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Registration and Federal Aid



To the Editors of The Crimson:

I must respond to the two editorials (2/9/83) on the proposed law denying federal financial aid to men who haven't registered for the draft. The first, "Fill an Unfair Gap," rightly calls attention to the iniquities of the law and the obligation of universities to protest its passage and meet any student need ignored by the government if the law does pass. The second editorial, "Breaking the Law," however, raises some larger questions about resistance of registration which are not addressed by the first.

I am an open non-registrant, and I agree that conscientious resisters must be willing to accept any punishment for their violation of a law. But accepting punishment is not the same as docility in the face of an oppressive state. It does not preclude continued resistance of any unjust measures promulgated by that state. I would embrace punishment in the spirit of these words of Gandhi's: "We seek arrest because the so-called freedom is slavery." I would hope to show the way to true freedom, not the sort of freedom that seeks to enlist men in a war machine that can only exist by draining attention and money away from humane causes.

The writers of the dissent do not see "any great moral or philosophical issue in registration." This is so only if one sees action as divorced from intent, void of all meaning beyond immediate effects. Registration is not, as they term it, merely "filling out a postcard." Nor are conscientious objection and "alternative service" acceptable options for those of us who have renounced any and all acts which imply our consent to kill another human being, either personally or as party to the government bureaus in the business of killing human beings.

The statement that resisters should see the new law as somehow "sharpening" the moral issues, and therefore not protest, is absurd. Civil rights activists in the South did not applaud when a government instituted some new racist measure on top of those already in force. Neither will non-registrants see this law as anything other than further evidence of the Reagan Administration's militarism, to be abhorred no less than the call to registration itself.

Messrs. Quillen and Benjamin maintain that for Harvard to resist the spirit of this law by compensating for lost funds would constitute "disrespect for the law," disregard for "social order." But law and order are not absolute edicts from above, to be unquestionably obeyed. They are human processes, determined only by informed, conscientious assent and dissent. If a law is unjust, I believe it must be resisted, so that higher laws may be allowed naturally to take effect. I encourage Harvard to show its concern for just legal process by negating the effect of this insidious measure. Kenneth Hale-Wehmann'83

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