Feeling a draft: Talk of conscription has young adults tuned in to politics

The last time the United States had a military draft, Don McLean earned a gold record for his hit single "American Pie," Hank Aaron became the first Major League Baseball player to sign a contract for $200,000 a year, and the TV show "M*A*S*H" made its debut on CBS.

It was 1972, and the country was struggling over so many young men being sent overseas for a controversial war.

Today, more than 30 years since the draft ended in 1973, there's buzz of bringing it back. Besides the countless Internet rumors of an imminent draft, there are in fact two proposals in Congress that would reinstitute conscription.

But the bills — one by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and another by Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C. — are unlikely to go anywhere.

The Bush administration is opposed to a draft, as are Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and the leadership of both the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress.

Nevertheless, rumors of a draft seem to be waking up my politically un-savvy generation to the political climate around us. And that's a good thing.

A combination of the rapidly approaching presidential election, a trickle in military recruitment, and the controversial topic of war seems to be fueling the draft rumors.

While such topics as the economy, health care and trade should be of interest to my generation, nothing gets us going like the draft. The thought of being drafted to fight in a foreign place scares us, especially given that my generation has grown up without a major war.

"I think it's a bad idea," said Seattle University student Clarice Ferrera. "We should be able to choose whether or not we want to join the military."

The mere thought of a draft instantly puts Seattle University student Joe Ringold on edge. "I hear Canada is not really an option because of laws recently passed. I would do anything not to serve but if I had to, I would try to go into a branch where I wouldn't be in combat."

Many young people, including several of my friends, are quick to say they are against the Iraq war and President Bush. But can they truly articulate why?

I recently asked a classmate why she didn't like Bush and her response was simply, "He sucks." OK in high school maybe, but this answer is ignorant and unacceptable in the real world.

In the 2000 presidential election, only 42 percent of 18-to-25-year-old Americans voted, compared with 66 percent of total American voters.

Several groups are scrambling to get more young people to vote and to involve them in politics. "20 Million Loud" is the slogan for MTV's "Choose or Lose" campaign for the 2004 presidential election.

While registering 20 million young people to vote is a lofty goal, the purpose of these campaigns is this: With young people voting, they can sway election outcomes and have a powerful say in politics.

If a draft were reinstated, it would cause nothing short of an uproar among my generation. Let's hope this uneasiness propels us not only to vote, but to make a habit of keeping up on the news.

Soon, my generation will produce the next politicians, teachers, doctors and other leaders. We need to be aware, today, of the issues and policies that affect us, our communities and our world.

Natalie Miscolta-Cameron is an '04 graduate of Roosevelt High School and will attend Agnes Scott College in Atlanta. E-mail: NEXT@seattletimes.com