Civil Rights · From the Archives · History · Nebraska

“Enclosed Please Find My Draft Card”—A Youthful Vietnam-Era Draft Dodger Returns His Draft Card

In the Spring of 1970, at the age of 22, I embarked on an epical odyssey of thousands of miles by thumb and boxcar.

It was motivated by a desire to evade military service in the war in Vietnam which I, like millions of others in my generation, had come to believe was an unjust war.

Later that year I sat down to write a letter to my hometown newspaper, the Lincoln, Nebraska Journal to explain my actions. I enclosed my draft card in the letter.

But then something unexpected happened: instead of printing my letter the editor carefully extricated my draft card and reached for the telephone. He called the Federal Bureau of Investigation, explaining he was in possession of evidence he suspected (rightly) could prove material to an ongoing investigation. My letter – and my draft card – were soon after scooped up by the FBI, who later entered the letter as a document in my FBI file, which survives in photocopied form to this day. I retrieved it from my permanent archival records at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada just yesterday.

My Letter to the Editor never was printed, so I publish it here for the first time, complete and unabridged. It is dated July 17, 1970, Vancouver, B.C.

Continue reading ““Enclosed Please Find My Draft Card”—A Youthful Vietnam-Era Draft Dodger Returns His Draft Card”

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Civil Rights · History · Holidays · Politics

The Road to Ferguson and The Road Not Taken

John Graves Simcoe, Governor of Upper Canada, circa 1795
John Graves Simcoe, Governor of Upper Canada, circa 1795

Today, even though it is American Thanksgiving Day, I want to give thanks for an historical figure who is currently being portrayed as a dastardly villain on a popular American television series: John Graves Simcoe.

Simcoe fell from grace in Hollywood because he was a successful  British military commander whose infantry regiment fought to suppress the American Revolution.

But a few years after losing that war, Simcoe returned to North America as the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, where he provided leadership that was truly steadfast, and even visionary.

For some reason Simcoe was that rare creature: a privileged white Englishman who early saw slavery for the evil abomination it so truly was.

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Civil Rights · Music

We Shall Overcome

It is impossible to overstate the impact Pete Seeger had on my life.

It would have been about fifty years ago that a recording of his, an LP entitled “We Shall Overcome,” entered my life and, like a sudden explosion of clarity in my Lincoln, Nebraska bedroom, blew a gust of fresh air through my brain, clearing out the cobwebs of the Cold War, the Eisenhower Administration, and the crabbed, fusty old assumptions of the likes of John Foster Dulles.

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