I’m in the middle of re-reading Thomas Moore’s "Care of the Soul" in preparation for an upcoming presentation. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to Verlyn Klinkenborg’s piece a few minutes ago when I was scanning the NY Times. Klinkenborg typically addresses the soul more directly in his writings than he does the mind.
Finding a Draft Card subtly and poetically acknowledges Veterans Day (see YouTube) as Klinkenborg talks about opening a small box of “miscellaneous leftovers” from his past. They include a baseball, a couple of harmonicas, a year’s worth of weekly rail passes between Princeton and New York, and his draft card.
The draft card evokes thoughts about our current military engagements. Klinkenborg writes: “The mere survival of that card among what you might call my effects feels ironic. It poses questions about the war we’re in now, how we choose who will fight, what degree of exposure to the war young men and women feel these days. To me, of course, the draft card wasn’t a kind of neutral bureaucratic testimony, like my first driver’s license, which I knowingly kept. The draft card was a political document. In my own mind, it registered my protest even as it was registering my enrollment in the system I was protesting. It made me by extension — a very distant extension — a part of the war I was protesting too.”
Whether positively or negatively, our mementoes help us keep track of our life stories; they mark milestones in those narratives we tell ourselves, sometimes, but not always, evoked by a date on the calendar.
I don’t have a draft card among a box of miscellaneous keepsakes. But I do have an honorable discharge from the United States Air Force packed away somewhere among my belongings. That honorable discharge became my ticket to a college education later on in life that helped prepare me for a career in journalism.
Pulling out a desk drawer here in my home office, I easily spot a tattered 1980 press card issued by the Minnesota Newspaper Association and signed by Robert M. Shaw, Secretary. Not to be outdone by the military, the MNA reminds us of the role of the press in protecting our nation. Its logo states: “Free Press; Free People.”