A Stronger Service

I’ve been feeling pretty doom and gloom lately about the state of affairs in the US and the world. I’m just having trouble believing that we can turn these horrible situations around, and I don’t feel like anything good that I do will make a difference. Mostly because I feel like the solutions are too big for anyone to agree on. I mean Congress can’t even decide on a budget; how are they ever going to decide what policies will actually help us get out of the rut that we’re in?

I have a few ideas.

Service: We boast one of the strongest militaries in the world. I think that America should be known for a different kind of service–a stronger service. I think that programs like City Year should be mandatory across the country for graduating seniors from high school. If every student that graduated high school did a year of volunteer service, think of all the good that would be done for the country. Parks would be clean, affordable housing would be built, schools would be better taken care of and better staffed, afterschool programs would flourish, etc. And those are just the starting ripples in a larger pond. For instance, if one of the choices of service was to help run a variety of afterschool programs, kids would have more chances to find their passions and less chance to get involved in mischievous behavior on the streets. I’m all for nation-building, but I wish that we would focus on rebuilding our own crumbling nation rather than focusing on sovereign nations whose resources we covet. And maybe after we’ve fixed our own nation, we can send peaceful nation-building programs overseas to extend the activities of the Peace Corps. Instead of teaching other nations how to run a military or police force, let’s teach them more about sustainability practices, building wells, farming, building schools, etc. Maybe the world wouldn’t hate us so much if we stopped being the big, bad bully and started being the no-nonsense humanitarians. Let’s redefine “service to our country,” and maybe it’ll start fixing our problems.

The problem with this idea is that there’s absolutely no funding for it. Teach for America is turning down a record number of applicants because it simply doesn’t have the funding for all the people who want to be in the program. Same problem with City Year. Until it’s a nationally recognized ideal that’s given priority in the budget, it will never happen. Until then we just have to make-do with the limited public service organizations we have and the various smaller religious service organizations.

Sustainability: There should be at least one class taught in every high school across the country about sustainability practices. Classes like home economics have been cut from the majority of schools because it’s not seen as a core part of the curriculum. But in my opinion, traditional Home Ec classes weren’t enough. We need to teach people about buying fish only from sustainable environments, how to raise a chicken per household, how to make the most of a square foot of gardening space, how to use eco-friendly living practices like recycling, etc. In my opinion, there should be one class all four years of high school about this. If people knew how to take care of themselves and didn’t rely so much on a crumbling economy and unreliable resources, maybe we wouldn’t be suffering from soaring food prices. Maybe we’d develop a stronger sense of community if apartment buildings in urban areas all had common-space gardens on the roofs. Maybe it would encourage a more collectivist society where we care about our neighbors and watch each other’s backs instead of the dog-eat-dog capitalist world we’ve created for ourselves. So many studies and media reports say that Americans are miserable. Well no shit. We’re stressed, we eat like crap, most of us can’t afford decent healthcare, and we all have this inbreed sense that we’ve got to be able to take care of ourselves because no one else will. The lucky people belong to communities where they do have good support systems, but I’d wager that these people are in the minority.

Anyway, these are just my thoughts for turning our seemingly hopeless situation around. If you have any other positive ideas that make our situation seem less hopeless, please share them. I could use a little optimism. *steps off of soapbox*

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