It provided a stark example of how difficult it is look past ourselves and it happened on December 1, 1969. On that day, the Nixon administration implemented the first Selective Service draft lottery. The likelihood of being drafted – conscripted into the Army, and thus potentially sent to Vietnam, would be determined by matching birthdays to slips of paper drawn from a bowl. The estimates were that someone with a number under 100 was certain to be drafted, numbers over 200 were probably safe.
I was a Sophomore at UConn. A group of us gathered in the dormitory common room to hear the Selective Service System announce the numbers over the radio. The air felt dark, stuffy, and oppressive; the expressions grim and agitated, low mutterings, curse words, as the program began. The selection started with the lowest numbers, those that would be certain to face the draft. The first three numbers were announced to little response. Just heads swiveling to see if they could pick out if anyone had the number. Then number four and a young man sitting on the sofa jerked like he’d been shot, folded himself into a fetal position, and began to weep. We watched him, a little stunned ourselves, but maybe a little curious that it could happen like that. Others were now being hit, none quite as demonstrative, a muttered “shit”. Someone tossing his notebook in anger and stomping out. But then, the numbers got higher. “122.” “Is that okay? Did I make it?” “243.” “Shit, yeah.” Smiles break out. “Whew!” “Whoo Wee!” Draft number 4 still on the sofa, still weeping. No one’s said a word to him.
The program concluded with our gathering divided, some of us with heads down, introverted, mulling it over, or feeling anger. But another group stood near the exit, excitedly jabbering, laughing. Two of them shake hands. Someone raises his arm in salute. “Hey let’s party!” Like fraternity brothers on a panty raid, they charge out of the room. I’ll eat my hat if anyone of them ever showed up for another antiwar rally. No one ever accused Nixon of not being clever.
And yes, this applies today. If people don’t understand that Trump is a direct threat to them, they are going to forget it, grab a beer and watch the Super Bowl. So, if you find yourself feeling complacent, willing to normalize this guy, consider the following: Trump has the nuclear codes, his looney pal Bannon is on the security council, we’ve just pissed off a billion or so Muslims, freedom of the press is on the ropes, your daughter or granddaughter may end up in a dark alley with a coat hanger, your great grandchildren will need to breathe oxygen and grow food, the ice caps are melting as I write, and your next illness could bankrupt you. Do we let these congenital jerks get away with it? Hell no.