Okay, for this Memorial Day, I'd like to do something a little bit different: I'd like to call for the reinstatement of the draft.
One recurrent complaint about this war has been that the public has not really been touched by it, only that small segment (often of the lowest classes) that contribute to the military. Another complaint has been in the falling enrollment in the military (i.e., people voting against the war with their lack of enlistment in our all-volunteer armed forces). Both of these problems could be solved by bringing back National Service.
But this time, let's do it right. One of the reasons we dropped it in the first place was that by the time of the Viet Nam war, the only people actually being drafted were, for the most part, ethnic minorities and the poor. Wealthier candidates, such as our beloved Vice Tyrant, managed to weasel out of serving any time, while many other wealthy individuals managed to wrangle positions involving such burdens as flying a fighter jet in a peaceful American backwater.
So this time, NO EXCEPTIONS to National Service.
Now, that doesnt necessarily mean that everyone must serve in the military. I see no reason why we cannot make the fighting portion of the military continue to be voluntary. But how about all the support staff? How about a lot of the positions that have been farmed out to for-profit contractors? Why not man those positions with conscripts instead? It cannot cost more than contractors do, and I'm sure that there will be a lot less fraud (and if there is fraud, it might actually get prosecuted).
But what if, say, you have a loathing for the military in general, or are an avowed pacifist, or maybe you just have a love for your country that you'd like to express while dressing in some other color than green? How's about we bring back some form of the WPA?
After decades of neglect, our infrastructure is crumbling, our parks and highways are untended, our welfare recipients are both overpaid and underserved. Imagine, if you will, the amount that could be accomplished by millions of people all serving this great nation, either through simple manual labor, or tutoring of school children, or working in soup kitchens and meals-on-wheels programs, or helping to build schools and recreational facilities, or engaging in outreach programs for elderly, handicapped and disadvantaged peoples, or planting trees to combat carbon levels, or operating medical clinics in underserved areas, or, yes, through fighting, and perhaps dying, when their country calls them to.
And, as I said, EVERYONE will serve. No more Dick Cheneys (though there will certainly be George Bushes - some things you cannot change, though you dont have to elect them president). And when you serve can be left up to you, whether it's before college when you just want to get out and away from home, or after you graduate from college and are ready to use you newly-learned skills for the benefit of Americans everywhere.
At a time when the economy is tanking, and shows a distinct danger of collapsing to lows not seen in decades, the employment that such a program would provide, combined with the low cost of such services (because we all know that when budget-cutting time comes, public services are the first to go) would be a helpful boon to a hurting nation.
And the awareness that such a program might bring, that we all belong to the nation, would be invaluable. Maybe then Memorial Day would mean more than a day off and the Indy 500 for most people.