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A Question of Service

After the recent election, I posted this:

So. Obama has challenged us. The American people cannot just vote and call it good. We need to “summon a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice…a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility.”

What is your service? What is your sacrifice? What are you going to let your sense of patriotism serve? What are you going to be responsible for?

I got few replies and many of them were pretty frivolous. Jonathan Alter is asking a similar question over at Newsweek. I hope he gets a better answer.

15 comments to A Question of Service

  • It’s a tough question, and I don’t know that I have a good answer. I’d love to say I’ll volunteer more, but I know myself. Right now, I’ve got two boys (4 years old, 18 months old, respectively), and they’re my priority, and while we’ve been generous on donations to charities and nonprofits this year (knowing that times are tough), that doesn’t seem like something big enough to use as an answer.

    On the non-economic side of it, I’m committing to including people of color and/or non-heteronormative sexual orientations in everything that I write, but again, while I think that’s a good thing to do, I have a hard time seeing that change the world. I renounced Catholicism after California’s Prop 8 passed, but again again, that meant a lot to me but not much to the world at large.

    I’d love to have better answers. Do you have suggestions for a gaming California kid currently living in Canada?

  • It’s a tough question, and I don’t know that I have a good answer. I’d love to say I’ll volunteer more, but I know myself. Right now, I’ve got two boys (4 years old, 18 months old, respectively), and they’re my priority, and while we’ve been generous on donations to charities and nonprofits this year (knowing that times are tough), that doesn’t seem like something big enough to use as an answer.

    On the non-economic side of it, I’m committing to including people of color and/or non-heteronormative sexual orientations in everything that I write, but again, while I think that’s a good thing to do, I have a hard time seeing that change the world. I renounced Catholicism after California’s Prop 8 passed, but again again, that meant a lot to me but not much to the world at large.

    I’d love to have better answers. Do you have suggestions for a gaming California kid currently living in Canada?

  • Eh. The American electorate has been taught to be cynical about government and the public interest for over a generation now. It’s going to take a long time for that to change. I suspect it’s going to be our kids who really do the job.

    Which isn’t to say that we can’t make a start at it, of course.

  • Eh. The American electorate has been taught to be cynical about government and the public interest for over a generation now. It’s going to take a long time for that to change. I suspect it’s going to be our kids who really do the job.

    Which isn’t to say that we can’t make a start at it, of course.

  • Eh. The American electorate has been taught to be cynical about government and the public interest for over a generation now. It’s going to take a long time for that to change. I suspect it’s going to be our kids who really do the job.

    Which isn’t to say that we can’t make a start at it, of course.

    • I had this exact discussion with a friend at game night tonight. His point was essentially yours, that Americans have rightfully become cynical about what their “sacrifices” accomplish. I argued that while it may be true, we’re not going to change without taking a step. We can do it now while we have some choice about our service and our sacrifice, or we can do it when it’s forced upon us by circumstances (war, depression, energy crisis, national emergency, etc). I’d rather we choose to do something now but I do understand why people might not be so inclined.

      I’ll still press for them to choose differently. :)

      • There’s a little more going on here, though. It’s not just that Americans have “rightfully” become cynical about government. In fact, that cynicism has been deliberately cultivated by a movement which uses it to gain power – whereupon it indulges in such a degree of incompetence, corruption, and willful destruction of existing institutions that the only rational response is more cynicism.

        Or, in other words: if you elect people who are running on the platform that government is always a problem, then you are guaranteed that government will be a problem.

        It’s a vicious circle that took something of genius to set up, not to mention years of propaganda. It’s going to take some serious leadership and years of effort to halt and then reverse that trend.

  • In my case it’s going to have to be supporting people putting pressure on the authorities for causes I care about – human rights in general, health care and the rest of the safety net, a public square not skewed too strongly in the direction of any particular religion, LGBT rights, and like that. So I’m going over my budget to see what luxuries I can sensibly trim to have the money for it. It seems a reasonable investment in a country that won’t make me sick to think of it as I think about where I live.

  • In my case it’s going to have to be supporting people putting pressure on the authorities for causes I care about – human rights in general, health care and the rest of the safety net, a public square not skewed too strongly in the direction of any particular religion, LGBT rights, and like that. So I’m going over my budget to see what luxuries I can sensibly trim to have the money for it. It seems a reasonable investment in a country that won’t make me sick to think of it as I think about where I live.

  • In my case it’s going to have to be supporting people putting pressure on the authorities for causes I care about – human rights in general, health care and the rest of the safety net, a public square not skewed too strongly in the direction of any particular religion, LGBT rights, and like that. So I’m going over my budget to see what luxuries I can sensibly trim to have the money for it. It seems a reasonable investment in a country that won’t make me sick to think of it as I think about where I live.

  • In my case it’s going to have to be supporting people putting pressure on the authorities for causes I care about – human rights in general, health care and the rest of the safety net, a public square not skewed too strongly in the direction of any particular religion, LGBT rights, and like that. So I’m going over my budget to see what luxuries I can sensibly trim to have the money for it. It seems a reasonable investment in a country that won’t make me sick to think of it as I think about where I live.

  • I had this exact discussion with a friend at game night tonight. His point was essentially yours, that Americans have rightfully become cynical about what their “sacrifices” accomplish. I argued that while it may be true, we’re not going to change without taking a step. We can do it now while we have some choice about our service and our sacrifice, or we can do it when it’s forced upon us by circumstances (war, depression, energy crisis, national emergency, etc). I’d rather we choose to do something now but I do understand why people might not be so inclined.

    I’ll still press for them to choose differently. :)

  • This is kind of a strange subject for me, as I work in the public sector. A big part of my job includes things that a lot of people volunteer for – sorting and tagging books for foster kids, doing storytime, letting people know about United Way programs for kids of all incomes, helping people file for unemployment and other benefits, etc. So, for me to think about spending even MORE time doing these things is a stretch. I don’t mean to sound selfish, but I need to think about my husband and daughter as well.

    And, yes, being denied a raise for three years, and getting a 22% raise in health ins premiums this year has made me even more cynical. But I do try – when we have food drives, I try to contribute something, even if it’s just a couple of cans of peas. I hope the whole attitude of people turns around – not just about public service and helping others, but of caring more for their fellow humans.

  • This is kind of a strange subject for me, as I work in the public sector. A big part of my job includes things that a lot of people volunteer for – sorting and tagging books for foster kids, doing storytime, letting people know about United Way programs for kids of all incomes, helping people file for unemployment and other benefits, etc. So, for me to think about spending even MORE time doing these things is a stretch. I don’t mean to sound selfish, but I need to think about my husband and daughter as well.

    And, yes, being denied a raise for three years, and getting a 22% raise in health ins premiums this year has made me even more cynical. But I do try – when we have food drives, I try to contribute something, even if it’s just a couple of cans of peas. I hope the whole attitude of people turns around – not just about public service and helping others, but of caring more for their fellow humans.

  • There’s a little more going on here, though. It’s not just that Americans have “rightfully” become cynical about government. In fact, that cynicism has been deliberately cultivated by a movement which uses it to gain power – whereupon it indulges in such a degree of incompetence, corruption, and willful destruction of existing institutions that the only rational response is more cynicism.

    Or, in other words: if you elect people who are running on the platform that government is always a problem, then you are guaranteed that government will be a problem.

    It’s a vicious circle that took something of genius to set up, not to mention years of propaganda. It’s going to take some serious leadership and years of effort to halt and then reverse that trend.