Civil Disobedience and Civic Responsibility: Vietnam War Draft Resisters in Their Statements

Monday, 16 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Yuichi MOROI, Meiji University, Japan
This paper investigates the relationship between the state and the individual in draft resisters in Vietnam War and to explore the nature of their civil disobedience. Draft resistance as a form of civil disobedience reveals rare intense tension between the individual action and the state imperative. How could a citizen stand up and act against a democratic government? While the decision and action of draft resisters seem individualistic, this paper argues that there is a strong civic component to them—a firm sense of civic responsibility concerning universal ideals of human rights and well-being of human community everywhere.

The major source of this study is the statements by draft resisters to their local Draft Board, both published and unpublished, collected at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Reviewing the primary source, this study examines the subjective meaning of draft resisters with these questions: How did draft resisters understand the ideas of noncooperation, nonviolence, and civil disobedience? How did they see the relationship between the state and the individual, a democratic state and a democratic citizenry?

This paper finds that the sense of civic responsibility permeates their statements of refusal and resistance; highly personal choice and action of draft resistance is connected to the social. The paper argues that there is a close tie between civil disobedience and civic responsibility among the draft resisters, and that the tie was formed in the social and historical context of the time—the Civil Rights movement and the previous generations of draft and war resisters.