Why a ‘productive, civilian national service’ is needed
(Published around 2005 at IndyBay.)
Dwayne Hunn, Ph.D.
Generations ago America’s landscape was in turmoil. To quell the unrest, America tapped its best asset — its peoples’ ingenuity and work ethic.
Only 37 days passed from FDR’s inaugural until the first 1933 Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) member started planting over 32 billion trees, building 97,000 miles of fire road, stopping environmental degradation and erosion, and helping Americans recover from hurricanes and floods, etc. By 1935, 500,000 CCC workers were building America out of depression.
Millions of hurting Americans sought peaceful CCC service. World War II and its ensuing budgetary and political pressures dismantled the character building CCC.
Our military draft then continued serving the country, and saved the world from Fascism. Under a disciplined military roof, where getting the job done meant more than your color or last name, costly racial and ethnic animosities started evaporating. Our melting-pot military draft ended, after our government lied us into a wasteful Vietnam War.
Both methods of service – the CCC and military – helped save and improve America’s economy, society, and knowledge.
Today, some of America’s economic and political needs are global, and that landscape is again in turmoil because of people and nations who increasingly hate our policies, yet know little about our best asset and weapon — hard working Americans.
For several years, worldwide polls have shown increasing disdain for America’s policies. It is a small step from disdain to harming Americans, as 9-11 showed.
At home, turmoil’s seeds are sprouting. In 1993 America’s poverty rate was over 15% but fell to 11.2% by 2000. In 2002 it climbed to 12.1%, adding 3 million Americans into poverty since 2000 and growing worse since.
What are ALL Americans doing to: 1) Fight Terror and 2) Strengthen America? The rich received tax reductions, their siblings seldom serve, and in gratitude their nominal estate taxes are being erased. Consequently, Joe Sixpack picks up Tommy Belvedere’s tax and military tab.
What can ALL Americans do? We can institute “productive, civilian national service” through my proposed World Service Corps (WSC) proposals that address the root causes of instability. The WSC gives us a cost-effective, long-term strategy to combat fundamental ignorance, calamities, terror, and domestic and international poverty.
How would it work? In the two WSC Bills/Resolutions (www.dwaynehunn.biz), now in the hands of 25+ Congresspersons, all those aged 18-26 will undertake either one year of required or two years of volunteer service in their choice of Red Cross, Peace Corps, Head Start, AmeriCorps, Habitat for Humanity, and Doctors Without Borders. This mix of cost effective public-non-government organizations, do what Americans do well — fix problems.
Upon completing two years of voluntary service, community and state college tuition, or vocational or graduate school equivalent, would be paid, reenergizing our educational skill set, as did the 1944-56 GI Educational Bill of Rights.
In addition, all Americans could mix their volunteer experience and insights with the vibrant energy of the young WSC members, thereby increasing the WSC’s effectiveness.
As the world rushes toward 7 billion, about half live on $2.00 a day. At home poverty increases, schools need help, and inadequate housing remains too prevalent. Environmental calamities, famines, and atrocities confront the world daily. Among an alarmingly growing number of world citizens, terrorists and myopic fundamentalists breed hatred for Americans that too much of the world only knows through Hollywood. In a nuclear and biologically dangerous world, the Doomsday Clock edges closer to midnight.
Jesus would not call for blowing each other up. Christ would send shepherds to bring the lost sheep into the comfortable flock. Through the WSC, it is time to send a million American shepherds into peacefully bettering the world.
It the fourteen tumultuous nations spread from Egypt to Pakistan, 420+ million reside. In 2005, are the 39 Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs) helping spread understanding there enough?
Eastern Africa’s 18 nations may have oil reserves. It definitely has poverty and needs, along with illiteracy, ignorance, hatreds, and fanaticisms. It has Ethiopiaand Somalia, where poverty, starvation, and American deaths still haunt us.
How many PCVs serve among those 270 million people?
SIx hundred and fifty-nine, with none in Ethiopia and Somalia.
If peaceful WSC divisions could increase those numbers ten-fold, future costly military intervention and crisis aid would be dramatically reduced.
A Tsunami and earthquakes have devastated parts of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, India, and elsewhere.
How many Habitat for Humanity homes have been built there?
Among Sri Lanka’s 20 million, 4,485 families have new Habitat homes since 1994. Among Indonesia 230 million people, 378 families were served since 1997.
Imagine, if in the near future we sent thousands of WSC Habitat builders, how negatively could Americans ever be depicted?
If 10,000 WSC Red Cross, Peace Corps, Habitat, and Doctors without Borders quickly went into the next disaster, would the world see Ugly or Beautiful Americans?
Wars and suffering rage on Spaceship Earth. Aren’t the needs compelling enough to have ALL Americans leave their TVs and computers for at least a year’s productive, civilian service in the world’s real classrooms? Kennedy wanted a million Peace Corps volunteers serving annually by the 1970’s. Only 178,000 have served or trained. Today 7,773 serve, while at home AmeriCorps and Head Start programs are cut. Kennedy’s words are worth pondering:
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
As are the words of the first Peace Corps Director, Sargent Shriver:
“If the Pentagon’s map is more urgent, the Peace Corp’s is, perhaps, in the long run the most important… What happens in India, Africa, and South America — whether the nations where the Peace Corps works succeed or not — may well determine the balance of peace.”
Congresswoman Woolsey D-CA is taking the Hunn’s WSC proposals to the Progressive Caucus and added in a recent letter “I’m not a PC volunteer, but totally support you.”