Thursday, July 26, 2012

Proposal For Two Years Of Obligatory National Service serve your country

Absence of America's Upper Classes From the Military   

"In all, about 1 percent of U.S. representatives and senators have a child in uniform."

Dear Fred,

Thanks for your email.

Newt Gingrich uses ideas the way duck hunters use decoys. 

America does not need a national cadre of 9 year old janitors. 

America needs two years of Obligatory National Service - to be performed when young citizens leave school or complete school.

A prelude to this period of obligatory service might include all K-12 students as maintenance workers in their schools but to focus service on school children is, by definition, childish. 

Furthermore, focusing "poor children" as a "special" "manual labor force" perpetuates the mindset-and-biased-circumstance that prompts but one wealthy American in a hundred to join the military.

It is shameful that the self-propagating war pimps in Congress -- with "no skin in the game" -- giddily dispatch young Americans to one foolish war after another.  

Vietnam, Iraq, and our now-stale, good-for-nothing involvement in Afghanistan are notable examples.

America needs child janitors like central Africa needs child soldiers. 

In psychological terms, America needs an intervention. 

To this end, the twin agencies of a "new-and-improved" War Corps and a "new-and-improved" Peace Corps are the most dependable mechanisms whereby listless, shiftless lives can crystallize and transform. (The United States military has given shape and purpose to more young-men-in-peril than any institution on earth.)

In addition to the traditional work of "The War Corps" and "Peace Corps," these umbrella organizations will break new ground just as the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration did in the 1930s.

All able-bodied young people -- without exception -- will perform two years service in the approved agency of their choice.

Not only is "service" an indispensable component of happiness, it is essential for the sustained health of The Body Policic.

Without service, The Common Good atrophies. 

In short order, all that remains are self-cathected consumer units, immediate kin to the Wall Street marauders who deliberately crafted the global economic collapse of 2008. (Check out "Inside Job."  If Islamic terrorists had done what these money changers did, they would not have been water-boarded to extract information: they would have been waterboarded to death.) 

Any proposal for Obligatory National Service will meet stiff opposition on "both sides of the aisle." 

But resistance will be fiercest "on the Right" where rugged individualism is the bedrock virtue and mandatory service a gateway drug to "socialism." 

Ironically, The Greatest Generation -- universally lauded by American conservatives -- made its signal contribution to American History as a direct result of the military draft. 

If Gingrich were to encourage obligatory service for every young adult - without exception - he could finally quit his customary ideological posing, exchanging it for a real proposal of life-changing service.  

Newt could launch the discussion of two years' hard work by pointing out that none of Mitt Romney's six strapping sons have even spoken of military service. (I'm sure these lads have done mission work for the Church of Latter Day Saints, but the nation's urgent need is healthy government, not the advancement of Mormonism -

It would be tonic if every young American -- including every white guy --  provided direct national service, and not as some transitory will-o-the-wisp but as a significant chunk of one's life. 

Again, it will be difficult to make headway given the self-indulgence and rapacious self-interest of Congress. 

Fortunately, most Americans are imprinted with bone-deep realization that service is essential to The Good and that lucre for lucre's sake is a spirit-sapping pastime generating "Donald Trumps" and wealthy children dangerously detached from Reality. 

The Republican Party is overwhelmingly comprised of white guys. To the extent that they succeed in business, they are resolved to concentrate their children in The Marketplace which, in their jaundiced eye, seems the only venue where "real value" plays out. 

Given the large number of "Christians" in the ranks of America's moneyed (but non-serving) class, it is surprising how little the wealthy heed Paul's observation (as rendered by The King James Version) that "the love of money is the root of all evil." 


In Paul's cornerstone Christian view, the love money is not just a root of evil. 

It is The Root of ALL evil.

Pax on both houses,


PS Here is Gingrich's verbatim passage concerning his proposal that poor students work as janitors: 

"What I suggested was, kids ought to be allowed to work part-time in school, particularly in the poorest neighborhoods, both because they could use the money. If you take one-half of the New York janitors who are unionized and paid more than the teachers, an entry-level janitor gets paid twice as much as an entry-level teacher. You take half of those janitors, you could give virtually– you could give lots of poor kids a work experience in the cafeteria and the school library and– and front office, and a lot of different things. I’ll stand by the idea, young people ought to learn how to work." Dec. 10, 2011  (Despite Gingrich's nearly unintelligible sentence structure, the foregoing quotation is an accurate transcription.)

"Pax On Both Houses: Good Ideas For The Body Politic"
A Compendium Of Practical Political Projects

Absence of America's Upper Classes From the Military

Aug. 3, 2006
Thanks to Sen. John McCain's youngest son checking into Marine Corps boot camp, the number of Congress members with enlisted children will skyrocket a whopping 50 percent. McCain's son Jim joins two other enlisted service members who have a parent in Congress (a few members of the officer corps are children of federal legislators).
In all, about 1 percent of U.S. representatives and senators have a child in uniform. And the Capitol building is no different from other places where the leadership class in this country gathers -- no different from the boardrooms, newsrooms, ivory towers and penthouses of our nation.
Less than 1 percent of today's graduates from Ivy League schools go on to serve in the military.
Why does it matter? Because, quite simply, we cannot remain both a world power and a robust democracy without a broad sense of ownership -- particularly of the leadership class -- in the military. Our military is too consequential, and the implications of our disconnect from it too far-reaching. We are on the wrong path today.
Those who opine, argue, publish, fund and decide courses of action for our country rarely see members of their families doing the deeds our leaders would send the nation's young adults to do, deeds that have such moment in the world.
These deeds hardly begin and end with the Iraq War -- 200,000 U.S. troops are deployed in 130 other countries around the world, keeping it "flat," to borrow Thomas Friedman's phrase. They train other nations' security forces, help keep the peace, provide humanitarian assistance, rescue Americans from Lebanon, stand ready to go to Darfur if sent, to go wherever the country calls on them for assistance. In short, they do the complex work of the world's sole superpower. Yet these doers are strangers to most of us, and the very missions they do are mysterious.
When the deciders are disconnected from the doers, self-government can't work as it should. Most of these decisions about whether and how to use the U.S. military are hard, and we need to be as best equipped as possible to make them. We need to be intellectually capable and have as much real knowledge as possible about what the military actually does, but we also need to be morally capable, which means we need a moral connection to those Americans we send into harm's way. Moreover, we need the largest pool of talent from which to draw those troops. Military work must not simply become fee for service.
A Duke University study demonstrates that it matters whether civilian decision makers have military experience: A review of U.S. foreign policy over nearly two centuries shows that when we have the fewest number of veterans in leadership and staff positions in Congress and the executive branch, we are most likely to engage in aggressive (as opposed to defensive) war fighting. And we are most likely to pull out of conflicts early.
A study by the eminent military sociologist Charles Moskos shows that people living in a democracy are not willing to sustain military engagements over time if those in the leadership class do not serve in the armed forces. When they don't serve, they send a signal that the conflict is not vital or worthwhile. Since we don't know what conflicts lie ahead -- or what party will be in power when they hit -- these findings should matter to all of us.
The Triangle Institute of Security Studies has tracked the growing disconnect between the military and the leadership class, and it finds evidence of a growing distrust of both groups toward one another. The group in America that reports having the lowest opinion of the military is the elites: The elites are almost six times more likely than those in the military to say they would be "disappointed if a child of mine decided to serve."
In past wars, the Kennedys, the Bushes, the Sulzbergers of The New York Times -- in other words, the elites -- served. Sure, there were always shirkers, but many did join their middle-class and working-class compatriots. Today narrow self-interest, a sense of other priorities or a misguided sense of moral preference means most of the upper class never considers military service.
In my own travels to talk about this issue, the most problematic comment I've come across is an idea expressed by many, including many in the upper classes, that it is somehow more moral to refrain from military service than to serve, because that way one can avoid an "immoral" war.
There are so many problems with this statement. It certainly shows a misunderstanding of military service. Military service is not about our political opinions, which can after all be wrong. The oath given at the "pinning on" ceremony for a second lieutenant or a general involves not a promise to fight a particular war or support a given president but to protect and defend the Constitution. Young men and women who join the military do not know what future conflicts or engagements will bring. They even know that some of the decisions that flow from the deciders will be flawed, because people are flawed.
But service members also know that Americans will be sent to do the nation's bidding. And we want those who are sent to act with skill, judgment and integrity. Many of those who serve see that Americans are being sent to act in the interests of our country and say, as the famous sage Rabbi Hillel said, "If not me, who?"
Military service is not a political statement. Democrats did not rush to sign up when Clinton became president, and wealthy Republicans didn't suddenly join when Bush was elected. Military service is service to the country, and even more perhaps, service to your fellows.
But how can we expect privileged young people to do military work? Military work is dangerous. You could be asked to kill or be killed. It is fraught with the risk of being sent into an unpopular conflict, as many now understand Iraq to be. Why should the children of our leadership classes or those ambitious for leadership chose such a path, when there are so many better options available to them?
In World War I, one of Congress's stated reasons for proposing a draft was that without it, too many of the upper-class children would rush to service, and we'd lose the leadership class of the country. In 1956, a majority of the graduating classes of Stanford, Harvard and Princeton joined the military, and most were not drafted. Leadership was then understood to have a moral dimension. The cry "follow me" was more convincing than "charge!" Those who aspired to future leadership saw military service as necessary to their credibility.
As a country, we have stopped viewing military service as a way to make a principled statement. We sell it instead as a job opportunity, one from which those with better options are excused. We need to revisit our stance on who should serve, and why. All members of our elite class need not serve, just a representative number, enough to bring the country's leadership in line with the rest of the country. With such leaders, with such a military, we will be a stronger, fairer, better country. With such leaders, the enlistment plans of young Jimmy McCain need not seem so surprising.
Kathy Roth-Doquet co-wrote "AWOL, The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service and How It Hurts Our Country" (Harper Collins, 2006).

On Fri, Mar 23, 2012 at 7:55 PM, Fred Owens <> wrote:

all crazy except this one

"Or Newt Gingrich calling for children-of-color to serve as school janitors."
I don't think he meant to reserve this for non-white students.

But if they started a program like this in low income school districts -- would that be wrong?

And let the rich kids have their messed cleaned up by hired help?

On Fri, Mar 23, 2012 at 11:04 AM, Alan Archibald <> wrote:

Dear John,

The Republican Party has normalized "bipolar" mood swings.

It is no longer "rhetorical" to say that many "conservatives" are ravingly insane, as evidenced by the wacko belief that taxes must never be raised: indeed taxes MUST go ever lower!

Or consider Ron Paul suggesting that people without health insurance be left to die (a fit of ideological apoplexy reprising Palin's nutty chatter about death panels which, truth be told, have long been operated by the very insurance companies conservatives laud).

Or consider Herman Cain advocating the electrocution of illegal aliens.

Or Rick Perry bragging about the frequency of capital punishment in Texas.

Or Etch A Sketch Romney insisting that every dollar corporations earn goes back "to the people."

Or Michelle Bachmann badmouthing vaccination, the single greatest boon to human health in the history of humankind.

Or Newt Gingrich calling for children-of-color to serve as school janitors.

Or, or, or...

Or Rick Santorum satanizing Obama one day, and the next suggesting our Kenyan Muslim Leninist Anti-Christ is preferable to Romney. 

I sometimes wonder if religious conservatives champion moral rigidity because they sense barely-repressed craziness in themselves. 

Watch closely and you will see that many preachments are dedicated to the conversion of the preacher more than the conversion of the congregation.

CBS News: "Santorum: Might As Well Have Obama Over Romney": 

When threatened by economic adversity and the grinding angst brought by epochal change, people "run off the rails"  (See "Pagan and Christian in a Time of Anxiety" -

And so, rather than work with "the political opposition" to achieve viable compromises that advance The Common Good (however falteringly), the GOP --- captive to "Christian" absolutism --- contends that unflinching fidelity to "Impossibly Pure Principles" makes compromise not only unnecessary but reprehensible.

Rendered incapable of meaningful political action, these paralyzed people -- praying for "divine intervention" -- use (and abuse) the "Godly Principles" of "pending Apocalypse" to inflame people's fears, propagating a  bunker mentality that distills to psychological, social and political paralysis. 

Pax on both houses,

Fred Owens

My blog is Fred Owens

No comments:

Post a Comment