27 November 2002

What this country needs ...

is compulsory national service.

Graduate from high school and give two years to your country in the military. Drop out of high school and start right away.

Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines - it's a great place to start.

What got me started down this path was Toys for Tots - the Marine Corps 50+ year-old tradition of collecting toys for poor kids. A nice warm fuzzy program that's hard to criticize.

I got the pitch today in an email at work. This was the part that caught my attention:

The Toys for Tots message of hope for the future has motivated youngsters to grow into responsible, productive, patriotic citizens and community leaders. Toys for Tots has earned the distinction as a program which plays an important role in helping youngsters emerge from a background of poverty to adulthood as assets to society. Toys for Tots is one vehicle for addressing the issue of poverty among children.
The more I thought about it, the more I decided that it was far more likely to generate resentment among many of the recipients. The only long-term benefit I could imagine was that the sight of marines in dress blues might inspire some of the kids to join the military which would probably do as much as anything to get someone out of poverty.

Full disclosure: I was never in the military. But I've often thought it would have been better for me to go into the service before going to college. I got to college with a lousy work ethic and no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I wound up with an English degree - which I don't use much in my life as a software engineer. It ended up taking me almost ten years and two more degrees to find my career.

A little esprit de corps might help us all just get along a little better. I'm concerned that if something doesn't happen to curb the income disparity that's been growing for the past few years we could be in for some hard times. Ghettos and projects could make good recruiting grounds for homegrown terrorists.

I gotta get back to work, but in a nutshell - I think compulsory military service could address poverty and give everyone a little common ground.