Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Braver Angels holds interviews, panel forums on national service


Dec 2007 honoring the fallen on Mall

Braver Angels has been turning some attention to national service, and will have a debate Aug 19 debate, Eventrbite link here.  Or try this link.  The question is, do Americans have a moral obligation to serve in a military or national service or similar program?

Because of a conflict, I may not be able to attend that, but would expect to watch a video of it after the fact and do a review later, on Wordpress.

But there is a big preview available now on YouTube, where Luke Nathan Phillips interviews Americorps chief of external affairs, Sri Preston Kulkani (Aug 13).

As for how the debate question is posed, it seems as though part of the obligation is to serve through a national bureaucracy, or through something like a large, organized non-profit.

Last night, on the GLBT blog, I wrote about a party at a local gay bar where people brought food to the event, and then it was collected and driven to a food bank (in Arlington) today – by me.  This is an informal, flexible way to volunteer that creates an “event” worth writing about (comparable to filming a protest, maybe). 

Later in the evening, someone asked me to give him a ride home.  Not far.  OK, everyone is vaccinated (I hope) and I had my N95 mask and I could roll down the car windows.  But sometimes you have to take risks for people, an idea which is part of the whole debate about “personal agency”.

Preston talked about upcoming day of service on 9/11.  There is also one always on MLK’s Birthday in January.  But on that day in 2020, instead of doing a day at a gay youth shelter (which is often trans and non-binary these days, a lot has changed) I went to Richmond to a Second Amendment event, which was peaceful, despite all the fears from the Left.  But the world decayed quickly after that.

Volunteering in person has been problematic until recently with the vaccines, and the Delta variant can confound it again.  You can do stuff at home?  Well, I don’t raise money because I don’t like to ask people for it,  I guess I could have helped with the vaccine appointments (I had trouble with mine, as the 2nd shot was two days early, website problems).  In the summer of 2020 I actually took the contact tracers course online but decided not to do it because it sounded like you were manipulating people over the phone.

Preston does talk about how the pandemic challenges people to believe we are in this together – when we aren’t.  The well-off are much better able to isolate and protect themselves than the workers they depend on.  That’s part of the cause of the friction over masks and vaccines.  Another problem is that normal online speech about this, in good faith, questioning establishment science (because the establishment changes the message so frequently) can stop people from acting together enough to prevent the pandemic from escaping and overrunning us again. It’s a challenging problem, and Chimese communism may have a better handle on it than American individualism, because in China adults don’t start out with the same presumption of personal agency –  it isn’t allowed.

My own “restructuring” of my online world this winter might make longer volunteer stints possible – even retired people could be expected to do them.

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