First of all why is it called America? It should be the United States of North America, right? Canada is America. Mexico too. Belize. Costa Rica. Columbia. Peru.
One of the biggest problems we face as people of the USA is that we’re so divided. It’s crazy ironic. We’re the great experiment for pluralism. What makes us us is our diversity. The best people and brightest minds from all over the globe converging on a continent where our ambition can carry us as far as we’re willing to work. A place where we can achieve the life of our dreams. (I actually wrote a book about that concept. You should read it.)
When politicians preach about bringing our country together, most of them mean very specific constituencies. The ones who they know will get out to the polls and vote. Say the right things and appeal to those people, and you win. Mission accomplished.
Only, preaching to specific groups of people plays into our divisive nature where birds of a feather flock together. They might say “America” but they mean “People who look like us.” Women. White. Black. Straight. Gay. Hispanic.
But the idea of the USA isn’t about buckets. It’s about mixing the contents of all the buckets together to the betterment of us all. It is. Really.
Except, buckets are easy. They take little work. And they make us feel connected.
Birds of a feather.
This political rhetoric, which carries through to the indecisions made on our behalf by our government, has burdened this country long enough. We need more than an empty promise of national togetherness to solve this problem.
It’s time to level the playing field.
A few years back I wrote a post Five Things I’d Do If I Were the King of America. I stand by them. But there’s one that can directly solve our problem of divisiveness.
2-Year community service for all US citizens after high school.
When I graduated high school, I went into the USAF. Upon entering basic training, the six-week paid trial to see whether you can cut the military, they shave your head and give you a green uniform with no name on it. It doesn’t even say U.S. Air Force. You also get black boots and socks. It’s a hellish experiment, really. But it has significant purpose. The idea is to level everyone. To make everyone equal. If you make it the first two weeks being woken up in the middle of the night by violent drill sergeants banging pots and pans, 10-hours of marching per day, and learning how to keep your mouth shut even while being verbally abused, they give you a patch with U.S. Air Force on it. And then you have to sew it on. Perfectly. If you can survive two more weeks of psychological hell, you get a your name patch. If you make it the entire six weeks, they give you a stripe for your sleeve, and call you Airman. By then your hair has grown out a bit, and you start to feel like somebody again.
And–you have a whole new respect for the people around you.
No, the military isn’t perfect, as evidenced by sexual preference and gender paranoia, along with some racism in the ranks (though not as much as the real world. Not even close.) But, it is a brilliant concept in terms of leveling people to ensure they can be productive members of the service.
And it’s this kind of thinking that future generations of this country need.
Imagine every high school graduate in America being given specific assignments across the USA in service to the country. They’re all paid the same. They all coexist together. Rich, poor, black, white, asian, male, female, straight, gay—everyone working together to a higher cause that positively affects fellow countrymen. The kinds of service could range from social services, to civil engineering, and yes, to the military. We could even provide college credits in exchange for the service.
This concept would go a long way in building our WHOLE nation back up, not just exclusive parts. But more importantly, it would give new perspective to young people who may otherwise only ever exist within the very divisive buckets that separate currently us. Think about how far that empathy will go in terms of future leadership and making unbiased decisions for the people. Think about how that will shape their priorities as contributing members of society.
Don’t worry, after the 2-years are up everyone can go back to their normal lives.
Why not? What’s the downside of this concept? No, it’s not perfect. There will always be push-back and problems with any initiative that affects so many people. But problems are solvable. We have to start somewhere. And this is an attempt to actually solve a problem that plagues us. To truly bring our nation together in a productive way.
For the future.
Because frankly, I don’t care how much the politicians talk about “togetherness,” there’s too much dogma out there from years of divisiveness to get us back to E pluribus unum–regardless of who becomes President.