To the Editors of The Crimson:
In the November 10 editorial debate on national service, I fail to find a single affirmation of the purpose of government. Both editorial opinions "missed the mark" in their statements. The opponents of national service merely suggested what the citizens, politicians, and lawmakers "should" do instead of "coercing" American youth to serve their country. Similarly, the propoents of national service suggest only what national service "could" do to address the charges of coercion of their opponents, "the majority."
Ideally, government exists to help those in need, not those in power. The economic reality of austerity, under the ominous shadow of federal budget deficits, enunciates the anti-welfare sentiments of the majority of Americans. The politics of austerity demand that we search for a pragmatic method of achieving social justice.
Representative Torricelli said in his IOP address on national service that "the 1988 platform [of either party] will not bring back the Great Society." Nevertheless, the opponents of national service state that the Federal government should increase the nation's tax burden, increase spending on our schools, and increase incentives for military and public service. When political reality negates these possibilities for social justice, different and direct action must be undertaken to redress the grievances of America's disadvantaged. The continued presence of an American underclass, in spite of the dollars of the Great Society, attests to the fact that the mandate of "should" is not the present answer to our nation's problems.
Dollars do not bridge the gap between the haves and the have nots. America's youth face the prospect of sinking into the growing ranks of the have nots, a prospect that until now has been avoided by the majority of Americans. Socially, Americans remain indifferent to the plight of the disadvantaged. National service address this indifference by placing the means of social change in the hands of those who will most need mutual interaction in the bleak economic future and who are best able to interact across the ranks of society, the American youth.
The crux of the national service debate centers on universal abhorrence of war. The silent majority allowed minorities and the poor to bear the burden of the Vietnam War. Future Armaggeddon can be forestalled only when Americans, of all classes and races, are forced to face the same risk of sacrifice in military service.
Only through awareness (as opposed to the indifference with which Americans view their monetary welfare commitment) will an understanding of social justice become ingrained in American attitudes. The "shoulds" of society will become real possibilities only after national service provides the impetus for interaction among American youth. Peter H. Vrooman '88