Tag Archives: living with uncertainty

Unnatural Paths to Liberation, Part 2

We didn’t see it as adventure. I’m not sure why or why not — probably because of the fear. We’d both had friends who had died in Vietnam, people we’d gone to high school with. Pat, one of my best friends, had a boyfriend who had joined the Marines, Mel, I think his name was. We all thought he was the most gorgeous guy we’d ever seen. I remember he had the most beautiful skin. We’d seen their beautiful skin, gone with them to 3.2% bars in Kansas to drink beer, seen them in their uniforms, laughing, and then a year or so later, learned that they had died — over there — in Vietnam — for some strange reason — and eventually realized they wouldn’t be coming home.
That’s hard on a teenager. Especially relatively pampered teenagers who always had food and water and had never seen a war up close. So now we were also afraid of our government — a system that wasn’t protecting us but allowing our brothers to be used as target practice.
We were afraid of the day that the draft lottery would be called, December 1, 1969 — the first in 27 years — to discover who would be drafted first and who would be the lucky ones. The first third called were goners, the middle third would be living with uncertainty, and the last third called could almost afford to breathe a sigh of relief.
We were afraid of the orders that arrived in the mail a week later to report to the US Army for a physical, the last step before induction. Afraid of what could happen to a man who was drafted, but equally afraid of what could happen if that man was caught by those representatives of that country, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, if they avoided, or how about ran away from, being drafted.
We chose Canada because of more fear — the fear at 21 years old of the separation from family/country and the belief that he could never return. Our minds could not court or comprehend ideas of the Netherlands or France, for example, as some did. Canada was as exotic and as foreign as we could imagine — and, just in case he could return or visit, it was closer.
So, we fled to safety — a safety created by the out-stretched arms of Canada and that impenetrable wall that would rise up and protect us and everyone like us from FBI agents with badges and guns, but also keep us willing prisoners in this northern limbo. We saw no adventure ahead of us — just a desperate need for safety.