We began this conversation a couple of weeks ago, when we pointed out that 90% of Americans have invested none of their own skin in this game that is called “Keeping America Alive.” Even my generation, the last to know the military draft, which was never natural to the American scheme of warfare anyway, and which accounts for about half of the “skin in the game” citizenry today, are now in our 60s and 70s, and will soon pass away.
Most college-aged kids, unless there’s an uncle or aunt in there somewhere who’re veterans, have never even met a veteran.
So do the math.
First Principle: With every passing generation, that 90% percentage is likely to get larger, only not because our military manpower needs may diminish, but rather because most Americans for the past 50 years have never been raised, and certainly not educated, to think of America (the-Idea) as anything special, as a thing worth clinging to or passing onto their children.
It’s not that we’ve lost our sense of gratitude–well, a little—we feel more entitled today than 50 years ago—we’re just no longer taught to appreciate the wellspring of that gratitude. American kids are no longer taught to look at any everyday product, from a cell phone to a hamburger, and connect the dots that put that phone or burger in their hand, or the money in their pocket to buy it. Money equals phone. Ever kid knows that equation. Job equals money equals phone however requires an extra dot, and many can’t connect it. Way too many Americans never have had to, as I reported only last week, in describing the growth of the trust fund babies since the 60s.
Just understand that much of what they now don’t know is purposefully denied them.
Still, it is those simple things, connecting a treasure in their lives to a foundational source, is what has always bound Americans.
In that story, above, about the ’68 Chicago Democratic Party Convention riots, I noted that there were tens of thousands of students from affluent families who had never worked, nor would ever have to, unless they could land a cush job at a non-profit, of which, today, there are thousands more than there were in ’68.
So today the size of that army of ne’er-do-wells who have to do no work numbers in the millions, and there are entire university and college departments dedicated to keeping them away from any meaningful relationship with their native country and its origins.
Moreover, if you’ve ever walked where they had been recently, at an outdoor function, a march or camp-in, you’ll also learn that they don’t treat the earth too kindly, despite what they say about protecting it; 21-year olds in their own private pigpen.
Lastly, they have never known work, not even chores or responsibilities, and only a modicum of personal hygiene in public places once away from their secure personal spaces.
Again, they will never have to think of a job as a way to get by.
In the hands of the state(s), children, including our own veterans’, are no longer taught our country’s history, or the uniqueness of America compared to all the rest of the world’s history; that we are a nation of commoners, designed by uncommon people for the benefit of other commoners to guide and rule themselves, at which we have excelled for nearly 300 years, attaining success no other nation in the history of the world has ever been able to match.
Whatever good young people think about America, they learned at home; from family.
In 5000 years of civilized history on this earth, America occupying less than 300, we have still created more wealth, and shared more of it, and accomplished more firsts than all the others combined.
Our group, VeteransUSA 15:13 Foundation, is so named for one of those firsts, from that passage in John 15 that “no great love has a man than will lay down his life for his friend”.
In the history of mankind no other nation has sent its sons to risk their lives to rescue others, beginning with our Civil War where over 2 million volunteered and a quarter million died, freeing a people they had never seen. They were all volunteers, and in the following years, white crosses have sprouted up around the world by the thousands of the Americans who died liberating some foreign land. That continues today, and except for a brief interlude in the 60s, they have almost all been volunteers. And despite the cries of “imperialism!”, we have yet to colonize a single one.
Of course, America’s most “hateful” first is that we were the first, and in many respects still the only nation that is designed and governed from the bottom up, by the people, earning us the enmity of all the top-down governments everywhere, representing how the world has been ordered since the pharaohs.
To some degree or another, removing this blot on the way the world was run for 5000 years has been a desire of every form of authoritarian and totalitarian system since our birth, a cancer which has sadly crept into our own political and educational system, explaining why we now need to do what we are suggesting here, establishing a National Service System so that every citizen, going forward, will be taught about the shoulders we all stand on, if for no other reason, just to recapture a little gratitude, and if need be, have a second opinion ready at-hand.
World War II skin-in-the-game memories will die with me, my children taking no special pride in my Vietnam War service sitting in a cush office near Tokyo. Again, do the math. My father’s generation has passed, and we should all worry that should something like December 7, 1941 happen again, requiring a 99% outlay of American support, that not even half of America would answer America’s call.
Yes, I know there was 9/11, now 17 years in our past, but while tens of thousands of young Americans rushed forward to volunteer, and well over half of America supported them, the national hug fest lasted only a few weeks, when, on cue, our effort turned political, almost as many Americans taking up some sort of cause against them.
Not to sound cynical, we all knew that would happen, too.
The politics of this divide will be resolved over time, but based on the issues we’re raising here, which now magnifies an apartness in America that has not existed since the Revolution, one based on caste (class) and loyalties directed toward different fundamental beliefs about the nature of government and the freedom of man’s right to self-determination; aristocrats versus commoners.
In December, 1941 rich and poor, black and white, educated and not-so-much, came together because they shared the same love (and roots) of America. (Yes, I said “black and white”, Michelle.) After 9/11, I’m sorry to report, scarcely half shared that impulse, and I am sadder still to report there are deep divisions today between the rich and poor, the educated and the not-so-much’s, the public and private sector, that are more reminiscent of 1776 than any period since.
Even in the smallest of towns the ties that bind citizens together in a common cause seems no longer to exist. If we cannot regain that, we are lost, no matter what Donald Trump and his successors do with the Swamp. When half the citizens of a city or town no longer believe they live on the same planet as the other half, and no longer share the same core principles of “life, liberty and happiness” and everyone’s right to pursue it as they see fit, then we are lost.
For a National Service
The Good News is that we can restore ourselves, in just a generation. The Bad News is that to be truly national it would require an Act of Congress, and we know how well they do things.
If we can agree we need to repatriate our children with, and reacquaint them to, America, I’m sure ways can be found, if not nationally, then regionally or locally, with or without government. Agreed?
It could take years, which is why my generation wants to broach the idea now. A bequest.
I can imagine young men of Brooklyn thrown together with Georgia crackers, Des Plaines townies, LA studs, each hating the other going into, but in 14 weeks, coming out best friends. We’ve done all that before, and still do it all the time.
Our boot camps will reintroduce all that, only since they won’t have to learn to kill at 200 yards, or crawl through mud under live fire, we think we can build the bridges inside 8 weeks, with another year in public service projects where they will see the rest of America mommy and daddy protected them from.
What I believe to be most important will be a total segregation, a la boot camp, where, for the first time in their lives they will not own a single waking minute of their lives for 16 hours a day. They will bunk together, answer reveille together, shower together, eat together, police the area together, then hike together, and all learn to hate that merciless barracks sergeant together.
Every one of those barracks sergeants will have been through the same training, only he had to carry 50 pounds on his back, learn to shoot at people and be shot at.
Every Marine, Army, Air Force and Navy veteran knows how this works; the things of their youth that were lost, and the things of their adulthood that were gained. They know how 8 weeks can change a person forever.
But unlike real recruits, our cadets will be provided a lot of classroom work, and there too, they will be taught American history and government, let’s just call it “civics”, by instructors who have invested years of skin in the game, and, just for street cred, some of their limbs.
I developed a teaching curriculum for these subjects while teaching young inner city GenX’ers in the 90s. I’ve never tried it on the Millennials and whatever they call the current generation of 18 year olds. But my son, a Gen X’er himself, is an expert. He knows how to make America relevant in their lives, step-by-step and that is what we intend to do in the classroom portion of boot camp, preparing them to be able to raise their hand and question a professor’s received wisdom if the subject is America..
Why I like a national program most is that it could employ tens of thousands of veterans, including wounded warriors, in full time positions as instructors and teachers. Considering we’re talking about 18-19 yr old high school graduates, think David Hogg and Emily Gonzalez as your poster child resistors, who better to teach American volunteerism than a guy or gal with sticks for legs?
The boot camp course should be entirely pass-fail, just so no candidate can think they can wait it out. Fail, and just like 3rd Grade, they have to repeat it. I can see the applications for exceptions lining up, especially for athletes who need to go to college to perform right away. So maybe we can give students three years before graduating to fulfill their obligation.
I’m sure Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force all have their own secrets to bringing raw recruits around. They already know, from recent recruiting classes, that American kids are fatter, lazier, more self-involved, some to the point of being self-admiring, so I’ll leave the details to them, but the general idea is to make them sweat the me-me-me snowflake out of them and insert teamwork and self-reliance instead. And gratitude.
They need to learn and understand the character-building value of manual labor, sweat equity, which earlier generations learned simply by an hour or two of chores before cleaning up for supper. We hated it too.
Our class of recruits will constantly be reminded of this investment as their training cadres will consist of veterans, men and women who had gone through a far more strenuous and painful boot camp than theirs, with weapons and 50-pound packs, many carrying the visual reminder of just how much skin they had invested in their country, with a lost limb or wound to show for it.
But generally, a major purpose of the program is to postpone college, jobs and marriage/family for a period of time to add on a little maturity and fuller understanding of their role as a citizen.
The time to think these things is now.
As teachers and instructors in our own right, we at VeteransTales.org would like to pitch some of our ideas and work with other veterans’ groups to incorporate their programs.
We’ll develop, over the coming weeks and year, in these pages, essays about various topics associated with these plans, and we invite you with your own skin in the game to publish your ideas and positions, even contrary, in these pages.
For our part, we at the VeteransUSA 15:13 Foundation would like to be at the forefront of coordinating and working with veterans and wounded warrior groups, to put their imprimatur on the project. We have special skills in classroom training of this sort, and curricula design. I’ve had tougher audiences over the years.
This is a necessary first, to find out who’s interested, and who would like to be a part of a project going forward.
Our contact: Vassar Bushmills, VassarB@gmail.com also VassarBushmills.com for background