J. Peder Zane’s Jan. 1 column, “Here’s to not knowing you,” highlighted America’s fragmentation into demographic and socioeconomic microcosms, attributed to wealth inequality and depersonalizing communication technologies.
I would add another important cause: the 1973 end of the military draft. Writing as an Army veteran who served in the 1950s, I think the draft produced positive consequences for America’s sense of shared experiences. Millions of young citizens were thrown together to somehow survive, whether as draftees with advanced college degrees or as country cousins from Appalachia needing remedial reading and writing.
We knew the America of that era was economically heterogeneous, multicultural and multidemographic; we bunked in a barracks with 50 to 100 guys who were Exhibit A. Ending the draft has meant loss of a citizen military from all backgrounds, always with one foot in the civilian world; the loss of a major deterrent to a chicken-hawk Congress itching to bomb the universe, content in the reality their own kids were not in harm’s way; and a loss by recent and future generations of any sense of what’s out there in the rest of America.
The draft should be restored but without any discriminatory exceptions.