_D5C5045brian by Brian Clarey

Here’s the problem with this country: Nobody cares.

Sure, I care. You care. Maybe some of your friends do, too. But when it comes to the bedrock principles of this nation — democracy, voting, speaking truth to power — well… I sometimes get the feeling that everybody has too much TV to watch.

We talk about the Greatest Generation a lot these days, those gallant men and women who brought down the evil in Europe by doing anything and everything they could, and it seems like we just don’t make Americans like that anymore.

But we could.

Remember, the Selective Service — aka the “draft” — didn’t start until 1940, right before we went over there to kick Hitler’s ass. It ushered in a generation of service to the country until President Richard Nixon ended it in 1973.

President Jimmy Carter reinstated the Selective Service in 1980, but like the man himself, it was not intended to have any effect, just a precautionary measure in case everything went to hell again.

And I think we should reconsider the draft.

I’m not saying that we need to put everyone in the Army. A two-year conscription for all able-bodied Americans wouldn’t necessarily mean military action, though some might choose to give their service in that way. Others could teach kids in poor neighborhoods to read, create community gardens in food deserts, repair roads and bridges and other key pieces of our crumbling infrastructure.

The list of needs in the United States is a lengthy one. And there aren’t a lot of jobs out there for young people just starting out. Why not harness all that energy and talent to fix the place up a little?

The bonus would be that young people — disengaged, disenfranchised, disinterested in the American experiment — would have some skin in the game. They’d be actively helping to build this nation. Which should give them more interest in the workings of it. Maybe some of them would even vote regularly after putting in a little sweat equity.

Maybe the Greatest Generation hasn’t even made itself known yet.


  1. Any idea what it would cost? Estimates of direct costs that I’ve seen run $80 billion to $120 billion a year, with other economic losses not directly incurred by taxpayers. We could solve a lot of problems a lot more efficiently with that kind of money.

    And then there’s this: I don’t think the real crisis is in the sense of national citizenship and belonging. I think the real crisis is a lot more local: People don’t know their neighbors anymore, and all sorts of social ills stem from that, including many that national service purportedly would cure but probably really wouldn’t. If you want to tackle that, let’s try something that we know would work. And if we don’t know what that is yet, let’s try a lot of small pilot projects.

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