is a bit peculiar. Academia was what I was best at as a child. My father, though he started college only after a career in the military, eventually got a Masters Degree. My sister got a PhD. My brother went to college, joined the miliary, and eventually had a PhD. paid for by the military.

But, in 1972, in the midst of the Vietnam War, I left for college at the age of 17. So I was at college when I got my notice to enroll for the draft, an event relayed to me from my parents, whom I was already estranged from. I was against the war and the draft. On that call I told my mother, a former Marine, that I would take care of it in Rhode Island, where I was attending college. But upon reflection I thought if I got a draft card, I would just have to burn it, so I did not bother. For years I thought some government Gestapo type person would show up and arrest me, but of course they were too busy with other things to do that. In 1975 the Vietnam War ended. Still, we were supposed to be registered for the draft. Men, not women.

At some point in time being registered for the draft became necessary to get student grants or loans backed by the federal government. Of course I could have paid for some kind of grad school some how, but I decided I would just be a working-class writer and activist, no advanced degree necessary.

As far as I am concerned, registering for the draft is saying you are willing to become a war criminal. You can pretend it is not true, you can Trump up a 4-F status, you can say you are a conscientious objector, but only ethical course is to refuse to enroll. It is not just about you, it is about the government's ability to go to war.

Per What's changing in the new FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid], you will no longer be refused federal loans for being a male and not checking the registered for the draft box. The article did not say why that changed, whether Congress changed it, or the Biden administration. And, of course, it could be changed back in the future. You also don't lose your federal aid anymore if you get a drug conviction while receiving it.

Sometimes I wish I had gone to graduate school, but it is probably better that I did not. I doubt I would have done very much good if I had a graduate degree. As it was, while I have my flaws, I was able to do a lot of good things with my life. Generally, the better they were, the worse I was paid for them. I organized against war, against nuclear weapons, against ozone-hole creating chemicals. I worked with Earth First! and joined the Industrial Workers of the World. I was on the Green Party national committee for a time. I published pamphlets, zines, and even bound books. Eventually I made enough money doing paid editorial and analysis work to own, with my wonderful wife, free and clear, a townhouse in Seattle.

It is hard to know what is right and what is wrong in this world. It is hard to predict the future results of any present action. Most American war criminals, that is veterans, thought they were doing the right thing. I am sure the U.S. Presidents and Congresses of my lifetime, almost all of which have started wars or continued wars, felt they were doing good, not just committing war crimes.

I think Congress should just end the draft. I don't think it is right to force people to fight when they don't want to fight. I think people have a right to self-defense, but my study of history shows no evidence of the U.S. military ever being used for self-defense. The American Revolution was to maintain slavery after it was outlawed on British soil. Even World War II was an offensive war for America, which should be clear to anyone who studies its prelude and its results.

In any case, enjoy federally financed college and grad school, if that is your desire. The struggle for the future is not about which government controls which territories, but how governments in general will deal with the Slow Motion Apocalypse we are living through.

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