Reigniting The Meaning Of Citizenship Through National Service

It’s been a long time since a common rite of passage among our nation’s men was to put on a uniform and defend your nation, community, and family. Yet at a time of increasing hyperpolarization in our country, as well as the deteriorating state of our nation’s youth in mind, body, and soul, national military service may be an idea worth considering once again.

National service has been ever-present in our country’s history. From militias in the Revolutionary War era to the wartime drafts in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, to peacetime drafts through various parts of our nation’s past.

The legacy from those eras of conscription still remain in the form of the Selective Service system, which many of us remember being notified that we needed to register for upon reaching age 18.

The Selective Service system also has been the subject of debate in recent years, as many persons have considered whether women should register for it as well – such as during the 2016 Presidential election when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton called for such.

Among other republics and democracies in the world national service is relatively common, from the nations of Europe to Africa, from the Middle East to Asia to South America. Conscription began falling out of favor since the end of the Cold War, as the general state of worry over military conflict faded.

Yet in recent years conscription has made a comeback. French President Macron has been trying to reintroduce military conscription in order to “foster patriotism and heal social divisions.” Norway recently expanded its military conscription in 2016 to include women, as Sweden has now re-introduced conscription as well.

Perhaps the most noted military conscription program is that of Israel, which requires all men and women to serve about two years in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), with few exceptions. While brought about by military necessity, it has also cultivated an Israeli citizenry that has the character, grit, and sense of duty to keep their nation thriving.

It used to be that way in America, as serving in the military was a relatively common experience. In 1980, veterans totaled 18% of adults in the United States. In contrast, by 2016 that number had fallen to 7%.

At a time when our nation is reeling from divisions along seemingly every line possible, it is worth considering a common and shared experience as national service to reconnect our country together. The benefits are very clear in other nations, as despite often no overt military conflict conscription still provides a variety of security and social benefits to the country.

Undoubtedly the implementation of a conscription program, not seen in our nation for almost half a century, would be difficult initially. Not only have the times and culture changed, but so has the very nature of our armed forces.

Our military nowadays is an extremely high-tech organization and finding how to best utilize the massive manpower from our almost 330 million person nation would require careful delineation.

Furthermore, many of our nation’s youth, estimated currently at 71% of those between the ages of 17 and 24, are grossly unfit for military service. Creating a new conscript category and integrating them usefully into the nation’s military would be challenging, but given how seemingly every other nation is able to do it effectively we undoubtedly can find a way to as well.

The idea of national service would undoubtedly require a significant period of pilot programs and testing. The idea has been proposed frequently in the national discourse throughout the years and particularly during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. It is a big, nation-changing policy that certainly, if it gets further traction and consideration, would be a serious national debate.

National service is a very realistic program that could do a lot in solving many of our nation’s otherwise seemingly unsolvable problems, as well as reigniting reflection on the meaning of citizenry in a republic.

I think it is worth considering at our present time, as, although it seems a big change, nonetheless could revive our American spirit and heal our nation in an extraordinary way.

 

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Why Surf Culture Desperately Needs More Diversity

A friend of mine who owns a surf brand recently received an absolutely bonkers series of racist emails. The sender purchased my friend’s product online, then somehow figured out his ethnicity after the fact. Before the order arrived, the customer sent an email canceling his purchase, citing my friend’s ethnicity as the reason. {snip}

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{snip} But my friend’s run-in with at least one surfer’s ethnic phobias did force me to realize how much I, a white guy from a mostly-white Californian beach town, have overestimated the shared experience of all surfers. All part of the same tribe, right? Clearly, that’s also not remotely true.

It’s clear that surf culture does have a problem, and that problem stems from a lack of diversity within our ranks. “History of Surfing” author Matt Warshaw pointed out in a 2015 essay published on Surfer.com that, as a pastime developed largely by brown-skinned Polynesians (as well as Africans in some places and Peruvians in others), surfing has always been multi-cultural.

After all, it was whites who were forced to “break surfing’s glass ceiling in terms of race, a hundred-plus years ago, in Hawaii,” says Warshaw. For surfers, “Hawaii is always there in the back of our minds. Play the race card, in other words, and you answer to Duke Kahanamoku.”

That historical aspect may very well be true, but it doesn’t at all address the issue that surfing today, at least in the world’s two most globally influential surfing nations — the USA and Australia — is overwhelmingly white and upper middle class. This is true in countless lineups, where you’re likely to paddle out and find a mostly homogenous pack of white people surfing on expensive boards, wearing expensive gear in areas with a high cost of living. If you can’t afford it, you ain’t surfing.

I called Jeff Williams, co-president of the Black Surfer’s Collective (an organization that brings inner-city black kids in L.A. to the beach) to talk to him about diversity in surfing. “I’ve never really had problems with actual racism in surfing,” Williams said. “I’ve surfed all over the world, and everywhere I’ve ever been, most surfers are pretty cool.” But he does see the lack of minorities in the surf in the U.S. as problematic. “Look, anytime you try to talk about diversity in surfing, it all boils down to access,” he said. {snip}

Williams thinks {snip} it would take something like a “surfing Tiger Woods” to get inner-city kids to start paying attention to surf culture in a real way. But if we did gain more diverse surf stars bringing different voices and experiences to the table, the mainstream surf culture could only change for the better. Think about The Brazilian Storm: the South American vanguard brought fiery competitiveness and legions of exuberant fans to the World Tour, giving professional surfing a much-needed injection of passion.

But tease that out to include more people of color and more people coming from communities not typically associated with surfing. What styles would emerge and what influences would inform them? What might surf art look like with if it was inspired by a surf experience that differed from the easygoing, middle-class beach life? How might board design evolve if more diverse voices were able to participate in the conversation?

I don’t have the answers, but you don’t have to look very far to find parallels in other sports. Skate culture is far more dynamic because of the cacophony of viewpoints, with universally-acclaimed skaters of diverse races and socioeconomic backgrounds adding to the melting pot. Surfing can only gain from more perspectives adding to our own understanding of what it means to be a surfer, and from embracing those who didn’t come to the beach easily, but made their way nonetheless.

{snip}

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First Peoples: two ancient ancestries ‘reconverged’ with settling of South America

New research using ancient DNA finds that a population split after people first arrived in North America was maintained for millennia before mixing again before or during the expansion of humans into the southern continent. The lab-based science should only be a part of the research.

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Study Finds Two Ancient Ancestries ‘Reconverged’ With Settling Of South America

Recent research has suggested that the first people to enter the Americas split into two ancestral branches, the northern and southern, and that the “southern branch” gave rise to all populations in Central and South America. Now, a study shows for the …

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Something Completely Unexpected Happened to the First Settlers of South America

As the last Ice Age was coming to an end, and as the first settlers arrived in North America, two distinct populations emerged. One of these groups would eventually go on to settle South America, but as new genetic evidence shows, these two ancestral …

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UK contractor to pay $20 million to settle lawsuit claiming it overcharged US Navy

U.K. contractor Inchcape Shipping Services Holdings Limited has agreed to pay $20 million to settle a lawsuit alleging the company intentionally over-billed the U.S. Navy under contracts for ship husbanding services.

The marine services contractor violated the False Claims Act, the U.S. Department of Justice announced this week.

Inchcape provided ships with food and other survival items, waste removal, telephone services, ship-to-shore transportation, force protection services and local transportation to U.S. Navy ships.

The Navy ships were located at ports in southwest Asia, Africa, Panama, North America, South America and Mexico.

The lawsuit alleged that from 2005 to 2014, Inchcape submitted intentionally inflated invoices for goods and services, and in some instances even double billed.

“Federal contractors may only charge the government for costs allowed by their federal contracts. The Department of Justice will take action against contractors that knowingly submit inflated claims to the armed forces — or any other agency of the United States — as those inflated claims wrongfully divert taxpayer dollars,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler said.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie Liu said: “We trust contractors supporting our warfighters to act with the utmost integrity and expect them to comply with their obligations to bill the government as called for by their contracts. This settlement reflects our Office’s strong commitment to holding accountable those who violate these fundamental principles, no matter where they may be located.”

“This settlement demonstrates that the Department of the Navy will continue to hold contractors accountable for the agreements they make to supply our fleet. The Department expects strict adherence to higher standards within the Department and expects the same from its contractors,” Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said.

Jeremy Gauthier, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s (NCIS) D.C. field office, said: “Fraud is an abuse of the system that siphons resources away from the American warfighter. NCIS will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to hold responsible those who would put personal gain above corporate integrity.”

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Brazilian president Michel Temer sends in army as truck protest causes fuel and food shortages

São Paulo, the biggest city in South America, in state of emergency over fuel shortages while markets run out of food Brazil’s conservative president Michel Temer has ordered the army and federal police to clear highways blockaded by striking truck drivers after a protest over soaring fuel prices entered its fifth day. The blockades have paralysed much of the country’s economy and prompted São Paulo, the biggest city in South America, to declare a state of emergency over fuel shortages. Comment: From Reuters: South America’s biggest city and main business hub declared a state of emergency on Friday, suspending non-essential administrative services to save fuel amid a trucking protest that has blockaded major Brazilian highways for five days. In a statement, City Hall said the state of emergency would allow it to seize private goods such as fuel stored at a gas station and make purchases without going through standard budgeting and bidding procedures. “I have actioned the federal security forces to unblock highways and I am asking governors to do the same,” Temer said in a televised address on Friday. “We will not let the population do without its primary needs.” The protests began over fuel prices but have been further stoked by widespread anger over repeated graft scandals involving prominent politicians – including Temer himself. In São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, supermarkets and restaurants are running low on supplies. Some factories have shut down, bus services been reduced and even the Refugees World Cup, scheduled to take place in São Paulo on Saturday, has been cancelled.

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