This article in the NYT was interesting. Mind you, I have nothing but derision for Kelly’s attitude toward the American people he’s supposed to be serving, but he’s got the right idea with a national service.
I agree. I think we should have a national service in which all Americans, except for the most seriously disabled, should be required to participate. Not just – or even primarily – military service. We should not live our lives or run our country in devotion to war. There are a thousand other things people could do during their service: build homes, schools, or other public areas, teach, feed, care for elderly or children, serve on juries, pick up litter, serve as emergency responders… we could consistently build and maintain a highly functional society whose people understand they depend on each other.
Timing and length of service is debatable. Immediately after high school? Or after college? Or perhaps there could be alternatives people could choose. Some tasks will require skills or education, so people who go into one of those areas might wait until after college or other training. Some tasks just need a few weeks of OJT, so they might be for new high school graduates.
Like the military, people should be paid for this time in service. Health care is a given, as are a regulated work week, time off, etc. It’s a job, but the work is devoted to something the country needs to have done. There should be a basic training period like the military has, although it may not need to be so physically rigorous. That will depend on the unit’s assigned task (MOS in military terms). But the point of it is to build community among the cohort, and this is something that is sorely needed among Americans today. We are too fragmented and too disposed to ignore each other. Basic training and a couple of years in community service will at least be a time in our lives when we knew what it was to work with others toward a common goal.
And we’ll get things done that need doing. We’ll finally be able to maintain our infrastructure and we’ll have access to bright minds and nimble ideas to improve on the old and build the new. And with the training and skills people get during this time, they’ll be able to go out and find or create jobs that will support them and continue to contribute to society as productive citizens. Who knows, maybe we’ll reduce homelessness, too.
And just maybe, we won’t hate each other so much.