Sunday, June 18, 2006

Fathers' Day

Bennett Cerf (1898-1971), was an author of limericks and humor in the first half of the 20th century, a founder of The Modern Library and its more famous offshoot, Random House, and a panelist on the 1950s-60s TV show, What's My Line.

He acquired The Modern Library with Donald Klopfer in 1925, providing the foundation for their next publishing venture, Random House. He was a major figure of American publishing for more than four decades.

So why am I mentioning him on Fathers' Day?

During the Vietnam War, one of Cerf's sons managed to not be drafted by becoming a teacher in a New York City grammar school. He taught mostly Hispanic children in kindergarten classes, according to a New York Times article I read in 1967. I went ballistic when I read it and am still upset by it almost 40 years later.

Why am I upset? The article reported that many of the children in the younger Cerf's classroom called him daddy because so many of their fathers were in Vietnam. These kids missed their fathers.

The draft of the 60s and 70s was rife with loopholes so that well connected, educated men could avoid serving. In my Signal Corps company in 1965-66, out of 150 enlisted men, only one was a college graduate. Me.

Today, the National Guard has replaced the draft as a "Selective Service" pool of men that the government draws upon to fight its unpopular war in Iraq. The children of Guardsmen serving in Iraq and Afghanistan would surely have loved having their fathers home today.

But our ruling clique, the oligarchy that runs the United States, has made sure again that anyone with power and influence or education and connections does not have to serve in the military.

Until there is a Selective Service in this nation that mandates universal service in our military, without loopholes, the USA will never be a true democracy. Happy Fathers' Day.---Walter Haan,


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