I first encountered the writings of Jim Forest in the summer of 1969. It was during the height of the Vietnam War. I was 19 years old. The previous December I had dropped out of Fairhaven College in Bellingham, Washington, and sent my draft card back to the Selective Service System with a lengthy note revoking all my ties with the system.
During the next seven months I embraced the hippie lifestyle, hitchhiking to California, traveling to Mexico, and living in a communal house in Washington. During this period my parents forwarded letters from the draft board declaring me “delinquent.” I was aware that I ran the risk of going to jail.
In June I had a “born again” experience, and got involved with the so-called “Jesus Freaks.” During a Bible study in August, I was confronted with St. Paul’s statement in Romans, “Be subject to the governing authorities.” I realized that I needed to get right with the Draft Board, so I sent them a letter letting them know where I was, but also asking for an application for conscientious objector status. (I had been raised in a liberal Protestant denomination where Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, and even Jesus, were presented as role models of non-violence. In 1965, at age 15, I had decided that the Vietnam War was wrong, and that Fall I participated in the first antiwar march in Seattle. I had also spoken out against the war at my conservative suburban high school where I was branded a “communist.” And as a budding folksinger, I had sung at an antiwar event sponsored by the Students for Democratic Society [SDS] when I was still 17 years old.)Continue reading