My daughter is 11, and as we watch the evening news, she turns to me seriously and says, "I don't like the way the world is doing things." Neither do I.
My daughter is 11 years and eight months old, to be precise, and I do not want her to grow up and be drafted. Neither does she.
My daughter is almost 12, and thinks about unkindness and evil, about slaughtered seals and war. I don't want her to grow up and be brutalized by war -- as soldier or civilian.
As I read those sentences over, they seem too mild. What I want to say is that I am horrified by the very idea that she could be sent to fight for fossil fuel for fossilized ideas. What I want to say is that I can imagine no justification for war other than self-defense, and I am scared stiff about who has the power to decide what is "defense."
But not, in the last days before President Carter decides whether we will register young people and whether half of those young people will be female, I wonder about something else. Would I feel different if my daughter were my son? Would I be more accepting, less anguished, at the notion of a son drafted, a son at war?
Would I beat the drums and pin the bars and stars on his uniform with pride? Would I look forward to his being toughened up, be proud of his heroism, and accept his risk as a simple fact of life?
I cannot believe it.
So, when I am asked now about registering women for the draft along with men, I have to nod yes reluctantly. I don't want anyone registered, anyone drafted, unless it is a genuine crisis. But if there is a draft, this time it can't touch just our sons, like some civilized plague that leaves daughters alone to produce another generation of warriors.
I know that, realistically, we will have to register women along with men anyway because the courts will require it. Women may not have won equal rights yet, but they have "won" equal responsibilities. A male-only draft would surely be challenged and likely ruled unconstitutional.
But at a deeper level, we have to register women along with men because our society requires it. For generations, war has been part of the rage so many men have held against women.
War is in the hard-hat yelling at an equal-rights rally, "Where were you at Iwo Jima?" War is in the man infuriated at the notion of a woman's challenging veterans' preference. War is in the mind of the man who challenges his wife for having had a soft life.
War has often split couples and sexes apart, into lives built on separate realities. It has been part of the grudge of self-sacrifice, the painful gap of understanding and experience between men's and women's lives. It is the stuff of which alienation and novels are written.
But more awesomely, as a male activity, a rite of passage, a test of manhood, war has been gruesomely acceptable. Old men who were warriors have sent younger men to war as if it were their birthright. The women's role until recently was to wave banners and sing slogans, and be in need of protection from the enemy.
We all pretended that war was civilized. War had rules and battlegrounds. War did not touch the finer and nobler things, like women.
This was, of course, never true. The losers, the enemies, the victims, the widows of war were as brutalized as the soldiers. Under duress and in defense, women always fought.
But perhaps, stripped of its maleness and mystery, its audience and cheerleaders, war can be finally dis-illusioned. Without the last trappings of chivalry, it can be seen for what it is: the last deadly resort.
So if we must have draft registration I would include young women as well as young men. I would include them because they can do the job. I would include them because all women must gain the status to stop as well as to start wars. I would include them because it has been too easy to send only men.
I would include them because I simply cannot believe that I would feel different if my daughter were my son.