Conscription: to compel into service. Also known as “the draft.” Most may see it as a relic of wars past and administrations gone by. An event that happened during WWI and Vietnam — not in the 21st century. Something that serves as a slap in the face to the 13th Amendment (the one banning slavery and involuntary servitude) and a challenge to the spirit of what living in a free country is all about.
Something that will never happen again, right?
Don’t kid yourself.
Last year two bills were introduced and are now in congressional committees, H.R. 163 of the House of Representatives and S. 89 of the Senate, both known as the Universal National Service Act of 2003.
The purpose of the UNSA is, “to provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security and for other purposes.”
Just what exactly does “other purposes” entail — empire upkeep and expansion? Or is it that we never intend to leave Iraq or any other corner of the world that would give us a tactical advantage, and we will need a never-ending flow of new conscripts to enforce our might?
The existence of the UNSA isn’t exactly coffee table conversation (yet), so here are the greatest hits from the document itself.
“It is the obligation of every citizen of the United States, and every other person residing in the United States, who is between the ages of 18 and 26, to perform a period of national service as prescribed in this Act.”
That pretty much covers the great majority of those of you reading this. So how does a young conscript under this Act fulfill this national service? Either two years of military service or two years “in a civilian capacity that, as determined by the president, promotes the national defense, including national or community service and homeland security.”
I’m all about people getting involved and helping out with the community in charitable capacities. But the thing about volunteering is it’s supposed to be voluntary. And that whole, “as determined by the president” thing is a tad worrisome. Imagine if some nut job somehow gets into office and uses this power to further an agenda that has as much to do about protecting our freedom as the Iraqi war did with weapons of mass destruction.
Think about that.
But take heart! There are ways of getting out of this mandatory two-year sentence — uh … I mean service. Enlisting in the armed services, enrolling as a cadet in a military school or being accepted for officer training are all great ways to get out of conscription. Sorry. Going to college is no longer an acceptable deferment option.
But at least conscientious objectors who, for religious or other beliefs, refuse to fight are kindly placed in non-combat military situations, and some even allowed to transfer to the civilian service program. Unless, of course, your objections and beliefs are against involuntary servitude. That doesn’t count. Just ask Thoreau.
I have never felt better about being 27 than I do now. However, I have a younger brother and sister whom this would affect and if I should ever have children … .
But breathe easy, comrade! The UNSA isn’t likely to pass this year, as Bush would be more a fool than those “Bushism” calendars make him out to be if he were to reinstate the draft right before an election. But this fiscal year, $26 million is being devoted to gearing up the Selective Service System to be ready in 2005 (www.sss.gov).
So, how old will you be next year?
Shannon Baldwin, The Rocky Mountain Collegian, Colorado State University.