To the Editors:
I am sending the following letter to signatories of ads in The New York Times protesting against the Vietnam War. I hope it will be of interest to your readers.
“I have received from students at Cornell an appeal to young men to burn their draft cards on April 15 in New York City; the hope is to have at least 500 participating in a body. In the appeal, the students express their disgust with the hypocrisy of our talk about peace, and their despair with the methods of protest and demonstration that you and I, among others, have used—while meantime we have killed a million Vietnamese civilians and daily continue. They want to stop the war, not protest against it, and presumably they are using as a model the similar extreme action of French youth which did begin the withdrawal from Algeria.
“Possibly this method could work if it became widespread. There are four million young men in college. If ten thousand (1 in 400) would join such an action, and if the ten or fifteen thousand distinguished professionals, academics, engineers, and artists who have publicly protested our course in Vietnam would approve, help, and defend them, the weight of this combined determination might force a change in the government’s purpose.
“These young people are taking a great risk for a great purpose. In my opinion, we, their elders and teachers, have by our statements, and our own disgust and despair, been an important influence in bringing them to their decision. There is nothing in their statement of dismay that is stronger than several ads in the Times signed by thousands of us. They draw from these statements an action which, in the historical circumstances, seems to them (and to me) logically warranted, namely: if it’s that bad, refuse to do it. Thus, they are completing the arc of intellect and feeling into action. We too, of course, want to do this, but so far our methods of protest have not done it.
“Our democracy is certainly in a gloomy condition when the outcry of so many prudent citizens counts for nothing. Sometimes we have ‘respectfully urged,’ sometimes we have ‘protested,’ but the response has been disregard, lies, and further horrors. Now, as mature citizens, as experienced professionals and teachers, and as parents, we are certainly in an embarrassing position to be looking to the young to make our will effective. I am ashamed to be so powerless, yet so it is. God help them and us.
“To my mind, we are indebted to these young and should be eager to support them as best we can, with their expenses, with bail, by crowding the court and filing briefs, by speaking about them to others and keeping their cause alive. Most simply, by asking them what they need. The address on their appeal is ‘For information, write to Bruce Dancis, 107 Dryden Road, Ithaca, N.Y. 14850.’ ”
New York City
April 6, 1967