THE LOTTERYA Story by Zeek4
We all had the same thing on our minds, September 14th, the day of The Lottery. There were four of us, but another 850,000 were anticipating the same event. I was more concerned about my immediate friends and how they would do when the numbers were drawn. More to the point, I was wondering about the number I would be awarded. I had never been much of a gambler, but this up coming event was a gamble of a lifetime. It really didn’t matter how I felt about it anyway, I was part of the occasion no matter what my personal feelings were in regards to laying a bet.
On the days leading up to The Lottery my buddies and I sat around at the beach analyzing waves and daydream about what each of us would do if we won. Another hot topic was what we would do if we lost, which was something none of us liked thinking about, but the possibility was hard not to contemplate. In most lotteries you just buy a ticket and then wait around for the drawing to see if the remote probability of winning would come to fruition. This lottery was different. The participants didn’t have to do anything other than have a pulse, a birthday, be an American male and young. The option not to participate was not available. Like it or not you played.
Finally, the day came. As each birthday was drawn a number was assigned to it. The first one pulled was given the number one and so on up to 365. Alan got number six. In less than a year he was dead. Slaughtered in some grimy jungle swamp close to the border of Cambodia. When he drew the 6 it was a sure thing he would be drafted into the military, so he opted to voluntarily join the Marines. Alan became one of the 58,256 Americans to die in a Vietnamese civil war. The war our country had no rational reason for being involved in.
Jay drew 27. Another low number that was sure to be drafted. His life was forever altered by the experience. His choice was to move to Canada, a country that could see the stupidity in sending its youth to be maimed and killed for no good reason. Long after the war had ended, and more intelligent minds prevailed, Jay was allowed to come back to the United States no longer considered to be a draft dodger and criminal. He chose to stay right where he was, and has continued to be disgusted on how quickly his former country was and still is willing to jump into foreign wars.
Jim also drew a low number and was drafted into the army. He was wounded in Vietnam and returned home a broken man. I don’t mean broken in the mechanical sense, rather he was broken psychologically. Thirty years later I ran into Jim at a reunion and he was still wrestling with the demons he took on board during the war. His physical injuries had long since healed, however, the mental damage was forever his companion despite years of counseling and different forms of therapy. He never discussed what he went through over there, but the residual affect left no doubt that what ever happened wasn’t good.
At last my number came up, 235. I literally dodged the bullet and would have no possibility of being drafted. I was allowed to continue my college education and became a teacher. That’s not to say I got away scot-free. The burden bestowed on me by the war was survivor’s guilt. Even to this day, the faces of my friends that weren’t as lucky haunt me. The number they drew got them killed or forever altered their life in some other way. Berry Williams, the boy I shared a tent with in Colorado while we attended a Boy Scout Jamboree, killed. Or happy go lucky Billy Walters, who is still listed as missing in action.
It seems so unnatural to have a life hinge on what size number someone pulled out of a bucket. Although I have mixed feelings about having to go through the indignity of having my life balanced on something as inane as a lottery, in retrospect The Lottery is what most helped put and end to the Vietnam War. It leveled the playing field and exposed all young men to the possibilities of dealing with the horrors of war. Not just the poor and uneducated, or the want to be warriors. Prior to The Lottery people like me, the son of a doctor, could finagle their way out of serving by going to college or having daddy put in a word for them with some buddy on the draft board. The Lottery created a military of discontents. Young men that had no desire to end up on a bamboo stake in some country they could care less about. This dissatisfaction ended up infecting the entire American society, which eventually was what finally eroded the will to fight and ended our participation in the war, which we deservedly lost.
Today, with an all volunteer military, the general public spends little time thinking about the wars, let alone protesting them in the streets. As the carnage continues where is the outrage? Our society seems more concerned with who won the Super Bowl or which jackass will run against Obama in November. On a daily bases young twenty something’s are being killed, maimed, or in more subtle ways damaged. One rational seems to be they joined because they wanted to for one reason or another. No one forced them to go. Unlike the Billy’s, and the Jim’s, and Allan’s that were dragged out of college kicking and screaming to fight in a war they and most everyone else didn’t believe in. By reinstating The Lottery America would be forced to take a much harder look concerning our participation in war. I am sure with a lottery system there would be a great deal of protesting and reevaluating our involvement. A lottery would also generate far more political resistance to war, do to political pressure generated by people being forced into harms way. Politicians would be far less inclined to jump into wars where the concept of “winning” doesn’t really exist, and where there is a strong possibility their own sons and daughters would have to serve.
Yes, being subjugated to The Lottery on that day September 14th 1969 was not a pleasant experience, but that’s the point. If we are going to continue to police the world and boast of being the last remaining Super Power we must share the burden with all of our citizens and not just the few.
© 2012 Zeek4
Added on February 24, 2012
Last Updated on June 18, 2012
San Diego, CA
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