Conscientious Objection: Round Deux

Phone rings (the iPhone blues-riff, for those curious, ie., dun nah nuh nuh nuhh (bum bum, bum bum).

Unknown number, which usually either means a hate-call (a la last week’s “I hope the Nazis do to you what they did to my family”) or the IDF.

“Moriel Rothman?”

“Yes?”

“Come into the Draft Offices on Thursday, you have a meeting with the [Insert Military Acronym that Young Rothman Could Not Understand*].”

“Uh, OK? Is this like a committee or not like a committee?”

“I don’t know. Sure. I guess you can say it’s like a committee.”

I arrive. Before arriving, I do a lot of meditating and some praying and generally try to get myself in a place in which I am calm and filled with love even for those who don’t love me.

I go upstairs. I am calm. I am called into the room. Across from me sits the Samla”g* (a high-up in the draft office).  The conversation goes something like this:

“Hello.”

“Hello.”

“We see that you were born in Israel, and then lived here when you were seventeen. And that you made ‘Aliyah’ last September. Is that right?”

“Well… immigrated, yeah.” (Probably best not to argue semantics here, I decide. One struggle at a time).

“And why don’t you want to serve in the army?”

“Because I am opposed to violence.”

”So are we. The IDF is not an organization that supports violence. We are defending our country’s borders.”

Breathe, Rothman. Breathe.

“I think the argument of whether the army is defensive or not is a different argument. But armies, all armies, are meant to use violence, to hurt and kill other people, and that is something I am not willing to take part in.”

“Why did you come here, then? Why didn’t you stay in America? You knew that you’d get drafted, right?”

“I want to be here. I care about what happens here, and the people living here. And anyway, the US has its army also.”

”But how can you live here and let other people defend you?”

“What I hear you asking is: How can I move to this country knowing that other people will be using the same violence I am opposed to, is that right?”

“Again: the army is not violent. The IDF is defensive.”

“It’s important for me to say that I am not telling others what to do, here. I myself am not willing to wear a uniform or hold a weapon, but I do not claim to know what goes into someone else’s decision to do so… I don’t see myself as more moral or better. Maybe I’ll go a bit deeper into my philosophy here?”

“That’d be great, because so far, you haven’t convinced me.”

“OK, so, um… in life, there’s no way to know that what we believe is absolutely right, right?”

“Definitely.”

“As such, I think that with that knowledge of… unknowledge, the knowing that we don’t know what is Right or True, I believe in a path in which I can be assured that I am not going to erase from the world those people who might be right, or partially right, or together with whom I could find right.”

“We don’t erase people from the world.”

“If a bomb is dropped, whether its “defensive” or not, people are being erased from the world…”

“…”

“…”

“So, as of right now, you are going to be drafted in three weeks. If we don’t let you out on Conscience, what are you going to do?”

“I will not go to the army.”

“But it’s the law- would you be willing to break the law? To commit a crime?”

“I would rather break the law than join a system based on violence. Yes.”

“Isn’t that violence, though? Breaking the law?”

“No, I don’t think it is. Martin Luther King taught that when a law is unjust, and violates a one’s ethical principles, especially those which are based on nonviolence, the law should not be obeyed. And I also don’t think an act can be violent without a human victim who is hurt physically.”

“So you’re saying that violence is only physical violence?”

“No, you’re right. That’s a good question. I think that there are other kinds of violence that are not physical, but I think that physical violence is the worst sort of violence, and the kind that I am most opposed to. And anyway, I don’t think breaking the law is an act of violence.”

“…”

“…”

“Great, is there anything else you want to tell us?”

Moment of Panic: I haven’t convinced them. They don’t believe me. Say something. Something pacifistic. Um. Um. Um:

“I’m a vegan?”

Blink. Blink. “That’s nice. Thank you, then. We’ll be in touch.”

And with that, I left the room, feeling a sort of sinking pit in my stomach: I didn’t speak well enough, I didn’t say it right, I should have thought things out more, I should have talked about more meditation. Which I need to do right now. Breathe, Rothman. Breathe.

I calmed myself: que sera sera, kiddo. I was honest, I was calm. I didn’t feel like I was being antagonistic.

A few hours later, I got the following text message:

מלש”ב יקר תאריך גיוסך הינו 12/10/21 והינך משובץ בחיל חימוש. גיוס מוצלח!

“Dear draft-candidate: your draft date is the 21st of October. You are hereby assigned to the Weaponry Brigade. Have a nice draft!”

While I don’t think that the two were connected, the text message and the committee, earlier, it did feel rather ironic: “Oh, what’s that? You don’t like violence? Great! We’ll have you load bombs onto planes! That’s not violence, right? Have a nice draft! (Asshole).”

And so: more waiting. More meditating. More to come.

–––

*סמל”ג. סגן מפקד לשכת הגיוס

Samla”g. Vice Commander of Draft Office.

השת”ג. מה ששמים בטוויטר

Hashta”g. What One Puts on Twitter

נתב”ג. עוד מקום שלא כל כך כיף לשמאלנים וערבים

Natba”g. Another Place that is Not That Fun for Leftists and Arabs

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