News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Bring Back the Draft?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bring Back the Draft?

Representative Charlie Rangel of New York has recently proposed that America institute the draft.One point that I think many miss about Rangel's proposal is the social aspects. I believe that his proposal is a liberal response to something that the neo-cons have partly right: the threats to social cohesion and its inherent corruption. The neocons have made their case quite explicitly that the US faces the danger of fragmentation and moral corruption.

This type of civic fragmentation ultimately makes the US--they argue--incapable of defending itself from its enemies. Granted they emphasize and highlight the wrong points and their proposals verge on fascism, the issue they raise is a very real one. ...

Look at the world from Rangel's world: black America is torn by immense social problems. From vast swaths of of poverty to tremendous alienation among the young, all attachment to the American ethos or ideal is on the verge of death or already dead among many young people in the young Black community.

Take a look at perhaps the best show on TV, The Wire. You want to see the decline of America, the reality of many young Blacks is incredibly vicious, bleak, and ultimately threatening the social fabric--within the black community itself as well as to America as a whole.

Rangel's proposal certainly has many vectors to it. The type of corruption he sees seething among the young Black community also can be looked at from the perspective of white America and the millions of disaffected, alienated, and apathetic young.

Many have interpreted Rangel's proposal as a way of getting at the hypocrisy of the idle rich in their bloodthirsty demands for more war. Yet, I believe the more socially significant of his proposal is that it confronts the social anarchy that will finally bring about a decline in the American dream.

The media has glommed onto the military conscription aspects of his proposal. Yet, in interviews he continually makes clear that he is not just talking about military service. He is saying that there should be a term of service to the country in diverse ways, including those familiar to Americorps.

I personally do not believe that this type of mandatory social service will save America. Yet, to ignore the noble intentions and the wider extent of the social impact does a disservice to the reality that Rangel hopes to address. It also shows that those running this country and their Charley McCarthy puppets in the press wish to keep the country ignorant of the very real dangers that threaten the republic.

I agree that these economic inequalities are important factors. I'm very encouraged that Senators-elect like Jim Webb and John Tester are highlighting this very point, at least in their interview on Meet the Press Sunday.

I think that even were some form of economic equality to occur, though, the notion of service and sacrifice that Rangel seems to be advocating might still remain inert. Indeed, isn't that the point about the super-rich? They have plenty of money but they feel no need to pay back the society that has given them such bountiful plenty.

Some have mentioned Teddy Roosevelt. From what I have heard about him, as rich and privileged as he was, he felt that he must help others and repay the society that made it possible for him to have so much.

I think that Rangel sees the diversity of black Americans--perhaps better than you or I (who am not black). I imagine that he sees the social circumstances of many blacks in terms of his own personal experience of having served in the military and how that positively affected his life. You can point to many blacks in the military who have succeeded and continue to succeed after life there.

I think of the young soldier in John Sayles' "Lone Star." I paraphrase: she says that this (the military) is the best deal they (meaning whites) offer a young black person without any other way out of dire circumstances. I imagine it might be in that spirit that Rangel is proposing this "social service" draft.

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