The current class warfare began without comment when the economic rationale for an all volunteer military trumped any other social considerations. The thinking went this way: poor kids with no job opportunities can find work in the army, make a living, pay taxes, and earn a good retirement. Kids from the middle-class and above will not have to delay their education, go on to be professionals sooner, earn money, pay taxes and have a good retirement. They don’t need military service, and may be depriving a poor kid from an opportunity to have a career.
Left on the cutting room floor of this fantasy film were the social realities, and the determination of the upper classes to protect their kids from learning about kids from different backgrounds, and, heaven forbid, find them to be good and worthy friends. That kind of education would make the movement towards oligarchy much more difficult. It’s one thing to say the poor will always be with us; it’s another thing to say, my buddy Joe is in trouble, and this legislation will make his life worse. It’s one thing to say war is hell; it’s another to say my son and daughter are going to have to go there if we don’t find a way to avoid it.
Anyone who served in the army before it became all volunteer will have stories of camaraderie with people he never would have met; people with different ways of talking, and thinking, and with different attitudes about life and love and what it means to be a friend.
Universal military service translates into universal ownership of the rights of citizenship; not inherited simply by being born here or being rich or clever; but earned in the service of this country. You cannot spend your two years in the army and not care about what happens to it, what policies it follows, what mistakes it makes, and what wonderful things it does. Values are not simply cognitive choices. We live them everyday. And to decide that everyone doesn’t have the same obligation to serve in the military was a deliberately divisive strategy and we are now living with the consequences of that decision.