Monday, May 26, 2008

to serve our nation

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.


Anonymous said...

This is an excellent post. I liked it so much I did a post on the same subject from a different angle today.

Let me know what you think.

United We Lay said...

I'dlike to call for the abolition of the standing army. Everyone who is physically able, regardless of race, gender, and sexual orientation should train national Guard style and then go about their lives. No career soldiers. A government that has a standing army feels justified in using it in order to justify keeping it. A country without a standing army must have the support of its citizens in order to declare war. If the citizens disagree, they don't show up for duty.

Chance said...

I've been formulating ideas along the exact same lines for a few years now, dave. I think it would help this country economically, and on an individual level, imbue its citizesn with a sense of responsibility and duty. Senses that are sadly lacking in all economic levels.

daveawayfromhome said...

Almost nobody has a personal, visceral stake in this country anymore.
I also think it has something to do with the commodifying of everything. Maybe if we all were working towards a common goal, and the cash side of the issue was non-existent, we might appreciate our nation more.

Unknown said...

May I say that I LOVE your ideas here Dave.

I have always said that I am not a complete leftwing nutjob. I believe we need a strong military and that people ala Israel's rules...should be made to do their time in our military in whatever job suits them and their talents.

Fuck this is a great idea..why the hell don't our Preznits ever try to do this?

daveawayfromhome said...

You've got to be kidding. Ask that people contribute to their nation? We all want a free lunch, even if it's been snatched from the mouth of someone less fortunate than us (as long as we dont see the snatch, we're okay with it).

Actually, to be fair, the Omnipotent Poobah's got a good arguement against it, but not strong enough to make me drop the idea. I mean, the same arguement could be applied to taxes, right?

Unknown said...

Look, I realize we have become a totally self-absorbed nation Dave. But making everyone between the ages of 18-22 serve our nation in some capacity might actually take some of that bullshit out of the way people think about things.

We could start now,and that way we can grab some folks from every age group.

I read Poobies post, its the one that let me know about yours m'dear :)

United We Lay said...

How about serving your nation the way soem of us do everyday, takign LOW wages for extremely stressful jobs that no one else will do - rehabilitation teachers, firefighters, emergency room nurses, social workers - jobs tha are done for the greater good instead of for personal gain. And the people who do these things do them for life, not just a few years after college or military service. The defintion of service to our nation has to be expanded.

daveawayfromhome said...

The idea was not to make people take low-paying jobs, but to make all Americans more aware of their country and its people, via civil service. Voluntary service is a lot like voluntary regulation - it only works with people who care anyway. My idea was to expand awareness through involuntary service, hopefully resulting in a greater amount of civic awareness pride.

Unknown said...

Which I believe I said that as well Dave...our self-absorbed nation can not continue down the current path. Its suicide.