Draft the Boys at Sixty-Five
-- from http://bruderhof.org
As a new generation faces the prospect of serving overseas,
Clarence Jordan's tongue-in-cheek essay on the military draft
has gained a currency that is hard to ignore.
There’s a lot of talk going on today about how we don’t need
peacetime conscription in a nation like this. But we might as
well just face up to the fact that we’ve got to have the draft.
In the first place, we’ve gotten too civilized to go to war
voluntarily. We’ve just got to be made to fight. And then,
automation has taken all the sport out of killing. Time was
when an honest man could go to battle against an honest man,
and there was a lot of sport in that; there was a lot of fun, a
lot of challenge. You don’t have to be drafted for that kind of
sport. But who wants to operate a computer to kill scads of
women and children? We’re just not going to war and do that
kind of thing unless we’re drafted.
Look at it this way—a very peace-loving nation like ours has
the responsibility to keep the peace, all over the world, even
if we have to do it by ourselves. And even if we have to kill
off everybody else in the world to keep the peace in the world.
We got to do it. It’s our responsibility. Peace is that
important—we’ve got to have it. The trouble is, some people
think you can have it without plenty of guns and planes and
napalm and bombs and men. Well, you can’t. You’ve got to have
these things. And when too many folks get to arguing about
this, the only thing you can do with folks who are arguing is
just draft them.
Without the draft, there’d be entirely too much talk about
peace and too little real fighting for peace. So until people
quit thinking and talking, we’re gonna have to have the draft,
that’s it. Now, I admit we might have to occasionally make a
few changes in the draft law. For instance, at the present,
we’re drafting kids from eighteen to twenty-six. We shouldn’t
be drafting those kids. They’re too young; they’re too flighty;
they’re too sexy; they’re too immature. They’re not even
represented in Congress. They don’t have any say-so about this
decision. Besides, those kids need to stay at home and get
married and get into their vocation and start raising a family
and all those kinds of things. Then too when you send these
kids off, you got to have such a long veterans’ program. They
come back veterans eighteen, nineteen years old, you know. You
gotta keep ’em on the rolls for another forty to sixty years.
Now, it could be that we could draft middle-aged folks, but,
you know, they’re too productive. We got to have them to make
the bombs and the planes and the napalm, without which there
can be no peace. We need them to run our big banks and our big
corporations, to keep the economy booming. We gotta keep ‘em in
Congress, to pass draft laws and tax laws and laws against
draft-card burning and all like that. We got to keep these
middle-aged folks at home, to make committees in Congress, to
investigate people who ain’t peace loving. And then we got to
keep ‘em at home to teach their sons the glory and the beauty
of killing off men, women, and children that they’ve never seen
before. We can’t have peace in the world without our
middle-aged folks staying at home.
Well, that only leaves our senior citizens, but they’re
too—well, now wait a minute, what about our senior citizens?
Yea, what about our senior citizens? How about starting the
draft at sixty-five? Looky here, at that age they’re getting
ready to retire and they could go at their own expense. We
wouldn’t have to pay ‘em—they’re on Social Security, and
old-age security, and all like that. They’re on their
And then another thing, and I noticed this, that the older a
man gets, the more belligerent he gets. You listen to these
guys talk in Congress. There isn’t anybody who’s more anxious
to give the Communists hell than a man who’s too old to deliver
it. Now anybody that’s as anxious to deliver some loads to the
nether regions as our senior citizens ought not to be denied
the privilege of delivering them in person. They wouldn’t even
have to be drafted to do it. If given the opportunity, they’d
volunteer in droves.
And too, by the time a man reaches sixty-five and had to be
drafted, he usually wouldn’t leave at home a sweetheart or
somebody like that weeping for him. This would definitely cut
down on hasty marriages. And when he was given his two-week
leave before being shipped abroad, his wife probably wouldn’t
get pregnant, and that would cut down on the war boom of babies
and help the population explosion.
But I think his wife ought to be drafted too. We ought to draft
them all—men and women that are sixty-five years old—so she
could go along with him to do his cooking and cleaning and see
that he comes home at night like a good soldier should. With
their wives along, these elderly GI’s would not be liable to
turn these foreign cities into brothels and burden its
citizenry with illegitimacy.
It’s also obvious from the traffic on our toll roads that
senior citizens love to travel. You get on Interstate 75, and
you see one camper trailer after another going up and down,
going to Florida. Most of our senior citizens, by the time
they’re sixty-five, have seen practically every tourist place
in the United States. Let’s give ’em a chance to see the rest
of the world. All we’d have to do with this new army would be
to equip ’em with a camper trailer and let ’em get on the road.
Now you would have to have in these foreign countries adequate
tourist places with adequate rest stops and so forth. This
might be a real nasty problem in backward countries with
outdoor privies. But we might be able to even get around that.
This army would be highly mobile with their camper trailers.
Perhaps they could be even more mobile than in helicopters, and
we could do away with the expensive helicopters.
Now I think the uniforms for this new army should be usual
tourist shorts—both the men and the women should be equipped
with the usual shorts that these senior citizens wear when they
are touring the country. Now the reason I prescribe shorts is
that if you were to get all of our senior citizens with their
knobby knees and their varicose veins descending on a country,
the psychological effect on that country would be such that
they would capitulate immediately.
This army would have other psychological advantages also.
Practically all of the elderly GI’s would be grandparents, with
the standard ailments and aches and pains. It’s doubtful that
any enemy, no matter how fierce or determined he might be,
could long resist a vast invasion of grandparents talking about
their grandchildren and their aches and pains. No tonnage of
bombs could produce a greater stampede to the conference table.
Now the morale of this army would just be superb. It would be
boundless, because when a man’s sixty-five years old he’s had
forty, fifty years to reflect on the bliss of private
enterprise and the gross evil of Communism, and without
hesitation, he would be so committed to his superlative ideals
that he would gladly and eagerly spill his iron-poor blood. Who
would want to fade away in boredom at a retirement center, when
he can go down in a burst of glory for his superlative ideals
on a foreign shuffleboard court?
Another boost to morale would be that some of the troops would
be the directors and chairmen of the boards of huge
corporations with war contracts. Given the opportunity to
execute the wars that they helped plan, and that have made them
rich, their zeal would just be boundless. Well may it be said
of these rich men who plan the wars, “His strength is as the
strength of ten, because his heart’s corrupt.”
But to provide the greatest morale stimulus, the law to draft
at sixty-five would have to allow for some exceptions. For
instance, the president as commander-in-chief of the Army and
Navy, even though he may not yet be sixty-five, should not be
denied the privilege of volunteering, donning his shorts, and
leading his shorted army in this great expeditionary force. We
should give the commander-in-chief the privilege of
accompanying this senior army.
In the next place, I think we should make exceptions for the
Armed Services Committee, and also for the House Appropriations
Committee. If you’re going to make laws for appropriations and
all like that, certainly you need some field experience. And
these men, even though not sixty-five, should be given the
privilege of joining the army.
Now, let’s consider some more of the economic aspects of the
draft at sixty-five. The first big thing I see would be in the
cost of recruitment. You wouldn’t need but two recruitment
centers for these elderly GI’s –one in Florida and one on
California. And you wouldn’t have to have any pre-induction
physicals, in view of the fact of universal disability. Now
there might be one or two physically fit men, but the number of
fit would be so small that you could just go ahead and dispense
entirely with the examinations and conscript them all. It could
be too that there would be a tremendous savings to Medicare,
provided we could have rather high casualties, because most of
these guys are just beginning Medicare and if we could arrange
to have a casualty rate pretty high, think of the savings it
would be to that program.
Another thing is that by drafting only those over sixty-five,
we could almost eliminate the enormously expensive Veterans
Administration. A maimed man of this age would hardly consider
it worth the effort to learn how to use artificial arms and
legs. Nor would he likely want to go to college, or to buy a
twenty-year house on a forty-year mortgage. Even his meager
needs wouldn’t last too long, and because the crop of veterans
would disappear so rapidly, we could afford to have twice as
many of ’em. And by raising the draft age to sixty-five, we
could completely bypass the astronomically extravagant training
centers and camps. When a man’s that old, he’s just about as
trained as he’s gonna get. The government not only would be
spared the considerable expense of training him, but would
profit immensely from his long years of experience. Overnight,
we would have, not a band of immature amateurs, but an army of
Besides the savings in money, though, there would be the
greater savings in manpower. For instance, when you kill a man
off at eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old, you’re killing off
a guy that’s got twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years of
productive life left in him. Now these folks that make
automobiles up here in Detroit, they wouldn’t catch an
automobile right off the assembly line and junk it. They would
expect to get some mileage out of it. You wouldn’t take a kid
right out of college and junk him on the battlefield. You want
to get some mileage out of him.
Now, another thing is that when you kill off a boy that’s maybe
eighteen, nineteen years old, you don’t know but that maybe
you’re killing a future Einstein, or a future Abraham Lincoln,
or a future George Washington. You don’t know, you might be
killing some great genius of some kind. But when you kill off a
guy sixty-five years old, you know what you’re killing.
There’s one final thing that might be said. This army would
really have no equal in the art of pacification. Its ranks
would be filled up with retired bankers and insurance company
executives. They could completely rebuild the crude economic
structure of a foreign country. The elderly newspaper and radio
editors and managers could supply a whole lot of American
intellectual trash for the foreign people. The enlisted
personnel who in private life were captains of American
industry could have a whole foreign country on cigarettes and
wheels in no time at all. And these are the foundation of any
civilization. The conscripted politicians could teach the
foreign hopefuls all the ins and outs of, well, you know,
under-the-table deals and how to conduct a successful candidacy
and all like that. In a matter of weeks, after storming the
beaches, all these mighty architects of the American dream,
these wrinkled but wise GI’s, would transform alien lands into
prosperous territories begging for statehood. With prospects of
such affluent bliss, most countries would actually invite us to
invade them. And we’ve never needed any pretext other than an
invitation from a corrupt regime.
But if this calls for more senior citizens than we could
supply, it might be necessary to have a war waiting list. Some
countries that are fairly well off might just have to be told
plainly that we wouldn’t invade ’em under any circumstances. So
the only thing then that stands between us and world peace and
plenty is one little minor change in the draft law.
Clarence Jordan (1912-1969) founded Koinonia, an interracial
farming cooperative in Americus, Georgia, in 1942. A Bible
scholar, he is the author The Cottonpatch Gospel, a translation
of the New Testament from Greek into colloquial southern
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