Down Your Guns & Pick Up A Book - Paul Krassner
Now that the possibility of a military draft is, as Donald Rumsfeld would say, a known unknown with no absence of evidence, it’s time to get a firm grip on our Selective Service cards, strike a match and awaken our inner-Zen bastard. Either that or we can be swept away by the fundamentalist right-wing idiot wind that howls about the wondrous opportunity the draft provides for young Americans to serve their God (and country), improve their lot and see the world first hand.
are huge social benefits that come from it,” says draft
aficionado, Oklahoma Republican Senator and Arm Services Committee
Member James Inhofe.
new draft?” says Paul
Krassner. “I think Canada will get a lot of refugees.”
burned his draft card in the 1960s. He also energized the psychedelic
revolution, co-founded the Yippies (the
merry pranksters of the political left), took LSD with
Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey, edited Lenny
Bruce’s autobiography, and conducted the tour of enhanced
reality on Groucho
Marx's first acid trip. That was all before People magazine
ordained him “Father of the underground press" for his
coverage of the anti-war movement at The
Realist — "the magazine of wrongeous indignation" that
he spawned and then published from 1958 to 1974.
all else Krassner was, and is, irreverent in the best way possible.
a much more obscene word than any I’ve ever used,” he
said during a speech to a packed house in 1967.
if he wasn’t right. Even so, today our post-napalm war in
Iraq features smart bombs that can target an apple off the enemy’s
head AND incinerate children. Obscenity is in vogue and with it
the possibility of a lottery system whose payout is a dogtag and
a trip to Biblical Hell. Krassner, the Zen bastard whose regular
column appears in the New York
Press, sees the draft as a near done deal with caveats.
of all, if the draft happens, it ain’t gonna be before the
election,” he says.
November it’s a different story.
George W. Bush gets re-selected a draft would be almost inevitable," Krassner
says. "But we’re not safe even if Kerry becomes president.
He might go Catholic-at-confession on us and say, ‘I feel
very guilty. I’ve committed sending men to their death because
of a mistake.’ It wouldn’t be his first admission.”
the years since Kerry did his time in Vietnam, the draft has become
associated more with the NBA and NFL than with the Selective Service.
But Bush changed all that. Under
his new world order, our troops are overstretched, enrollment is
down and re-enlistment is plummeting.
the course and next year at this time, the draft will be up and
running. That's the bad news. What's the good news? Images of the
drafted dead coming home in their flag-draped coffins might require
Americans to honestly reassess their profits and losses. The result
could be the end of the war.
draft would certainly change the war,” Krassner says. “I
remember a Students
for a Democratic Society (SDS) lapel button that said ‘Not
With My Body, You Don’t.’ As young people start to see
how an army of supposed liberation becomes an army of occupation,
that becomes a sitting duck for insurgents, that becomes a magnet
for more enemies around the world, they’ll recognize how futile,
absurd and insane war is.”
"Futile," "absurd," "insane" .
. . and "crude" Oscar Wilde would have added. According
to Wilde, “As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will
always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar,
it will cease to be popular.”
anti-war games of the 60s put Wilde’s sentiment into play.
Yippies outed the vulgarity of Vietnam by recontextualizing the
myth of power — or, as Jack
Black would say, they were "stickin’ it to the man.”
Yippies gained notoriety because of the influence of their guerilla
theater,” Krassner says. “We did everything from throwing
money at the stock exchange to levitating
did the Yippies manage to get media coverage?
was a trick borrowed from the CIA," Krassner says. "You
don’t have to manipulate the media if you can manipulate the
event that the media covers. Wall Street has an abstract concept
of money. Sooner or later, it's used to support war. Throwing money
at the stock exchange gave us an opportunity to explain to the press
about that type of Wall Street corruption.
the raising of the Pentagon, we could not only point out the absurdity
of the war, but tell reporters at the press conference: 'officials
would only grant us a permit to raise the Pentagon three feet.'
The reporters wrote that down because it was in quotes.”
and the Yippies brought levity to the Pentagon, but that was nearly
half a century ago. Would these tactics still work today?
kind of street theater is not as necessary now," Krassner says. "The
Internet has changed the nature of protest. Organizing can be done
instantly — without the expense and to a widespread audience.
One week ago millions of people around the world who've never heard
of Russ Kick suddenly discovered who he was. He’s the guy
who runs The Memory Hole where
the first pictures of coffins coming from Iraq were posted.
is based on secrecy. And power without compassion deserves to be
exposed. That’s what happened at The Memory Hole. Kick exposed
the cold heart of power because he’s dedicated. That’s
a good thing, if I may paraphrase Martha Stewart.”
aren’t there more Russ Kicks?
partly it’s because the public is stupid and ignorant. Why
else would they have swallowed the propaganda that Saddam Hussein
and Osama bin Laden were lovers?”
stupid and ignorant they remain. According to a recent IPA/Knowledge
Networks poll, 57%
of America still believes that Saddam "was providing substantial
support to al Qaeda."
“It’s disheartening,” Krassner says. “All the scandals
and programs on TV are diverting the public’s attention from what’s
really going on. As an old conspiracy theorist my first instinct is to think
that the Republican National Committee was behind the Janet Jackson incident.”
sublime sense of humor runs through Krassner's latest book, Magic
Mushrooms and Other Highs: From Toad Slime to Ecstasy. It's
a hilariously twisted collection of consciousness-expanding-substance
inspired stories by and about Terence McKenna, John Lennon, Ken
Kesey, Ram Dass, William S. Burroughs and others.
can drugs teach us in these terrorized times?
on the individual," Krassner says. "You can learn to appreciate
new aspects of making love, seeing a movie, listening to music,
eating, meditating… spirituality. You can learn about a separate
reality, amazingly different from the reality you've been brainwashed
into believing by the mainstream culture.”
used in a conscientiously applied program of mental hygiene, could
magic mushrooms end the war in Iraq?
if everybody eats 'em," Krassner says
the everybody-must-get-stoned strategy doesn’t seem likely,
I ask Krassner if he currently sees any signs of Yippie attitude
yeah, definitely. All over. Anywhere from Students
for a Sensible Drug Policy to the Women’s
March that just occurred in Washington. My own daughter says
that people are always asking her if she’s an activist like
her dad. She used to say 'No, not really. There’s no war on
and abortion rights have been secured.' Well, recently she had an
epiphany. Abortion rights ARE being threatened. There IS a war on
and with it there’s a real awareness now. As people get educated,
it may thrust them into being activists.”
knows? It may inspire them to light a match and burn a draft card
for freedom — freedom from the absurd, insane and futile
vulgarity of war.
— Nathan Callahan,
April 30, 2004