This I Believe

George - Fairport, New York
Entered on November 24, 2006

This I Believe

“Duck and Cover!” our teacher shouted. The authorities of my youth drilled us, anticipating that nuclear annihilation, or at least a dramatic threat to our way of life, was imminent. Recent past memories of our elders were of WWII and The Korean War.

I was born into the leading edge of the Baby Boom, and was imbued with values from that simpler time. I was not taught racism, sexism, or any type of discriminatory attitude. I was taught fair play, that debts were to be paid, and duty.

When the opportunity to go to college presented, I went. When called upon to defend my country, I enlisted in the Navy. In the end, I served twenty Cold War years. This experience repeatedly reinforced the value of duty, and of doing it. Threats have changed, but we are again under a shadow of potential attack.

Nothing in our country, except opportunity, is free. Our very freedom has a price and will not remain if we do not pay it. These circumstances did not fall, whole, from the sky. We, the citizenry, owe the country for our freedoms by virtue of the accident of fate of living here. We share this debt, equally. It cuts across lines of race, class, ethnicity, gender, and any other categorizing or dividing criteria. All owe.

We are awash in press lamenting the lack of opportunity for our youth. Blame for everything from prolonged adolescence to gang violence is laid at the foot of this lack of opportunity. Much is made of the idea that our disadvantaged youth are being victimized by the class stratification of the country The premise is that they see so little opportunity they are “forced by circumstance” to join the military.

There is a large need for Public Works to be accomplished. This drives a national need for a pool of cheap labor. Reforestation after fire, urban blight remediation, disaster recovery, any of these Public Works projects could be executed by WPA- or CCC-like organizations.

I believe that serving in the military is a high honor, not something forced on anyone. I believe the satisfaction of the debt we all owe can be discharged through many kinds of service, however.

The accomplishment of both national defense and large scale Public Works, and the more worthwhile employment of our youth, can be found in a simple idea. I believe we should institute a Selective Service type arrangement, Universal Citizenry Service, say; in it every man or woman who reaches age sixteen would serve a two year commitment by age twenty-six. Those unable or unwilling to bear arms could be pressed into service in other fields, not requiring arming. Everyone. No opt-outs. No deferments. No exceptions.

There is a lot that needs done, starting with the defense and restoration of our nation, and more of our national soul. There are a lot of folks who benefit by being here, who’d benefit further by serving their country. The relation of these is undeniable, as is the obligation. This I believe.