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Claude Anshin Thomas helped me confront something about myself. Like him, I hail from upstate New York, and I am probably only two years younger than he. My draft-lottery number saved me from service in Vietnam, whereas some of my older friends were not so lucky.
If I had been drafted, I might have been turned into a mass-murdering machine, as Thomas was. He has atoned for his past and is more noble than I imagine I would have been in his shoes. Still, there is a most worthy atonement available to me, or anyone else: to get busy building a political party that is capable of sweeping away the basis of war, which is economic competition.
I read Claude Anshin Thomas’s “At Hell’s Gate” [October 2004] between presidential debates. I immediately thought of the difference between the Vietnam-service records of the two candidates. One has to wonder what cruel karma is at work when the man with terrible, first-hand knowledge of war is derisively labeled “liberal,” and the man without such experience runs the most powerful military-industrial complex in history.
I accept that we would not be around if our ancestors did not fight and win their respective Darwinian struggles. But where do conflicts between species end, and battles between Palestinians, Israelis, Iraqis, and Americans begin? The violence that once aided our survival now threatens it. Thomas says that “escape from the deadly and ever-tightening spiral is possible.” Let us find hope in his words.