Unpublished Letter to The New York Times

Re: “Why Trump Is Not Like Other Draft Dodgers,” by Ted Gup (8/3/16)

To the Editors:

Like Donald Trump and Ted Gup, I was also lucky to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War, but unlike Mr. Gup, I have never felt guilty about it. Without speculating about Mr. Trump’s motives, I would submit that for many young men there were others than “cowardice or careerism,” the two Mr. Gup cites in coming to his own reckoning years later. How about morality? Some of us had an ethical problem signing up for a military mission that seemed imperious, wrong and immoral – a view that history has not altered.

I rue the unequal access that draft-age young men in 1969 had to the resources of anti-war counselors, doctors, churches and universities. The war was a horror and tragedy, as we are reminded with each new book and documentary, its enduring cruelty brought home to all Americans of a certain age who visit the Wall. That said, I cannot see how those of us who opposed its carnage should feel compelled to atone for not participating in it.

Sean Mitchell

Dallas

P.S. While offering his op ed as a mea culpa for avoiding service in Vietnam, Mr. Gup doesn’t even mention the guys who went to Canada and prison. I wouldn’t call them cowards. I found it curious that some NYT commenters refused to accept his apology and fragged him for a different reason: the old red white & blue shaming for not taking up arms so that the rest of us can live in peace and freedom. Right. I guess not everyone has yet seen The Fog Of War or Born on the 4th of July or read A Bright Shining Lie, etc. etc. etc. The Domino Theory is still out there.

About Sean Mitchell

SEAN MITCHELL is a journalist, critic and former staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Herald Examiner and Dallas Times Herald. His articles and reviews have also appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, USA Today and other publications. He is the recipient of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in writing about music and the George Jean Nathan Award for distinguished drama criticism. Born in Bethlehem, Pa., he grew up in Dallas and is a graduate of St. Mark’s School of Texas and Brown University. He lives in Dallas.
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