Pressler in his NYT article of May 18th 2010, takes a stab at explaining why Connecticut’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal and other unnamed people in the lime-light say and perform in corrupt or dishonest ways to get ahead can be accounted for as “rooted in the dishonesty that surrounded the Vietnam-era draft.”
If only life was so simple and had a list of absolute causes and values as he posits. His argument is flawed; No, not in the straw-man ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ sense.
Just because he lived in the midst of the Vietnam War changes doesn’t give him or his generation any special knowledge [as implied] of that period he calls the “The Technicality Generation”.
“… many in my generation knew they were using a broken (but legal) system to shirk their duty. They cloaked themselves in idealism but deep down had to know they were engaging in a charade. (I, too, was against the Vietnam war and felt that people should protest, but not dodge their draft responsibility.)
The above quote shows that what Pressler valued, others didn’t, be it the system, the War, the ‘duty’ to serve, and so on. It also points out a more insidious case that (1) fear of consequences is a pervasive driver of behavior and (2) we [Homo sapiens] don’t have the slightest understanding of why we do what we do and don’t do what we don’t do.
The latter point (2) is the point of this response to his article.
Pressler has confused the causes with some effects — in his castigation of others in his article. It is not BECAUSE of the Vietnam War, but having an understanding of what you value was up for assessment in the 60’s. Rules of life were changing. More and more people were seeing patterns that didn’t make sense. More and more people were questioning the basis of past rules in the context of their 28,500 days on earth. They were questioning the basis of past antecedents linked to how they were supposed to behave as well as the expected consequences for that behavior.
The fact that “someone poorer or less educated, and usually African-American, had to serve” when others didn’t, is one of those consequences in life, not just for Vietnam, but for life in general. As a Rhodes Scholar Pressler might want to review history, contingencies management, and factors modulating individual behavior.
Besides finances and education, many of those who served were also culturally separate, had different histories, had different contexts and had different prospects for the immediate futures than those who didn’t. Yes, there were a large number of African-Americans. There was also an abundance of other minorities as well, just as it is today in a volunteer armed services world. This ‘abundance’ has an abundance of causes. None of those minorities had exactly the same set of values [learned rules in cultural – community] for enlisting, serving or NOT serving and avoiding Vietnam.
This Pressler logic implies that everyone who used the law, their circumstances, etc., and didn’t go to Vietnam had similar values and everyone that did go to Vietnam had a different set of values – like those aligned with Pressler himself which he contends were the correct values. As if Pressler himself or his generation invented functional dualism, Pressler then castigates others for not doing what he did concerning his definition of “basic responsibilities.”
“Once my generation got in the habit of saying one thing and believing another, it couldn’t stop.”
If all that happened in the 60’s hadn’t happened as it did, things would be different today than they are.
His contention is that things would be better. I maintain that he has a long way to go to show any such reason for that conclusion. If anything he has shown that ‘the system’ that he and others fought for, works… including catching up to Mr. Blumenthal’s and having the consequences of his betrayal of constituents, state, friends and family come into play. Maybe due to the thorough level of vetting of individuals Pressler’s article should more poignantly have been titled: “FROM THE VETTING GENERATION: WELCOME!”