Anyone know where this country went?
"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country." - President John F. Kennedy -- Inaugural Address 1/20/61
Today, it seems to be all about self. What can my country do for me: A long list of "I want" -- presumed entitlements, as rights, by virtue of American birth. The "home of the free and land of the brave" lost to narcissistic death spiral.
How did this happen? For me its simple, two main culprits: The so-called shared American experience has become limited while achievement has been diminished by 'reward' run amok.
Re the first: What does the son of Connecticut hedge fund manager know of life on the Iowa cornfield; the daughter of a Silicon Valley venture capitalist of growing up in the projects; or child of a Hollywood mogul of living on a reservation? Nothing! How could they? Kids living on either side of these equations rarely, if ever, crossover and meaningfully mix with their situational opposites.
The result is America has effectively become a series of silos; breeding grounds for bias, misconception and myth to take hold. One side of the foregoing examples oft fall prey to the errant thought of superiority by inheritance -- coming up short on empathy and duty to care. The other sides most always succumbing to jealousy or the "woe is me" trap -- many missing the chance to seize, even create, opportunity while taking comfort in excuses and/or expectations of a handout.
My second point can be summed up as the 'participation trophy' generation has come of age -- a group that was raised on a bastardized version of our guiding documents and so soft that differing points-of-view set them to frenzy.
Newsflash: "All men are created equal" does not mean in fact but rather under the law. Our founders' understood human ability was diverse in nature and they had zero intention of tearing the fruits of ones labor away Robin Hood style.
These poor kids do not understand the chasm between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. The former is the constant striving to an ideal held dear by the greatest country ever known to man. The latter is communism, a systemic road to permanent economic ruin.
Concerning the differing points-of-view frenzy, look at how our supposed centers of higher learning -- our colleges and universities -- have morphed into First Amendment censors. There are subtle to near riot actions to prevent accomplished people from speaking on campus if their message might offend the children, oops, I mean students.
Guess what? No one learns a thing from listening to somebody who shares the same point-of-view. That's time spent in a useless, but feel-good, echo chamber -- in the case of our colleges and universities, a very expensive one. The end result is cultural inbreeding, champion of intolerance.
So how do we fix this - get back to JFK's definition of duty as citizen - create a truly equal environment where people spend time together, learn to trust one another, work with each other, be forced to rely on the person next to them and accomplish together? I think this country desperately needs to bring back the draft - a no exceptions one where all citizens, right after high school or college, must serve.
I bet that just galvanized everyone -- likely not in the direction I was hoping; perhaps supporting my premise. Anyway, it should be seriously considered and debated.
The required conscription of time living, working and sharing together -- on equal footing and pulling in the same direction - likely gives birth to accountability, respect, and empathy. The resulting camaraderie, perhaps even friendships, shape lifetimes of true understanding. No doubt, it will make the country and it citizens stronger, wiser and more unified.
I'm not the only one who suggests this. Here's similar thought from a famous, liberal, comedian/satirist a few years back:
"There should be a draft where every young person has to do one year of something -- military, public works -- something so that we all feel invested in the same game, because that's the part that we've lost." - Jon Stewart
I don't always agree with Mr. Stewart's thinking but I always enjoy it. On this we're reasonably aligned. I would expand the service choices to military, public works, cyber works, education and Peace Corps, with years (up to two as mandatory) and pay scale related to level of peril.
Want to truly put the "United" back in the "United States of America"? It might be time to bring back the draft!