task and purpose

Bad Liberal Time again!

I think nations with mandatory military service have the right idea.

Now, I am sitting here as a woman who was 4-F before she was old enough to enlist. I am also a veteran’s daughter, and I freely admit to missing the gray area between civilian and soldier. I am a person who would have done very well with a more structured early adulthood: a community, not just a dorm. Purpose beyond “take this class and pass it”. Knowledge that one is contributing to something larger than oneself.

For those whose innate skills are more service-oriented than corporate, consider the ways in which we might be put to use, even if we are, shall we say, physically borked. Take the people who don’t want to fight and tell them “Okay, so you don’t need basic training. Here’s what training we will offer you instead.”

Apprentice them to the VA — as potential therapists, nurses, paper pushers, whatever. Solve the staffing issue; introduce young, interested blood. Put us to work running bases, teach us how not to die in a firefight if you want to send us into combat zones. Take our religious leanings and make us chaplains. Take our political leanings and teach us how to liaise with the Department of Defense. Save the soldiers for soldiering. Give the rest of us non-combat roles that, in this day and age, we may well require in order to survive a ruthless free market.

Have a transition program: you can’t soldier anymore? Here, this is where we’ll put you. You don’t have to retire. We will still give you the structure you have lived within for years.

Ask people who are disabled to the point of being unable to live alone: will you come be part of this base, this barracks, this home? Tell us: you are not worthless. You have a lot to give. If you want to live independently we can facilitate that; if you don’t, we don’t care. We still need you. We still want you, even if nobody else does. Especially when nobody else does.

Community and structure can be powerful forces for good. We’ve gotten to a place of total independence. The American way is one of closing off and not needing each other or anyone else. I suppose this circles back around to Good Liberal Time because I believe that interdependence should carry us forward and might help with a lot of social problems besides — what if the homeless had work and homes? What if people coming out of prison could be employed at more than menial tasks, and find meaningful ways to make amends for their crimes? Would we need to send some people to proper prisons at all, if they could be placed into community service groups instead?

Why is this concept as foreign as I am? (And why haven’t more policymakers read the Seven Habits?)

I feel hopeful when I think of the community around me. I think of my sisters, my brothers, my aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers in the SCA and I sound cultish, but it beats blowing in the wind. Humans need to gather and make meaning of their gatherings. Yes, even introverts. I feel alive when I serve. I feel validated when my friends can use my skills.

A step back toward feeling myself an actual citizen of the country of my birth: let it find me useful. Let me give what I can, instead of being smacked down because of all the things I can’t do.


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