THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mandatory National Service as a Political Tool

I want Congress to stop fighting and I want to serve my country. These are connected.

I am twenty-nine and I have never done anything (other than pay taxes) that in any way contributes to this country in which I was lucky enough to be born. But, honestly, I'm probably not going to get around to joining the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps or the armed services anytime soon. I have a career to consider. So -- and I'm talking to you here government -- I want you to force me.

We are one of the few industrialized nations that doesn't require service of our young people. Ask the Israelis. Or the Austrians. Or the Italians. When you come of age, you work for your country for a year or two. And it need not be military.

It's good for young people; for society; and, maybe more importantly, it would be good for our government.

If the past five months of political crossfire have demonstrated anything, it is that an urge for consensus no longer exists in our national government. Obviously, individual congressmen and senators bear the brunt of the responsibility for this. Then, in descending order of social destructiveness, there are interest groups; cable news networks that cover any given issue with all the subtlety of a WWE announcer; left and right wing websites and radio stations that scream ever more incoherently at their opponents; local zealots who rattle assault weapons and PETA banners at town hall meetings; and then -- let's not forget -- the silent majority: voters themselves.

We should acknowledge that the reason our elected representatives devote so much time to screaming at one another is that the people who elected them devote so much time to screaming at one another. Don't believe me? Turn on Rush Limbaugh or Air America.

So rather than lambasting politicians for a fundamental inability to compromise, let's spend a few moments focusing on the voters, on ourselves. Children get along when they are forced to work together on a task that requires their collective labor. What if we asked every young citizen to give a year of his life to national service? What if we integrated whatever service programs we created by the political affiliations of these young people's parents?

I'm willing to bet that that we'd foster some of that much-needed national unity. And, sure, there would still be fighting, but at least we'd know who we were fighting with.