It Is Time To Reimagine the Draft —
We Must Rebuild Our Communities By Serving One Another
Selective service is the last vestige of the American conscription system. When Congress abolished the draft and established the all-volunteer military in 1973 they retained the requirement to register for the draft. All males 18–25 in the United States must be register with the Selective Service.
With the ban on women in combat lifted, some have also called for an end to the female exemption from or selective service registration… or for selective service to be abolished altogether (a consistent effort in some quarters since the 1990s).
Every American should register — every American should serve
I am not suggesting the United States should reinstate military conscription. The U.S. military is the most professional, agile, and lethal fighting force on the planet. That this is so, with the smallest force since prior to WWII, is the legacy of the all-volunteer force: men and women dedicated to the mission. The all-volunteer force means more time in-training and on-mission and less time patrolling the barracks with a sidearm or rounding up AWOL draftees downtown. Its resourcing, manpower, and strategic employment are things for politicians to debate, but it’s capabilities are second-to-none.
I am suggesting that American society, for all our socially-networked connectedness has lost its sense of community.
In earlier eras, military conscription ensured serving one’s country was a shared experience. Everyone knew someone (or was someone) who served. It instilled a grounded sense of civic connectedness and responsibility.
Military service is not the appropriate path for everyone. Reinstating a solely military draft would be regressive… and divisive… exactly the opposite of what our country needs: connectedness.
Military service is just that: service.
Service drives connectedness & community.
In our media-saturated, me-first landscape we are increasingly isolated. We spend our time shouting into the proverbial wind. We are begging to be heard, but fail to listen. No one is listening because we are shouting. We shout louder because no one is listening. The first step to regaining some civil discourse in this country is to spend less time shouting at one another and more time serving one another other… in whatever way that makes sense within our lives.
A Call To National Service
Many will say that Americans, especially this next generation, will refuse to serve. They will say that Millennials and their successors are too selfish, to self-centered, too focused on how popular they are on the various social media platforms to dedicate themselves to community. They will say their predecessors are too busy trying to make ends meet as the middle class disappears and the ‘Great Recession’ drags on and on.
I believe that young people want to serve. I believe they want to be part of something bigger, and that their experiences during their late teens and early twenties will forever and profoundly affect their relationships with themselves, their families, their communities, and the wider world. Service teaches us to listen to one another. I cannot serve you if I cannot hear you. I cannot hear you if I fail to stop and learn your story.
Rebuilding our communities through serving one another
Every person should be required to register with selective service, along with their selected way of service. Service does not equal poverty. Service equals being a part of a community. I call for every American to dedicate two years to connecting to their community. Their time and efforts can and should reflect their talents and their interests, but it must be about more than themselves or their resume.
Opportunities are broad — International, national, and local. They range from the Peace Corps and military service, to Teach for America and AmeriCorps to volunteer fire departments, soup kitchens and domestic violence shelters.
The opportunities to serve are only limited by our imaginations.
This isn’t a ‘get-connected-quick-scheme’ it will take time. However, in time, we will all benefit from shared service. Some will discover their callings. Some will become businessmen and women, entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors, engineers. Some will do a little bit of both. America will be better for it all because we will once more have a sense of shared experience.
Our country was built on civic participation and democratic principles. We can and we must regain our national footing and sense of connectedness through the shared experience of serving one another. When we take time to listen and learn each other’s stories we connect. When we connect, we build community. When we rebuild our communities we will regain our shared sense of identity and national purpose.