My Sister and I left Cincinnati at O’Dad O’clock… which is the time every father gets his kids up to pile into the station wagon/van/camper to drive to the national forest for vacation. It is universally recognized by the children’s whiney mantra: Oooooooh Daaaaad.
As such we arrived early, and got to meet a wonderful couple I had not seen since I hit puberty. The husband has been friends with my father since they were 6 years old, and the woman was an immigrant from France who got her citizenship even before I was born. They welcomed us into their lovely home and, in the hours before the funeral, we all talked until we stumbled upon a political discussion. Then the husband and I were the ones talking.
Those in the audience that know me know that politics is something like catnip for me: It’s green, looks illicit, and does absolutely nothing for you if smoked. Seriously, though, it is a living dichotomy that fascinates me. Politics – like religion – is an area where honorable men may disagree and those disagreements can actually bring people closer together. It can also end in a mushroom cloud, but what human endeavor can’t?
So we started discussing a whole horde of topics, and mostly we were in agreement, but one arose that I have seen many, many times: The Draft.
My father’s friend mourned the loss of the draft, because it instilled young men with everything they and the country required to survive: a strong standing army, patriotism, and discipline. And those were all good points, but I have significant problems with the idea of conscription. During our debate, my opponent was far too classy and kind to point out that the side I was arguing was mirrored by American born socialists and communists – people for whom critical thought is a detriment – but I knew it myself. That’s one of the reasons I keep entering the debate, testing my arguments, and probing them for a structural flaw that will bring the whole thing crashing down and prove me wrong.
I have heard praise such as his from literally dozens of men at work. They all grew up with the draft (under whatever name) in place, and some of them while it was in use. They said there was a beautiful certainty to knowing what one was expected to do straight out of high school, and that without guidance of the US government they would never have gotten their heads on straight. It gave them marketable skills, in many cases a nest egg for starting a life, and even a safer place to make a few mistakes and have a parental figure to bail them out – even if the parental figure was a 6’4″ sergeant with muscles that looked like basketballs that thumped them for doing something colossally stupid.
But I cannot get past several key points that lead directly to ‘No Draft’ without passing go, no collecting $200:
The first, and most basic, is a LARGE army is not equal to a GOOD army. Imagine, if you will, two employees at McD… uhh… Kentucky Long McKingeys Hut Bell (Ahh, I am a genius), so we have two workers at Kentucky Long McKingeys Hut Bell – alike in dignity, well not really.
One wants to work. He studies all the manuals, pays attention at work, cleans his uniform. He wants to learn new things. He wants new responsibilities. This worker doesn’t ride the clock, waste time, or ignore customers. If he decides to stay at Kentucky Long McKingeys Hut Bell, he will likely wind up running the place. The other hates his job. Let’s face it: who wouldn’t? He’s late. He’s not interested in your problems. He does the very bare minimum because for one reason or another he feels trapped at Kentucky Long McKingeys Hut Bell and feels he doesn’t even owe the company enough to quit and go find other – lower qualified work.
Now, two fast food joints: One is short staffed – half capacity on the busiest day of the year, but the entire staff is made up of people like the first worker. The second: stuffed to the gills with the workers cloned from the loser. I think you all know which one would work better. Now you must make the leap from hamburgers to the lives of soldiers, because if the unit does not work together well, then soldiers die. Professional soldiers have an amazing capacity to improvise, adapt, and overcome. It is because fighting is what they have chosen to do. Conscripts do not. Conscript armies can only lead to more death, of both innocent civilians and friendly soldiers.
Next, the proliferation of soldiers to no exacting end provides a resource to government it ought not have. There are arguments out there that say if everyone’s children must serve, then war will become a thing of the past. But still, I say that we had the draft until 1979, and it didn’t prevent any of the wars during that time.
Lastly, most importantly, most importantly, or even the only item of importance: I own me. The government, no church, no corporation, no bank, no government owns me. I own me. A friend once told me that some people have a fetishistic relationship with property rights. The reason is – and really it comes down to this – all rights come from this first right of owning oneself. It gives weight and value to your thoughts, opinions, desires, and needs. Some of these are codified in the US Constitution, but they all come from that first right: ownership of oneself.
I am sad to say we never reached an agreement. I am happy to say we didn’t have to. And I hope everyone knows what I mean, since that’s as simply as I could ever put it.
Well, other than that it’s still going to be a busy month. I am still finishing off novelizing a short I’ve had around for a while, making it my first ever fantasy novel. That’s been the slow bit, in fact. I’ve been buried for months in line edits and proofing stories, all for release right now!
Many books coming out this month have what one of my early critics used to call ‘the Taint of Ross’:
Barbarians at the Jumpgates (Padwolf Publishing, Radiation Angels: A Different Kind of Courage) is out NOW and can be purchased through all the normal channels.
Then of course there is the LEGENDARY TRIPLE LAUNCH at Balticon where I have material in two of the three anthologies:
Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory (Mundania Press, Natural Born Spy)
Dragon’s Lure (Dark Quest Books, Red Talons)
New Blood (Also from Padwolf, but bereft of me)
The official Legendary Triple Launch party will be held Sunday, May 30th, from 7pm to 9pm in the Garden Room of the Hunt Valley Marriot at Balticon. As a part of the festivities there will be refreshments, author readings, and a Chinese auction-style raffle featuring as grand prize a hand-sculpted dragon box by acclaimed artist Linda Saboe. While not all the contributors are able to attend, all three books will be well-represented by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, James Chambers, Elaine Corvidae, Keith R.A. DeCandido, John L. French, John Grant, Kelly A. Harmon, C.J. Henderson, Brian Koscienski, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Neal Levin, Jeffrey Lyman, Misty Massey, Jonathan Maberry, Bernie Mojzes, Thomas Nackid, Terri Osborne, Chris Pisano, Diane Raetz, T.L. Randleman, David Sherman, Linda Saboe, Patrick Thomas, Jean Marie Ward, Robert E. Waters, D.C. Wilson, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Anna Yardney and myself.
To learn more about the launch event and to see a list of the raffle prizes please visit www.sidhenadaire.com.
If you can, please stop by. It is always a great time. We will even feed you, promise.
For my part, I’m going to continue with the plan: Write until I am filthy rich and can afford my own castle.