Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky appeared in Bloomington to read poetry on March 1st, 1966. I sat in the front to an overflow audience in Ballantine Hall at Indiana University. I recall Ginsberg reading his new poem WICHITA Vortex Sutra. In the poem, he declared the the Vietnam War to be over. Done with, no more.
The war is OVER, he said. I liked the sound of that. So, inspired by Ginsberg, I decided to return my draft card to the Selective Service. I was turning in my membership card. I no longer belonged. I altered my draft card, as you can see. But I did not burn it up. I declared myself free to associate or not, with whatever groups I wanted.
Ginsberg and Orlovsky shocked the audience that day, myself included. They looked outrageous, acted outrageous, and read outrageous words. They were homosexuals—QUEERS—and admitted it publicly. I had never met anyone in my life up to that point that admitted to such a thing. One poem of Orlovsky’s grossed me out. So I wasn’t so worldly after all. After this poetry reading, I no longer thought I was so weird. These guys were off the scale.
Immediately afterward, the Indiana State Legislature began an investigation of the reading for charges of ‘obscenity’. This was happening at the school of the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research. An investigator found out that I had attended the reading. He came to my apartment. He sat a briefcase on a chair next to me. I noticed him click a switch on it. I asked him if that were a tape recorder. He looked very embarrassed, and then angry that I had mentioned it. He reached over and rewound it. Then he asked me my name and basic information. He asked questions about whether they did obscene gestures, whether they encouraged students to try perverted sex. He finally asked If I thought that Ginsberg was encouraging ‘unpatriotic’ behavior.
Unpatriotic behavior? I had a letter addressed to the Selective Service sitting on my desk. Within it was my marked up draft card and a letter that stated that I was returning my membership card to the Selective Service. I said it supported a violent organization that enslaved, attacked, and murdered. Allen Ginsberg had inspired me to do this. I looked at the interviewer sitting in my boarding house room in the student ghetto.
“No. I don’t feel Ginsberg was encouraging any deviant or unpatriotic behavior.”
The interviewer tried to prompt me again. I clearly had not given him the answer that he was looking for. I figured his job was to feed the legislature sensationalized sound bites so that they could investigate Indiana University. From this, they would pressure IU to ‘control’ their speakers, or they would cut state funding. I was not going to play into his hands. He left both disappointed and irritated with me.
Next morning, I mailed my draft card and letter to the Selective Service. I had just given my government documented evidence that I had committed a Federal felony. Now my problems with the U.S. government would begin in earnest.
* * * * *
In our High School Government class, we had read William Shirer’s THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH. We got through all 1500 pages of it. In it, we studied the Nuremberg trials. Our teacher stressed that humans had a higher calling than only to patriotism. “Our country, right or wrong’ was wrong. They actually taught this in high school back then.
Lyndon Baines Johnson used the ‘Gulf of Tonkin’ incident to justify US escalation of the war in Vietnam. Even to my seventeen-year-old ears back then, it sounded like bullshit — a manufactured excuse that our government was using to justify the escalation that they were going to do anyhow.
Forty-one years later, the National Security Administration (NSA) admitted that the ‘Gulf of Tonkin incident’ on August 4th, 1964, never happened. The USS Maddox incident on August second, 1964, did happen. But the final report was entirely different from what the U.S. first reported. Now we admitted that we were the first to fire on and attack the Vietnamese patrol boats. Up to that point, the U.S. had always claimed that the Vietnamese had fired first. Thus, the pretext for the War in Vietnam was a lie to start with. But in the 60′s, this did not matter. They had started a war, and now it would be easy to rally the frightened public around the flag.
The week I turned 18 years old, I picked up a form from my Selective Service board and I applied to be a conscientious objector (CO). In it I stated that I had no objections to working in medical service of the U.S. military. I just did not want to kill anyone if I could avoid it. Then I came to the ‘God’ question. The form asked me if my motivation to apply for CO status sprang from a belief in ‘God or a higher being’ or something like that. I paused.
Well, I hadn’t believed in ‘God’ since I was about 13 years old. And previous to that, I just didn’t give a shit. I had spoken with a pacifist Professor Schneider at Indiana University about this. He had warned me that if I answered ‘No’ to this question, there was a good chance that the Selective Service Board would reject my CO application.
What were they really saying here? That only ‘approved’ religious people had the moral right to not want to kill? Do I lie and take the easy way out? If I lie to them, do I then have to show that I am a member of an approved pacifist religion. Does my answering ‘Yes’ give them the right to inspect my mind and thoughts? To me, as an18 year old, this seemed like bullshit. I was willing to do years of free community service, CO work, you name it. I believed and I still believe in a national service corps. Everyone would have to perform some form of service to our country when they reach an approved age. No exemptions, no excuses, and only minimal pay. Upon successful completion of the program, participants would have access to educational loans and such. Like in Switzerland and Israel. I would do that. I looked at the form. Then I wrote ‘NO’ to the ‘God or higher being. I mailed the form back to the Selective Service Board. A few weeks later, I received their response. They had rejected my application. They had determined that I was morally unfit not to kill.
* * * * *
Then my brother Wayne was paralyzed for life on a non-military accident while he was in the U.S. Navy. This broke my father’s heart. It was the worst tragedy our family had ever had.
Once a month I drove up to my parents home near Chicago. I picked up my dad and then we drove to the Hines Veterans Hospital in West Chicago to visit my quadriplegic brother. Wayne had been paralyzed for a few months and was now coming out of the coma. But what was coming out of it was no longer Wayne. I stood there holding my dad’s hand at the edge of Wayne’s bed. We did not normally hold hands, but now my dad would not let my hand go. We talked to Wayne. He nodded to us to tell us he understood. But when Wayne tried to speak, we could not understand what he was saying. He kept repeating ‘Waaaa aaapuhhhhh — Waaaa aaapuhhhhh — Waaaa aaapuhhhhh’. I would guess what he was trying to say and he would respond by slowly shaking his head. My dad stood there crying, unable to speak himself. This was the man I had only seen cry when my baby brother Dale had died at six months of age. Wayne kept repeating and I kept guessing. Finally I guessed ‘What happened?’ and Wayne nodded.
“Wayne. You were in a bad accident months ago and had a fractured skull. You are just now coming out of it.”
“Ahh dunnnn ummemmmuh — Ahh dunnnn ummemmmuh”
“You dont remember?” I repeated. He nodded. I told Wayne the date and where he was. He clearly had no idea. It must have been like waking up from a months long dream and then discovering he could not move, or remember who he was. He looked down at his body.
Then Wayne began repeating “Ahhhhh wwwaaan diiiiiiiii — Ahhhh wwwaaan diiiii”. I sat there and quickly got the meaning. I dared not translate in front of my dad what Wayne was now saying.
Dad and I sat next to Wayne and talked with him all day and tried to understand what he was saying to us. I talked, and my dad cried. My dad hadn’t brought up his sons to be paralyzed for life.
We drove back the next day and visited. Wayne looked surprised to see us. I asked how he liked our visit yesterday. Wayne looked confused. He could not remember anything about our visit. I had to tell him again what had happened and why he was in the hospital. Again he was amazed that it was several months later. Now my dad was really crying. Before we left, we talked with the doctor. He explained that Wayne had anterograde amnesia from organic brain damage. Wayne was having difficulty remembering anything that had happened since the accident.
“How long will this take to heal?” I asked.
The doctor shook his head. “Wayne has lost memory sections of his brain. Usually these injuries do not get much better.” Dad had to sit back down. But Wayne’s memory of events before the accident was perfect. Wayne would remember it and enjoy talking about it. But his new memory had ended forever on November 15th, 1964.
On both sides of Wayne’s bed at Hines were a growing number of young, freshly-minted disabled veterans from the Vietnam War. Limbs missing, faces completely bandaged, in comas or pain, surrounded by medical personnel and grieving relatives. Fathers and mothers with their siblings, shuttering and crying, trying to get some response from from their broken child. Wails of pain and grief. They did any busy-work they could tending to their child, anything to get their mind off of how profoundly and forever their lives were changed. They looked shocked, broken, and devastated beyond repair. Why — they looked just like us.
If anyone had said anything negative about the United States to my dad, that person would be as likely to get a fist from my dad as a rebuttal. But now, as my dad and I visited Wayne, we witnessed more and more ‘basket cases’ coming back from Vietnam. My dad looked at the other grieving parents and sat there shaking his head crying, saying ‘it just don’t make sense. It don’t make no sense at all.’
The more I watched the broken lives and grieving families visiting Hines Vets Hospital, the angrier I got.
* * * * *
I appealed the Selective Service ruling . On January 19th, 1965, I went to the Selective Service Board in Hammond, Indiana. Now I saw them face-to-face. They were ordinary folks, like the people I grew up with. I sat down in front of the three of them and told them that I would be happy to perform years of community service, but that I simply was not planning on taking up arms against anyone. I truly believed that I was a pacifist then. But all the board members were concerned with was my belief in a ‘God’ and my religion. I tried to explain to them what I felt, but it wasn’t easy. What eighteen year old is so articulate about such beliefs? They told me I couldn’t change my answer on the form about my belief in ‘God’, or lack of it. I told them I wouldn’t anyhow. Then they quickly concluded that because I had answered ‘No’, I had disqualified myself from being classified conscientious objector. They concluded that I was morally fit to kill.
I asked them how they were chosen to serve on this board. They said they applied. What were the qualifications? You had to be a U.S. Citizen with no serious criminal record. That was me. I asked for an application form. They were shocked. I repeated myself. The lady finally handed me a copy. I took it and said my goodbyes.
But I had a different plan. When I got back to Bloomington, Indiana, I got a brick. On it I painted, “IF DRAFTED, I WILL NOT GO AND KILL PEOPLE’. I signed my name on it. Then I boxed it up and shipped it parcel post to my draft board, with a registered receipt. I think it cost me around five dollars back then, which was a lot of money for me, considering that the minimum wage was a dollar an hour back then.
Later that year, the Selective Service board summoned me to review my application for membership to their board. I went to it wearing my tall Uncle Sam hat. I thought I looked rather nice in it. Tall, authoritative, and unquestionably, very patriotic.
But when I sat down, the man said “Please take your hat off.” I sat my hat on the seat next to me. So I would be without its mojo power for the rest of the meeting.
An older man asked me why I thought I would be qualified to be a good member of the board. I told them that they could be assured that I would not discriminate against any man.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well currently, according the the U.S. Army, over 25% of all combat-related deaths are to African-Americans, and they just represent only 11% fo the U.S. Population.”
“How would you fix that?”
“Well, I would make sure that we draft all Senators’ and Congressmen’s, and government officials’ sons first. That we eliminate the 2-S student deferments, which protects the children of rich people—”
“Like myself. Yes sir” I answered. “Though I never knew I was rich.”
“It is not this board’sresponsibility to determine what proportion of which gets drafted. Our government passes laws for that—not you. We just execute these laws.”
“I paused for a bit. “Well, I would not discriminate against anyone, regardless of race, religion, or color, because I would NOT draft anybody!”
We sat there silently for a moment.
“If you could step out of the room now, we would like to confer by ourselves about your application.”
I got up and stepped out the door. A minute later, they opened the door. “Please come in.” I entered. “The man looked at me and stated “We have reviewed your application and we have decided to reject your application.
“We feel you are not qualified.”
“What makes someone qualified to decide who kills, and who doesn’t?”
They didn’t answer.
“I would like to look at my draft file.” They paused. “By Selective Service rules, it is the legal right of anyone registered with the Selective Service to see and review their files.”
“We didn’t come here for that.”
“It will not take but a minute. Are you going to deny me my legal right?”
The man looked irritated. Then the lady volunteered “I’ll go get it.”
A minute later she came back with my file. I went through the file and found everything that should have been there. Everything except one.
“Where is the message I sent you stating ‘IF DRAFTED, I WILL NOT GO AND KILL PEOPLE’?”
The lady looked at me. “You mean that brick you painted on? We threw that out.”
“You mean you tampered with my draft file? That is illegal, you know.”
Looks of rage from across the table. “You may leave now” the man finally said. I put on my Uncle Sam hat and walked out the door.
“They should draft the sons of Selective Service Board members first” was the last thing I said.
* * * * *
I did not know what to expect after I returned my draft card. I had not heard of anyone doing it before, so I was in new territory. So what happened next? Surprisingly, nothing. I remained in school and did not hear from my draft board. So I figured, if they wanted to drop the whole issue, so would I. I would even forgive them for the missing brick. Then I got a rare phone call from my mother. Telephone calls back then could cost up to a dollar a minute, so we only called long distance for emergencies. My mother was crying on the phone. She told me that my high school friend Steve Stofko had just been killed in Vietnam. I had known Steve most of my life. My brothers were friends with Steve’s brothers, and our parents knew each other. What a waste. More gasoline on the fire of my anger.
I had completely forgotten something I did until I recently dug out my FOIPA (Freedom Of Information And Privacy Act) report. By law in the USA, citizens have the right to see what the government has recorded about them in their files. The government has the right to redact all information on active cases, and any information that would reveal who an informant is. I had to wait fifty months to get my FOIPA from the FBI. While going through it, I found this page.
The FBI noted that I had sent my local Selective Service Draft Board members each checks for one-million dollars drawn out on my personal account. I had tried to bribe my Selective Service Board members. And I, myself, had completely, utterly forgotten about this. But being stoned at the time can do that for you. Another reason not to use drugs. But thank you FBI for helping to refresh my memory.
Finally, I received a letter from them in the fall of 1967 from my draft board. I was still a student at IU, and the Vietnam war was escalating worse and worse. At the time I received the letter, I just happened to be very stoned on marijuana with my girlfriend. I opened it. Out fell my old draft card. They had returned it to me. But inside was my new draft with a new classification. The Selective Service had classified me 1A-Deliquent. They informed me that I could be inducted at any time. Even as stoned as I was at the moment, that got my attention.
“What are you going to do now?” my girlfriend asked. She sounded worried.
“The nerve of them. They have classified me ‘fit to kill’. I offered to serve in some non-military way, but they refused. Just who are these people?”
On the floor of my apartment was a newspaper. In it I found a picture of the head of the Selective Service, General Hershey, giving a speech. I cut out the picture of Hershey’s head from the article and pasted it onto a 3” by 5” card. Beneath it I wrote WC-3
I explained in a note to General Hershey that I had reclassified him to WAR CRIMINAL TO THE 3RD DEGREE. I ordered him to report to my apartment immediately to join the Peace Revolution. His first assignment would be to shut down all induction centers.
I showed it to my girlfriend. We giggled. “But you are not really going to send that, are you?”
Did she think this was a joke? They had already reclassified me. I no longer recognized their authority. What difference would it make if I sent this or not? Later, it would turn out to make a major difference, but not as I expected. I stuck the 3” by 5” card into an envelop with a stamp and we walked to a mailbox. After I dropped the letter in, my girlfriend was no longer smiling.
Weeks passed. The war got worse and worse. You could feel it on the campus. I got arrested in an anti-Dow Chemical anti-Vietnam war demonstration. Dow Chemical made the napalm used in Vietnam. I got hit solid with a billy club and was out cold when they dragged me out. I was facing some stiff charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and assault and battery.
I dreaded the thought of going to court. The trial would only be about my actions that day, not about the war in Vietnam. I withdrew from about everything except school. I got more and more stoned. It was a momentarily easy way to get my mind off all the turbulence going around me.
One day in the middle of winter, just before final exams, a friend came around with his new Polaroid camera. He suggested we go out to Lake Griffy and smoke a joint. Sure. We drove to the Lake’s edge. It was good marijuana and we got really stoned. My friend commented about how cold it was.
“Take a picture with that Polaroid.”
He laughed and snapped one.
“Another one. I’ll pay for it.”
He took it, and I rushed to the shore. The bottoms of my feet were freezing, although I wasn’t going to mention it. My friend gave me both photos. I kept the one that you see here. The other one I sent to my selective service board with a note that said something like:
After you draft me, I am going AWOL. I am sending you a photo of me to better help you in your search. You won’t find me though, because I am going to Canada.
All I needed to do now was finish my final exams. I would be graduating a semester early, in January of 1968. After that, I would start a new life.
On the early morning of January 11th, 1968, there was a knock on my apartment door. I quickly dressed and opened the door. There were two uniformed men standing there. They looked at a picture of me.
“You are Dwight Worker.”
“We are here to take you to the Indianapolis induction center.”
I stood there for a moment, absorbing a full dose of this reality check.
“But I haven’t even had my physical exam yet.”
“We have orders.”
“And if I don’t go?”
“Then you’ll be arrested for desertion.”
They were dead serious. By the looks on their faces, they would have preferred to shoot me on the spot. I went upstairs and told my girlfriend. She looked horrified. I changed clothes, then grabbed a stack of anti-war pamphlets that we had been handing out at induction centers. I covered the pamphlets and got into the back seat of their car. I asked a few questions, but they were silent. Not a word more for the rest of the one hour drive to Indianapolis.
When I got out, they led me through the front door. There they put me in the back of a long line of grim-faced young men. Draftees. After a bit, my escorts walked off. I walked to the front of the line and began offering anti-war pamphlets to the inductees. Just a few of them accepted them. My military escort came back and flipped out.
“GIMME THOSE PAMPHLETS NOW!”
I refused. He tried to grab them from me, but I turned and held them away.
“I am a civilian. You can’t order me.”
“I CAN HERE.”
“No you can’t. You’re violating my rights.”
Again, he looked like he’d like to shoot me on the spot. He went down the line demanding that anyone who had taken a pamphlet give it to him. I shouted that they didn’t have to. But the few men who had taken the pamphlets all handed them back to him.
Then they ordered us inductees into a room. The uniformed man up front told us to all sit down and sign our loyalty oaths. I quickly spoke up and said that no one had to sign the DD-98 and DD-99 forms. It was not required by law.
“SIGN THEM!” he shouted. It looked like everyone but me signed.
Afterward he walked up to me and stuck his face into mine. “Just you wait until after you are inducted. You are going to pay.” Again, he looked like he would have preferred to shoot me on the spot. He ordered someone to stay with me at all times.
They told everyone to strip down to their underwear. When I pulled down my pants, they saw that I didn’t have any on.
“Leave your pants on!” some uniform shouted to me.
I saw long lines of semi-nude men, waiting to be processed. I remembered the photos I had seen when I visited Dachau Concentration Camp outside of Munich in 1965. When I finally reached the doctor at the front of the line, he searched for my medical records. He couldn’t find them. He asked me if I knew anything about where my medical records were from my physical.
“I never had a physical.”
“You can’t be inducted without a physical. What are you doing here?”
“I don’t know. Ask those two guys who brought me here.”
I looked around for them, but I didn’t see them.”
“Go sit over there while we clear this up.” The doctor pointed to a long bench where some guys were sitting. I sat next to them and offered them some ‘reading’ about the war. None of them wanted any of it.
A man in uniform told me to go into the room at the end of the hall. I walked in, and there was a man talking on the phone. He motioned for me to sit down. I did. I looked on the walls at his diplomas and certifications. He was a psychiatrist. I listened to him on the phone. He was asking whether he should buy or sell Xerox. The conversation continued for a while. Then, still holding the phone, he asked what I was here for. I told him I had no idea. He asked for my folder. I said that I didn’t have any because I hadn’t had any physical exam yet. He said that it wasn’t possible to induct anyone without a physical.
“They brought me here.”
He went back to his conversation. Then he looked up. “What do you think you’re here for?”
“For resisting your bullshit war.” Now I had his attention.
“I’ll call you back.” He put the phone down. “What did you say?”
“You heard it. You’re just a pawn of the war machine. A well-enough paid one to being buying stocks while you’re supposed to be working.”
“You should watch what you say. You can get in trouble here real quick talking like that. What’s wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with you? They pay you to justify what they’re doing. Look at yourself.”
“You are really showing anti-social tendencies.”
That hit my final chord. “I am anti-social because —-” and I choked. I said something like “They had Nuremberg trials over doctors like you” and then my voice broke. I actually started crying, tears of rage. I figured that they would be locking me up for some reason or another. I shouted at him. He told me to sit down. I refused. He said I was out of control. I said this government and the military and he were all fucking out of control. The phone rang. He looked at it, then me. He answered it and began talking with his broker again.
I sat down and pulled out my handkerchief to wipe off my face. Goddamn him, making me cry, wasting my feelings over this robot. I listened and I could not believe that he could continue his conversation about Xerox. I couldn’t take any of it anymore. So I got up and walked out the door. I did not look back.
In the hallway there was no one waiting for me. I kept walking down the hallway until I got to the stairway at the end. I went down to the first floor and walked past a few personnel straight out the door. On the street I walked away fast. I glanced behind me, but saw no one following me. I headed to Kentucky Avenue and began hitchhiking back to Bloomington.
A few hours later, I got to my apartment. I packed my belongings into my VW van and drove it to a friend’s home. I took off the plates so that they could not easily identify it. I told my friend what was up. He said I could crash at his place for a while. In the next few days I finished taking my final exams. Now I was done with school. I never went back to my apartment to get my mail. I figured they might be watching it. I had no idea that the Selective Service would eventually send my new draft classification to my parents’ address. My dad had thrown me out of his their home after he found out that I had been arrested in an anti-war demonstration. He said he was about ready to punch me out. He called me a ‘Goddamn-Comm-a-nist’ and told me to never come back or call again. I respected his wishes.
I rounded up my last things and packed up my van. I was driving off to Vancouver, Canada. I wrote one last letter to the Selective Service Board. In it, I told them I had changed my name from Dwight to Adam, my address from 446 1/2 East 2nd Street Bloomington, Indiana to Mountains, streams and forests, and my race from white to Indian.
I signed it “FUCK YOU PALEFACE”.
Then I headed off driving northwest to Canada. I never made it there.