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November 21, 2004

The Times's draft dodger utopia

The New York Times has a lengthy piece on Nelson, British Columbia, home to many Vietnam-era draft dodgers, or "resisters," as the Times would have it.

(Almost full disclosure: I drew approximately 150 in the second-to-last draft lottery, which meant that there was little chance I would be drafted. I would tell you the actual number if I wanted you to be able to track down my birthday. I still carry my extremely worn draft card in my wallet. Don't ask me why.)

The only amusing part of the story is that the self-absorbed pseudo-moralistic views of these folks came into conflict with reality:

What happened was that a local peace activist proposed a monument to honor the "courageous legacy" of American draft resisters. The idea provoked outrage in the United States, where the presidential election had reopened wounds of the Vietnam era. Then came calls to boycott Nelson.

"The negative reaction was so immediate and so forceful that everyone was stunned," said Don Gayton, a former high school football player from Seattle, who raised five children in Nelson after immigrating to Canada during the Vietnam War. Rumors that the United States might reinstate the draft because of the Iraq war have made the expatriates wonder if they might find a whole new wave of resisters on their doorsteps and whether they will be as welcoming as an earlier generation of Canadians were to them.

Mr. Romano held a news conference to announce his idea for a large bronze monument in the form of a man and a woman greeted by a Canadian with outstretched arms.


He expected to get a small write-up in The Nelson Daily News. But the announcement found its way to American television, and within days Nelson was inundated with hate mail, much of it in the guest book section of the the town's Web site. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, with more than two million members in the United States, demanded that President Bush take up the issue with Prime Minister Paul Martin of Canada.

A radio station in Spokane, Wash., three hours' drive south, called on Americans to boycott Nelson. Some skiers canceled trips to the area, said Roy Hueckendorff, the executive director of the local chamber of commerce.

"I've talked to people who lost fathers, brothers in Vietnam," Mr. Hueckendorff said. "The very idea that you would celebrate this is beyond their comprehension."
I don't know. Maybe this is just a red state thing that hasn't penetrated Nelson or 43rd Street.