Liberal icon Charlie Rangel (D-NY13) knows a thing or two about military service. When he was twenty he found himself in the still functionally segregated United States Army, in a place called Kunu-ri, Korea, surrounded, with the rest of the Eighth Army, overrun by the masses of the Chinese Red Army. As a result of the Battle of Ch'ongch'ong the entire United Nations command was forced to withdraw from North Korea and Charlie Rangel won a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
So when Charlie Rangel, talks about military service, and being disadvantaged, and the benefits of National Service I'm inclined to sit up and take notice. When Charlie Rangel, well known Liberal, former Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, introduces a bill to not only re-institute the random draft for military service but to compel mandatory two years national service for everyone, male and female, between the ages of eighteen and twenty five, I'm all ears.
H.R. 748 is exactly that bill. As Phil Rizzuto might have said, "And what a bill!"
H. R. 748
To require all persons in the United States between the ages of 18 and
25 to perform national service, either as a member of the uniformed
services or as civilian service in a Federal, State, or local
government program or with a community-based agency or community-based
entity, to authorize the induction of persons in the uniformed services
during wartime to meet end-strength requirements of the uniformed
services, to provide for the registration of women under the Military
Selective Service Act, and for other purposes.
Over the last few years I've noticed an increased presence of Americorps volunteers sprinkled throughout the 'community-based' world. Are they a vanguard? Are they the tip of the spear of how much of Twenty First Century America will gain its generational identity, its social cohesion, from mandatory national service in much the way mid-Twentieth Century America experienced revolutionary social change and mass standardization in the uniformed services and the factories of the WWII effort?
Could this change be the biggest thing to come out of the recent era of social and political polarization? That we defined our parts clearly before we set about another round of mass homogenization? That we could remake America, its social institutions and its physical infrastructure, as we embody the Change we seek?
The New Deal was only possible because the old deal had so spectacularly flopped. The era of increasingly socialized ways of doing things, whether Social Security that provided an economic floor, of the Civilian Conservation Corps or the Works Progress Administration that provided a leg up off the floor, the New Deal and the total war effort, including Rosie putting down her apron and picking up a rivet gun changed life in the United States almost beyond recognition.
Much of the excess suffering of the Great Depression was buffered by reforms implemented during its aftermath. There is much left yet to do.
In what ways will America be different should we institute universal national service? What will be gained? What will be lost? If past experience is any guide, and not just a distraction, post Great Recession America will be a time of incredible change. Corporatism has ridden the tired nag of our Original Sin almost to its extinction, dividing the mass with delusions of 'superiority,' pointing ceaselessly to Black, White, Brown, and Red when the color that mattered was Green. And green.
The cookie cutter of this next wave of change may well focus on increased standardiztion of experience as some numbers will be inducted into military service, too many only high tech cannon fodder for the realization that imperialism's reach has exceeded its grasp, but the remainder? The ninety or ninety-five percent who don't complete their national service in a military uniform but in a 'community based agency'?
What lessons would be learned? What values? My grandfather's generation, the one that left the farm for Paree in WWI, never looked back yet still did not recognize the world of post-WWII.
If we are about to embark on a massive socialization program, what will we be like as a nation when we're done?