Monday, January 31, 2011

A-1

I typed in his name. Seven letters. Class? 2014. I pressed enter. Stared at the screen. I looked at him; reached for the yellow piece of paper.

“A-1.” I handed it to him, “you are immediately eligible for the draft. Next!”

There was a momentary hesitation. A bewildered look crossed his face, an audible exhale, and a sag in his shoulders. “What is this?” He half asked, half accused.

“If you have questions, please move to station 2 where you will receive a pink slip. Be sure to read it in its entirety. Thank you, next.” The two flags behind me wilted without any wind. The American flag and the Skidmore flag—signs of security in my life. Now I was handing young men draft cards. It scared me. I hadn't personally checked on my name. I had not been on the other side of the table. I had no curiosity to type in my name.

The procession continued. As people entered the dining hall a bouncer separated the men from the women and told the men to get their draft cards. I couldn't believe this was happening. I had put up a wall as I entered names and class years. My face was sympathetic and my response was angry. I was angry at myself. I gave cold responses that sounded like indifference, but masked an extreme distaste toward myself. I couldn't believe I had been roped in to help with this mess.

I had been working in the office, when he came in to inform me that he needed more volunteers. In accordance with Obama's recruiter open access policy, Selective Services would be on campus giving a census and designating students. It would be an attempt by the government to maintain an up to date database in the event of a draft. I had volunteered before I knew that.

As I sat at the desk, I began to mechanically process boys at a steady pace. A-1. Death. Go fight—your life is the government's. My face was locked in a permanent scowl. I could not give away how I really felt as I gave these slips to these barely men.

I stared at the screen. A nonsensical excel spreadsheet of hastily typed names and class years. I was relieved to step out of my role for a moment and reflect that those slips were fiction. The pink slip at station two explained that this was a provocative demonstration to get the student body thinking about the weight of being a nation at war. It is true, we are at war. I do not feel the impacts everyday. Even though I was in on it, I still felt strongly. The simulation achieved its objectives, and I continue to ponder the implications of what war means to this country.