Here's how it would work. Young people will know that between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, the nation will enlist them for three months of civilian service. They'll be asked to report for three months of basic civil defense training in their state or community, where they will learn what to do in the event of biochemical, nuclear or conventional attack; how to assist others in an evacuation; how to respond when a levee breaks or we're hit by a natural disaster. These young people will be available to address their communities' most pressing needs.
Now, I know a lot of people have a problem with the compulsory part. Americans have a dig-in-the-heels attitude towards being told what to do. I know; I am one of those.
However, I am old enough to remember the old Civil Defense program where certain people in our neighborhood were trained to deal with emergencies which at least in our New Hampshire town, thankfully never occurred. But back then, lacking blogs, cell phones, or even TV in most homes, we had a strong sense of local community. We knew our neighbors. People gladly volunteered for community programs. Training was held in the local grange hall, and graduates got a helmet with a sticker on it and a flashlight.
Today, in our media-saturated world, where we have packaged distractions (complete with advertisements) before our eyes from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep, volunteerism is in decline. The growth of the global electronic village has created a decline in the sense of local community. We webcam with the BFF in Brussels but scarcely say two words to the family next door.
Now, I am the kind of guy who has a fire extinguisher and flashlight in every room, and swiss army knives are stashed in all sorts of convenient places. Call it a hangover from being a Boy Scout; I like feeling prepared to deal we with life's emergencies. My ladylove and I did all right in the aftermath of the Northridge Earthquake compared to neighbors less well prepared.
So, while I have a problem with "compulsory", there is a part of me that wonders what the aftermath of Katrina would have been like had the folks in New Orleans had three months of training to deal with (among other things) natural disasters, instead of having to sit and wait for governmental help that never came.
I just have to wonder.