My Country ‘Tis of Thee: Reporting, Sallies, and Other Confessions
During the Vietnam War, a Student Deferment (2S) from the Selective Service draft was the gold standard in terms of escaping from conscription into the army. Imagine then, if you will, someone who voluntarily, because of his conscience, gave up his deferment to protest against the war. He gave up a lot since he was Stanford Student Body President. At Stanford, he was overcome by fraternity members who shaved his head in bullying opposition to his policies.
David Harris, the author of this book of essays, not only gave up his deferment, he enlisted other young men to give up theirs, encouraged defiance of the draft, and so was singled out to pay a penalty. The government could not possibly charge the numerous protesters, so they made an example of key figures who opposed the draft. Harris was among the most high profile, having married singer Joan Baez. He was sentenced to two years in a Texas jail away from his wife and infant son.
Harris has had a long career as an author of both articles and books. This book is a collection of notable essays that serve as a history of the movements and episodes from the author’s long life. The reading is emotionally difficult, since it ranges from the treatment of farm workers, the elimination of family farms, the death of a small child, Mexican justice horrors, to the reticence of an honorable man to put himself forward in the race for the presidency. The author is idealistic in that he believes that the more Americans know about themselves, the better we would be as a people. This idealism is tonic to the common ignorance in American life today.
This book would be good reading for those seeking the hard life of an activist and involved citizen. Harris is a fine writer.
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