Let me be clear: conscientious objectors do not forfeit their right or ability to participate in government. When our country has had a draft, we have created legal avenues by which citizens may refuse to participate in what they view as unjust killing. We should not ostracize or punish citizens who have honestly taken such a position.
However, my opinion does not hold sway with opponents of Senator Phil Jensen, who continue to pour on the heat over Jensen’s apparent refusal to serve in the military during the Vietnam War. Last week Stan Adelstein followed up his postcard attack on Jensen’s non-service with a blog critique:
…During the Vietnam War, while his peers stepped up when drafted doing their duty in combat and non-combat roles, Phil Jensen objected to serving in the military. But Phil didn’t just object to combat—he wouldn’t wear the uniform at all, not even in a non-combat role (that was an option, there was a classification for that). He answered no and was assigned community service in a parking garage safe at home [Stanford Adelstein, “While Others Served—Jensen Wouldn’t Wear Our Country’s Uniform,” A Way to Go, 2016.05.24].
Seth Tupper talked to Jensen about Adelstein’s accusations and got contradictory answers. Tupper did get Jensen to offer this reason for seeking conscientious objector status:
“I was hoping to serve in a hospital setting,” he wrote on Thursday, “because I was employed at a local hospital” [Seth Tupper, “Campaign Flyer: Sen. Jensen Dodged Draft During Vietnam War,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.05.27].
Tupper also checked in with Jensen’s primary challenger, Rep. Jacqueline Sly. She seemed to support Adelstein’s attack:
The Journal also asked Sly why Jensen’s 44-year-old draft status is relevant to this year’s race for the Republican nomination for the District 33 Senate seat.
“Every decision that we make in our lives has an impact on other decisions we make,” Sly said. “Whether we’re 18 or 40 or 65, all of those things reflect who we are as individuals, and when we’re making decisions for the state, I think who we are and what we’ve done and who we are inside is reflected. We’re representing people in our district, and if we don’t believe in defending our country, I think our country is in trouble” [Tupper, 2016.05.27].
Of course, Sly has never worn the uniform, either. She and Jensen both wrap themselves in the uniforms of family members, which makes me think (a) how has having family members in the military made either Sly or Jensen better legislators, and (b) do state legislators really spend so much time legislating national defense issues that the uniforms they or their family members have worn should be a primary voting issue?