On Muhammad Ali

Ali In Training
American Heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali), training in his gym, 21st May 1965. (Photo by Harry Benson/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

While I normally post about running and training, with the death of Muhammad Ali, I felt the need to post on this today.  It’s been on my mind for most of the day, and has kept me from really plunging into anything else.  I remember watching the fights toward the tail end of his career (thanks to ABC’s Wide World of Sports), and I remember the kind of stature he held among boxing fans, even in the twilight of his fighting days.

I held him in pretty high esteem then and ever since, despite his flaws.

With his death, there have been lots of stories in the media about how truly noteworthy he was.  Of course, anytime something is posted online, people feel the need to comment.  Some offer thought-provoking insight, while others simply flame away without regard to fact.

One comment in particular caught my attention.  It was from a person who remains incensed over the boxer’s decision to not report for military duty when his draft number came up.  The guy ranted for a couple of paragraphs on how Ali was a draft-dodging traitor, an ungrateful citizen, and much worse.

Whatever you think about Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), the man was not a draft-dodger in my eyes.  Our American system gave him two options:  report or pay the price.  He chose to pay the price, and I respect his willingness to stand up for what he believed.

People who fled the country instead of serving were draft dodgers. People who abused the system to get deferment after deferment were draft dodgers. People who used political connections to ensure they didn’t have to serve were draft dodgers.

Those people who cowered behind borders or behind the system deserve the vitriol. A man who stands up for his beliefs and owns his actions deserves respect, even if you don’t agree with him.

That said, I’m proud to be part of an all-volunteer force and proud that our nation doesn’t have to resort to conscription to fight our wars, even if it means we are probably a bit too fast to spend blood and treasure abroad.

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