REVIEW by Winter Dellenbach

Refusal to Submit by Richard Gould is the first book I have read that masterfully combines two components to tell a vital political history on the 50th anniversary year of the first National Draft Card Turn-in on Oct. 16, and on the second, Dec. 4, 1967:  

The first component is the excellent research and history.
One would expect inclusion of some War history and of the resistance to it, but that doesn't come close to what Gould has done. He includes a very good primer of colonial history in Vietnam, growing American involvement and the War, but he goes beyond, into the unexpected. For example, he cues from prisoners he is thrown in with at Safford Prison - the very many Mexican there, caught for being" illegal" - so includes a terrific history of the U.S. Bracero program that is directly relevant to today's immigration mess. 

The second component that makes the book exceptional are the actual stories and experiences of Vietnam draft resisters, many from the Los Angeles Resistance.  
Several L.A. Resisters were interviewed in depth, but all resisters were included at Safford and several others at other prisons, so I got an intimate experience of what it was to resist the Vietnam draft and pay price for doing so. I was moved by Paul Barnes Lake re-telling of his difficult time in jail before being sent to prison, and remembered when we supporters and other resisters in L.A. gathered to sing to Joe Maizlish in jail downtown where on the top floor prisoners could hear us as we sent our love to him. 

The interviews are done with great skill, divided up and woven throughout the book, enhancing the histories and other narratives with Richard's own personal stories. He includes upbringing of resisters, family lives, how individuals came to resist, demonstrations supporting their refusal to be inducted into the army or to register for with the Selective Service, resisters stories of their arrests, trials, jail time and of course prison is vividly related. When reading I was overcome with feelings of tenderness and profound respect for these men who arrived at the same conclusion - they could do no less than deprive the military and government from the one thing  needed prosecute the Vietnam War - soldiers. Gould brilliantly tells their essential stories - of why these men chose to say no to the draft in the face of imprisonment. His research allowed me to place their resistance in a framework of history that contextualized their stand, making it even more powerful.   

The Los Angeles Resistance organization is particularly well covered as it was "the primary feeder" to Safford Prison as Gould says, shown in all its glory and a few warts. I loved reading of all those active in organization I worked in - resisters, organizers (men and women), some wives and parents and supporters - Father Louie Vitale and other clergy, and UCLA Professor Donald Kalish among many others. Only a few pages in, there appears Joe Maizlish, age 26, and Greg Nelson at 17 yrs. as the oldest and youngest resisters, at age 26 and 17.  Page 15 places the reader at the infamous Century City June 23, 1967 police riot at the LBJ fundraiser. But the book embraces the whole of The Resistance, a nationwide movement. 

To read the real life accounts here that bring you right into the experience of resisters in the context of the history that informed their resistance is incredibly interesting and powerful. Daniel Ellsberg has credited the stance of draft resisters with leading him to release the Pentagon Papers. Open, public resistance to the draft became a serious problem for the military and government, as many judges refused to try resisters, public sympathy turned more against the War because of resisters, politicians conscience effected support, etc. This book is also at times funny, entertaining, down right goofy and harrowing. If you want to know about the Vietnam War, get this book. If you want to know about The Resistance and one of its most unique and vital groups, the L.A. Resistance, you want this book. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand what really happened then and how the response of these resisters is relevant today in our country. 
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