A Time to Serve...

Paul Evans

In this moment, we will make a choice. We will either renew our sense of national conscience or we will sit with our popcorn and watch as the fiddlers play atop the Congress in discordant harmonies as the “shining city on the hill” burns to ash before our eyes.

For good or ill, our nation was built upon faith – faith in something bigger, stronger, and more important than the one, the few, or the many.

Our nation was established as a result of the Enlightenment: a nation of people struggling with the responsibilities stewarding self-evident truths.

After spending much of last week in DC (and the past week recovering from the experience), I am compelled to share what I have learned – again.

The United States of America is on the verge of greatness: the greatness that comes from surviving great peril; greatness that can only be demonstrated in crisis.

Our Republic has reached the pinnacle of complexity at least in bureaucratic terms. Our politics require legislation written with increasing discretionary authorities – largely beholden to oversight as spectacle, with near invisible autonomy for policy beneficiaries.

Simply put, the US Government now exists much like Frankenstein’s monster: an amalgamation of parts and pieces; free from conscience, control, or purpose.

Our greatest times have always followed our darkest hours. This is not coincidence, but rather the result of an understanding of the nature of our nation: we require purpose – our leviathan can only truly function in harmony when united in common cause for – or against – something.

Manifest Destiny pulled disparate groups together and transformed a continent into a “coast-to-coast” nation with purpose. Though clearly flawed in many, many ways, the result - a global hegemony in waiting – cannot be denied.

World War I and then II – brought the nation together and steeled our resolve to play a larger role in the world. Though we have stumbled many times, we accepted the price of struggling for universal principles in an unprincipled world.

Our last grand efforts, the “Space Race” and the “War on Poverty” were eaten whole by the demands of Vietnam and its kin as a consequence of a Cold War that provided a brittle peace too often purchased through the tyranny of despots – at the price of our national ideals.

In a very real sense we traded the wonder associated with the colonization of the Moon, Mars, and the exploration of our universe with a damp, grey, threadbare security blanket that provided neither wonder, nor security.

Americans are dreamers – we are always at our best when we are provided the blessing of demanding problems to solve in common cause.

As a twenty-year veteran of the US Armed Services I accept that my opinion on matters of national service will always be suspect: there are men and women of good conscience that will always believe people such I are trying to justify an expansion of the war-making power of our America.

All I can say is this: I care not what kind or whether a person wears a uniform, rather I care that each, every American is pulled from the warm comfort of personal isolation and pushed into the world as it is: complicated, frustrating, patently unfair, and wonderful – because of the choices men and women make to improve their neighborhoods within the larger community we share.

It is time for a national mission. It is time for universal national service. And it is time that we recognize that only through learning together, living together, and working together in common cause may we realize the promise of our ideals.

Our Congress is the most fractious in over a Century (or more). And this Congress has, as a matter of undeniable fact, fewer veterans than any Congress since before the Civil War.

This is not coincidence, it is not accident, and it is not an anomaly.

One of the reasons our Congress was able to function for so long after World War II was because of the ability of men (and women) of differing political ideologies to put the nation ahead of their own personal and/or professional aspirations – at least most of the time.

The uniform taught a generation – in fact, two – that we have more in common than we realize and that our nation requires balance, compromise, and patience.

The point is this: we don’t need members of Congress to join the military, or in fact, even more former military members in Congress to move our nation forward.

We do need a nation of citizens with servant-hearts; we need a Congress full of men and women that have experiences serving their communities more than their own pursuits. We need laws rewarding corporate responsibility, neighborhood solutions, and volunteerism.

And we need a national mission that binds us together and values our differences as advantages for the hard work of renewing the ideals of guaranteed opportunity, safe environments, protection of our basis rights, and providing for the needs of today – even as we steward our natural treasures for future generations.

There is a need – a requirement even – for loud, raucous debate on matters of substance. Our Republic is stronger because of the arguments of Clay, Calhoun, and Webster. We have never been a quiet nation, and we should not recollect upon an “easier time” where our leaders were smarter – or better people.

The biggest difference between eras of progress and decline is not the people, nor in fact even the exigencies of the times. People are not born into "great or not-great times" - they seize available opportunities and determine progress is worth its price.

The biggest difference between the bad and good times was the faith of the nation in itself. Our faith is regulated by our attitudes, behaviors, values, beliefs – and choices. We choose whether we will require our leaders to lead or not to lead.

The time has come for leadership – real leadership – not the manufactured image of a person trying to bring people together, but the reality of men and women actually bringing people together…

I went to DC to work with fellow veterans to reach out to Congress in order to facilitate new conversations about energy independence.

I went to DC to work with friends on both sides of the aisles to provide available options for securing the energy we already control; to recommend relatively inexpensive steps that can be taken to provide enhanced safety and security.

And I went to DC to work on relationships with men and women that share a faith in America as it can be – America as it should be.

There are many problems facing our nation, and few have the power to implement any real change, any real progress. Sadly, most of these few with the power to implement change have chosen to do so because of the rewards and risks of our current political dysfunction.

However, as one, I reject the notion that we are excused of our responsibilities to pass on a better, stronger America to the next generation when circumstances make progress difficult or disheartening.

Families come together during catastrophe and crisis: each, every one of us is part of a legacy of national service. It is well past time we cast aside the malaise that has been sold to America by an all too willing accomplice (the media) – and demand action.

For nearly three weeks our airwaves were transfixed by the recent trial of an admitted, but now apparently exonerated, killer in Florida.

Shouldn’t the larger issues of how we reach energy independence, financial health, international stability and the hundred other things that need to be done evoke the same level of attention and national focus?

We are weak when distracted, powerful when pulling in common cause.

Do the math – is it coincidence the major media corporations hype the "inner-Springer" in all of us? Is it merely "good luck" for the vested interests that profit from the status quo that such stories literally take over all news coverage?

Together we must do better. Together we must renew our sense of national mission – and national service – and continue the work of making America the nation we know it can, should, and must become.

In this moment, we will make a choice. We will either renew our sense of national conscience or we will sit with our popcorn and watch as the fiddlers play atop the Congress in discordant harmonies as the “shining city on the hill” burns to ash before our eyes.

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