A draft for the future
Published 4:35 pm, Friday, January 15, 2010
The crowd at last week's town hall meeting in Southport with Congressman Jim Himes was buzzing with opinions and ideas. The topic for the evening was Afghanistan. The purpose, according to Himes, was to gauge his constituents' opinions on President Barack Obama's plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
As is the nature of a town hall meeting, many of the people who spoke to Himes did not do so with the intention of probing the congressman, but used it as an opportunity to provide their own insight into the situation (and other topics).
One of the ideas that was tossed out more than once was re-instituting a draft. One Westonite pointed out that he had been attending town hall meetings like Wednesday's for 40 years -- and he's seen the same faces at all of them. The problem, he said, is that these faces are getting older. No longer sitting in the audience are the anxious 17-year-olds who face the possibility of their draft card being pulled -- or who have, perhaps, already been drafted. As a result, he posed, many of the young people in this country exhibit a certain level of disinterest and apathy. Their parents may have a similar attitude, too.
A major topic that comes up each and every November voting season is the lack of interest and involvement of this nation's youth. Efforts have been made in recent years to appeal to younger voters, and to a very small degree, a few more young people come out to vote now. But not enough.
Would a draft change this dynamic? Would it elicit involvement or the need to pay attention to what's going on in this country? Absolutely. Is it the right thing to do? Some believe it is, and some believe it would be taking a step backward to a more tumultuous time in our nation's history.
In a perfect world, there would be no war, and as a result, no need to even discuss the possibility of a draft. But we don't live in a perfect world. We live in an increasingly dangerous world, and war is a reality today and for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps, then, we, as a nation, should look at a different kind of draft. Why not institute a public service draft. It could give people options outside the military, like joining Peace Corps or Americorps, or even fulfilling a certain number of hours working for a non-profit organization -- any way to serve the country on some level. Obviously it could also involve joining the military, if one so chooses.
Rewards for service could be college assistance, like the GI bill, or a financial stipend -- help buying a home or a car.
There are so many ways the youth of this country can become more invested in their future and therefore know a new love and appreciation for the free land in which they live. It could get people out of their own communities and open their eyes to other parts of the country and the world. When our youth become involved, albeit somewhat forcibly, they also lose the stigma of a one-sided classroom education. They gain the perspective of people who have heard other points of view; people who have seen the way others live. They can join the fight in body or spirit because now they'll know what they're fighting for.
Idealistic? Possibly, but what is the down side here? PlayStation sales drop? Kids might have to be away from their families for unpredictable amounts of time? They have to put off college for a year or two? Seems a small price to pay for creating an impassioned generation. One thing is for sure: many people won't take the time to educate themselves on something that, to them, has little impact on their daily lives.
And it's not just the youth we need to inspire -- we need to provide incentive for all of our citizens to get involved and stay involved. Apathy transcends age, and lack of significant community service and worldly experience may be at the root.
In Himes' opening address, he informed the audience that he would take a consensus at the end of the meeting, and would ask for a show of hands for those who support Obama's plan, those who do not, and those who don't know. Almost half of the crowd left before the end of the meeting.