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Stranger than fiction

Sari Friedman
Friday February 01, 2002

David Miller, who was a clean cut, Irish-American, ex-college football player from Syracuse, N.Y., did not fit the 1960s-era American cultural stereotype of an anti-Vietnam War protester. But today, David Miller is known as the “first” person to burn his draft card, which the San Francisco resident did in New York City in 1965, in front of a large crowd. A photo of Miller’s card burning is still on display in the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Miller is the author of “I DIDN’T KNOW GOD MADE HONKY TONK COMMUNISTS: A Memoir About Draft Card Burning, Witchcraft, and the Sexual Meaning of Ballgames,” just out from Regent Press. His memoir details Miller’s journey from his early spiritual and political orientation in Catholic pacifism and nonviolent direct action movement, led by the nun and Catholic Worker leader, Dorothy Day … to the ecofeminist witchcraft and women’s spirituality he practices today.  

Miller’s memoir is presented in four parts. Part one is a straight-up explanation of how Miller went from a volunteer job serving soup in Catholic Worker kitchens to the center of a political maelstrom, which resulted in the draft law’s wording being changed to make the public destruction of a draft card a crime. During this period Miller marries, has children, appears before the Supreme Court, and goes to Federal prison.  

Part two chronicles Miller’s second marriage, the birth of more children, and his travels through New York, London, and San Francisco. While living in the Bay Area Miller read a book about matrifocal (women-centered), goddess worshipping cultures.  


This begins a 20-year interest in ecofeminist witchcraft and goddess spirituality. During this period Miller attends law school, practices law in San Francisco, divorces, and partners to Starhawk, a well known leader in the Reclaiming Community of witches. He begins giving "men only" workships on his own or with co-presenters. 


In part three of Miller’s life, he travels to the ancient ruins of the Mayan city, Tikal, in a jungle of Guatamala; and to Copan in Honduras, where a king Miller calls 18 Rabbit lost his life as part of a sacrificial ballgame warrior mythology. His travelling companion, Starhawk, feels no female energy in these places, and Miller becomes tries to make sense of the history and influences he has perceived. Miller begins studying a sixteenth century Mayan text called the Popul Vuh. These further influences lead to Miller’s interest in the spiritual, symbolic, and sexual ideas underlying the games of football, basketball, and baseball. 


Miller’s transformative journey continues. In part four of his memoir, he is approaching his sixties. He returns to Schiller Park, in Syracuse, where his parents first met. Miller describes having an incandescent experience in which he takes in the totality of his life experience. He sees his family root, his cosmic root, and all the different seasons of his life.  


"If we wish to dance out from under the grip of our sacrificial ballgame warrior culture," Miller writes, "a new ballgame dance is needed. Let us set aside the temples and trappings of our warring ballgames and instead, dance the seasons, the well of the year with our sacred bodies, on this sacred earth. 


Miller’s book title was inspired by a country song called, "The Wild Side of Life," which is about honky tonk angels who can’t be tamed into wives. On the night after burning his draft card Miller was thrown in jail. The inmates were singing, and Miller chose "The Wild Side of Life" as his song.