“I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.” — February 17, 1966, Mohammed Ali
After a 30+ years-long battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammed Ali, the three-time world heavyweight boxing champion died Friday, June 3, 2016 at a Phoenix hospital. Politicians tweeted and spoke their accolades about the boxing legend, who’s considered to be the world’s greatest heavyweight boxing champion. However, I recall a contentious time in our capitalist-politico‐military history when fear of the enemy – communism – fueled the knee-jerk rhetoric of the day and American patriots ridiculed Ali as a Vietnam “draft dodger” – a person who avoided compulsory military service. Congress’s passing of the Selective Service Act (50 U.S.C.A. app. § 451 et seq.), in 1948, served as the legal authority to induct individuals for service during the Vietnam War.
Long ago during the ten-year, undeclared ‘conflict’, a.k.a. the Vietnam War, my high school and college friends were drafted and sent off to that Southeast-Asian, tragic misadventure to fight or die. At that time, young 18-year-old males faced these choices: Go to the Army. Go to jail. Go to college and stay enrolled as long as possible. Go burn your draft card and escape as fast as you can to Canada.
When drafted, the handsome Muhammed Ali, known by his birth name as “Cassius Clay” declared: “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger. They never lynched me. They didn’t put no dogs on me. They didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father…shoot them for what? How can I shoot them…poor people? Just take me to jail.”
Cassius Marsellus CLAY, Jr. also known as Muhammad Ali, vs WHITE AMERICA, circa 1967
Standing by his newly-embraced, Muslim religious convictions, Clay/Ali had the ‘gall’ to act on the most unpatriotic thing any white, blue, or red-blooded American could do at that time: On April 28, 1967, the Champ refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army and filed as a religious conscientious objector. His draft board denied his classification. Undeterred, Clay refused military induction and then appealed to the Kentucky Appeal Board, who tentatively ruled Ali’s classification as I-A–Available for military service. The Appeal Board also referred his file to the Justice Department for an advisory recommendation. The Justice Department concluded, contrary to a hearing officer’s recommendation, that Clay’s claim be denied, because it failed to meet the three basic tests for conscientious objector status: 1) conscientiously opposed to war in any form, 2) opposition based upon religious training and belief, and 3) objection is sincere. Subsequently, the Appeal Board denied Clay’s claim, but failed to state its reasons. Clay/Ali refused to report for induction in 1967 and Cassius Marsellus CLAY, Jr. also known as Muhammad Ali, was convicted for willful refusal to submit to induction into the Armed Forces.
Just how passionate was Ali’s objection to the war? While fighting imprisonment, he was stripped of his title, denied a license to fight in the United States and denied a visa to fight overseas. When stung by ‘more educated’ white students, Mr. Float-Like-A-Butterfly-Sting-Like-a-Bee, struck back: “All you white boys are breaking your necks to get to Switzerland and Canada and London. I’m not gonna help nobody get something the negroes don’t have. If I’m gonna die now, I’ll die right here fighting you. You my enemy. My enemies are white people, not Vietcongs, or Chinese or Japanese. You my opposer, when I want freedom. You my opposer, when I want justice. You my opposer, when I want equality. You won’t even stand up for me in America for my religious beliefs and you want me to go somewhere and fight, but you won’t even stand up for me here at home.”
It might surpise some to learn that many veterans support this point of view. Veteran and radio show host Boone Cutler posted on his Facebook page: “Muhammad Ali is dead …Yes he dodged the draft and what I’m about to say may shock you. But if I’m honest … If I was a black man in the 60’s, I doubt if I’d allowed myself to be drafted. Not for a county that had so far to go towards equality. I think as a black man; he probably did more for America as a NATION by not going to Vietnam and bringing attention to race relations at the time. He didn’t dodge his punishment or run. He stood by his beliefs, often stood alone, lost nearly everything he earned as a champion and “took the hits” while bringing attention to AMERICANS that were ignored and abused. I can’t say I agree with dodging the Draft; it’s wrong. But he’s the only one I ever saw dodge the Draft and do so much RIGHT by doing something WRONG.” #greatestofalltime #GOAT
Cassius Marsellus CLAY, Jr. also known as Muhammad Ali, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES.
Even though today it’s near impossible for the Supreme Court to rule in a unanimous decision, in June of 1971, in an 8-0 decision with Thurgood Marshall abstaining, the Supreme Court Justices reversed the judgment of conviction by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit against Cassius Marsellus CLAY, Jr. also known as Muhammad Ali. As in all the battles the Champ faced in his life, Muhammed Ali led the way in his battle for civil rights and he lived up to his quote: “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” #RIPAli, #RIPMohammedAli, #MohammedAli, #TheGreatest, #RipChamp