Mike M., a friend who occasionally participates in email discussions/debates with a group of about 10 of us, sent me the following today. I have often intended to write a post on Universal Conscription (the closest I have come is this) : but I would be hard pressed to write anything as eloquent and sincere as what Mike wrote. I agree with him wholeheartedly.

Mike’s note:

First, let me state my unequivocol opinion about “Conscription” or, what we more familiarly have known as “The Draft”….IMHO I believe that we did an enormous disservice to ourselves as a society when we abolished “The Draft”! 

I was conscripted into the Vietnam War in January of 1966 (which I believe ranks as the biggest Draft month in history!). Believe me, I didn’t want to go! I went, as we said in the vernacular of the day, “… like a man – handcuffed and hog-tied.” It turned out to be one of the seminal moments in my entire life! In one fell swoop, I became a piece of something much, much bigger than from whence I came. I was now in very close quarters, sleeping and eating next to, struggling with other members of our population with whom I would never have come in contact were it not for being “Drafted” – all colors, all ethnicities, all levels of education – Puerto Ricans from NYC, Hillbillies from Tennessee, Mexicans from East L.A., Blacks from Mississippi, even married guys – with kids! Suddenly, we were all pretty much the same – facing the very same future (we knew we were all going to Vietnam where we were going to be killed!), experiencing the very same sort of treatment and suffering the very same conditions; we learned to achieve seemingly impossible things by working together, as a team. But, the lessons learned greatly transcended the mere physical – we learned about ourselves! We now had a broader perspective, a greater “frame of reference” by which we could measure ourselves, realizing that in the big scheme of things, we all had more in common with each other than we might have thought before! 

I’ve been to College and have BA and MA Degrees on my Resume. But, I can honestly say, what I learned in College does not even approach what I learned in the Army! The College “theoreticals”, strewn from the Ivory Tower, cannot hold a candle to the lessons I learned while a member of our Military and I am so proud of and appreciatiative for being given the opportunity to serve our nation…. all because of “The Draft”.
Now, “service” does not mean only the Military. It can come in many guises – but, two(2) years in the Peace Corps, VISTA, a re-establishment of the historical WPA, etc. should be mandatory…. but, the commonality with all modes of “service” should be the same – a “military” level of discipline and standards, military-style housing, uniform treatment, attire, compensation…. The great social philosopher, Eric Hoffer, opined that no one should be allowed to go to College immediately after graduation from High School – they should first have to contribute to the workforce for a few years first. I agree with that wholeheartedly!  Seeing how the “real world” works will make the college experience, if chosen, much more meaningful and valuable and engender a level of “Critical Thinking” that is not being being taught in college. I have two close friends, both of whom are PhD Professors – collaborative partners in the publishing of “the best-selling” textbook in the entire U.S. college network in their field; they are considered “Gurus” of “Management” and have reaped great financial benefits as a result! And yet, ironically, neither one has EVER worked anywhere but the University – they have never managed anything – never managed a business or even a small business unit, never managed employees, have no practical experience “leading” and “motivating”, never had to make decisions that would have repurcussions…. and, yet, they are regarded as “experts”? If I had to compare them to Sergeant First Class Chang from Hawaii, one of the greatest leaders I have ever encountered, their societal contributions pale in comparison. I will always gravitate towards the “meat”, knowing the “sizzle” is merely specious.

Thanks, Mike.