Why People Saying “No” to World War II Still Matters

During World War II, about 12,000 young draftees chose, because of their pacifist convictions, to refuse to go into the military and instead performed alternative service (another 6,000 or so went to prison out of similar convictions).  This made up only a tiny percentage of draftees–pacifism certainly did not carry the day.

However, that little, flickering light of witness continues to be worth reflecting on (as does our society’s continued assumption that this indeed was a “good war”–see Nicholson Baker’s critique of such an assumption in his book, Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization, and my reflections on critique).  

Here is a recent article I wrote suggesting that the experience on conscientious objectors in Civilian Public Service (the name of the alternative service program) provides a continually important legacy.

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