We have lost our sense of participation, of belonging, which made us feel as though we were a part of something bigger -- ie, a sense that what we did could make a difference. We have abbrogated our responsibilities as citizens, more out of frustrations perhaps, than apathy.
So what can we do to correct the situation? I'm no expert, but this blog was established to voice my opinion and that is what I will do:
Military and or National Service:
When people have to participate in or sacrifice for a cause, they tend to own that cause. I believe that we should not only reinstate the draft, but begin some kind of compulsory national service for both men and women for between two and five years (soon after highschool graduation) and a reserve system of defense. There are too few of us taking the responsibility of military service today and as a result, we don't feel invested. If we don't feel the sacrifice, how are we to feel strongly enough to defeat policies that require military action and the invasion of countries we do not belong?
The fear of the "Military Industrial Complex" voiced by Dwight Eisenhower when he left the office of the presidency in 1961 should forever be imprinted on our brains. This was a life-long military man who commanded Allied forces to victory in WWII. Still he realized the dangers and articulated them fifty years ago. We must be vigilant so that we don't allow the kind of unwanted sprawl that mired Great Britain into centuries of Imperialism.
The point is, of course, that regardless of what kind of service we are willing to give, we should all be doing something to contribute to our country. Everyone feels better about themselves when they contribute something and as a result, we must strive to get rid of this mantra that we are "entitled."
With a national service in place, we could then build support for our policies throughout the world through "service," rather than the unpopular occupation of countries by our military. Much of what the Special Forces in Vietnam accomplished was about helping the natives to help themselves. That is not happening in Afghanistan or Pakistan and we are not winning "hearts and minds," we are making more enemies.
Get out of Afghanistan. If we haven't accomplished our goals by now, then we never will. (See my blog entitled "Afghanistan -- Why are we There" dated 07-15-10). My opinion has not changed. Again, refer to Dwight Eisenhower's speech warning of the military industrial complex back in January, 1961.
Change the rules of elections so that senators, congressmmen AND the Supreme Court must have term limits -- not just the presidency. This is essential. When our congress can not do the work of the people because of their obsession with losing their seats in Congress and regularly go to bed with the lobbyists, something must change. And when the Court begins to make laws, and rescind precedence because of idealogical bias, (knowing, of course, that there will be no price to pay, that they will not (ever!) be thrown out of their jobs), they are subjugating the will of the people to their own political positions and lowering the standards of the Court. (See Citizens United Ruling, January 2011--a ruling that favors the interests of business enterprises by allowing them to spend unlimited funds on the candidate of their choice -- the ones whose agendas are in alignment with their own).
We must increase all present initiatives to strengthen our borders and plug the porous areas between Mexico and our border states of Texas, Arizona and California. We must re-address our immigration laws and limit the number of under-educated immigrants allowed in our country; unfortunately our current political system coddles the underclass that supports this kind of
immigration and panders to them for their vote, but this kind of infusion does not enrich our society; it drains it.
Diversity is important too and I recognize that. But diversity does not mean that we stand apart because of our differences. I think diversity can make us stronger by filling all the gaps and uniting us.
The Economy: I don't feel qualified to discuss it, but someone out there needs to.
I had a Liberal Arts education which exposed me to all kinds of thinking -- liberal and conservative and downright "off the wall." I loved it; it was fun, it opened many, many doors for me, but more than that, it inspired me to learn. Of course, college is all about learning, but learning should be a life-long pursuit. And this is what a liberal arts education can teach and what I think is missing in our business/service oriented society today.
Science and Math have been neglected as as a result, we rank 17th in Science around the world and 25th in Math. Since everyone knows we have the best universities, why do we not have the most qualified graduates? Young men and women are coming to America from all over the world to benefit from our extraordinry schools; our immigration laws require that they leave after they graduate. What is happening here? We are losing the most desirable, well educated immigrants, the benefit of their expertise (they are often educated in the higher tech fields) as well as their tax dollars down the road. It is a convoluted system that requires thought and reform.
I believe education begins at home; tots should be exposed to books, the alphabet, un-complicated numbering using fingers and toes. Read to your little ones. They may not understand every word, but they will learn to love books and by the time they reach kindergarden, they will have some awareness of these simple disciplines and an appreciation of literature. The teachers we hire are up to the task of teaching, but parents often want more: they want their kids entertained and not disciplined; they want a baby-sitter; and woe to the teacher who raises his voice to their child or Dad will soon appear to school administrators with a brief case and an attorney. Kids are stronger than we give them credit for; they can work hard in school without creating some imaginary emotional or psychological malady. I survived the old school practice of learning by rote for memorizing multiplication tables, number combinations and learning to spell. Because it is chiseled in my brain, I can still do sums in my head faster than the grocery store checker after all these years I am neither condoning nor condeming the current methods or the old methods -- just stating the fact that the harder you work, the more you will gain.
Through the process of a good education then, we can encourage young people to strive for more, take pride in working hard and graduate with honors in science, math, and liberal arts. The Obama administration encourages service abroad and rewards the student with help towards college tuition when he returns home. It's a good plan and one that broadens the student's view of the world through interaction with people from other countries -- the greatest education of all. Representing one's country abroad with dignity and integrity should be a prerequisite for many desciplines in one's curricula. Education should be a means to broaden us intellectually and move our families and our country forward into the world community, rather than to -- only -- satisfy one's desires and make money. We must begin now to reach our young people and instill in them a desire to work hard and be prepared for competition in science and math down the road. If we do not, we will surely begin to decline as a nation, as some are already predicting.
I have a vision that one day cities will be built for people instead of cars. We Americans have always had a love affair with our cars. But in a way, they've kept us isolated. For decades, we strived to move away from our cities because we are able to commute from work, then commute back to large homes either in suburbia or out in the country. Mass transit is a way of life in some cities but still on the drawing boards of others. The trend may be reversing itself today, I hope, as many people are beginning to move back into city centers in order to re-establish a sense of community and enjoy a more simple and meaningful life that had been sacrificed through hours on the highway. It has been a wasteful and profligate quarter of a century.
As to the subject of waste, we are, as Paul Newman once famously said, "a throw-away society," with tens of thousands of plastic bottles in our land fills. We do not repair anything, because appliances are built with a "controlled obsolescence" mentality -- they are built to fail beyond repair within a very short period of time. And we are back-sliding. I seem to remember a much more elevated consciousness about the recycling and paper vs. plastic issues back in the seventies than is evident today. Our auto makers are deaf to the cries for more fuel efficient vehicles. Global warming is a fact. Why do we listen to the nay-sayers when we have evidence: floods, tsunamis, the shrinking of the ice in the arctic. We should be doing something about it now while we still can, while the warming is still a warning. We are willing to sacrifice if we need to. But someone needs to ask us.
Perhaps I've offered a soft and simplistic approach to these issues -- not a detailed plan on how to correct them. But there is an uneasiness in the country today about how we are faring and a fear that we are not faring well. I am not a politician, but as a citizen I do have a duty. My duty is to voice what I feel is wrong, and what needs to be fixed. If I can stir others to join together and do something about it, propose a viable plan, then I've served my purpose and will support that person or group with all my energies.
I firmly believe we as a nation are willing to sacrifice and to set our sights on something better. The rewards will be worth it. We are a great and strong people and we can do it. But someone needs to ask us.
(c) May, 2011 Sue McGhee