People Rule - THE PRICE WE PAY

THE PRICE WE PAY (Illustration) American Presidents Censorship Civil Rights Government History Law and Politics Social Studies American History

This World-War-II-era poster reminded Americans about the suffering of soldiers fighting in the European and Pacific theaters of war. Fighting for one's country is part of the price one pays for freedom ... that is part of the message conveyed here ... as is the need to sacrifice, at home as well as on the battlefield. Image online via U.S. National Archives.


Freedom to disagree about politics, to criticize the government, and to live in a free country where the people rule has a price tag. Throughout America's history, many have been called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. It isn't only dead soldiers who pay - so do loved ones left behind.

The United States Congress first had the right to conscript men into the military more than 200 years ago. Soon-to-be-soldiers learned about their potential fate in the newspaper. (One of those early articles - published June 2, 1792 in Boston's Columbian Centinel - spells out the law).

Before American men were subject to selective service (known, more commonly, as "the draft"), the Continental Army needed men to fight the Revolutionary War. Recruiting posters then served the same purpose as they do now (when the draft is no longer in effect).

Although men were first drafted in 1792, it took another 125 years before the national subscription law used "Uncle Sam" to recruit Army personnel. (The link depicts the original World War I poster, "I Want YOU," first published in 1918).

During World War II, even political cartoons sent a clear message to young Americans: Forget college. You're in the Army now! (Frank Spangler, The Big Coach.) Some of those young men who didn't get to college didn't come home from the war.

For many years, America had an "isolationist" policy which could be paraphrased as follows: "You take care of your affairs, foreign country, and we'll take care of ours. We won't ask for your help. Don't ask for ours."

In the 21st century, it's hard to remember that other time - a time when even America's entry into World War II (immediately before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor) was highly controversial. A mere two days preceding the Arizona's explosion, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) published a prophetic political cartoon depicting Japan talking with Hitler. It had this caption:

Master! What do I do when they won't come across?

Once a decision is made to fight a war, however, "we the people" nearly always support the troops. Vietnam, where drafted soldiers fought and died or returned to a country where people turned their backs, was the notable exception.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Sep 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: Apr 01, 2015

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"THE PRICE WE PAY" AwesomeStories.com. Sep 01, 2004. Nov 12, 2019.
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