In Search of a Common Cause

In a bitter and divided era, national service can help us regain our lost consensus

  • Andrew Hinderaker for TIME

    Veteran Larry Nosker (right) speaks with Joe Klein on his annual road trip at Richard's Coffee Shop and Military Museum in Mooresville, N.C., on Friday, June 1, 2012. Joe met with Larry and several other veterans.

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    I'm not sure that Kinum was entirely convinced. And I'm not sure he should be. We have drifted a long way from civic rigor in this country. We've had a period of intense prosperity and intense immigration and intense growth of government programs for those in need, followed by an economic crash. We don't know each other very well anymore, and it's hard to trust people you don't know. Throughout history, civilizations have built a common cause through coming-of-age rituals. But we don't do that anymore. Maybe we should think about that. It could be something as simple as kids' cleaning up their schools together, as Bob Quinn did--yes, Newt Gingrich was right about that--or it could be full-blown national service, including boot camp. But unless we start getting to know each other better, our chances of coming to a consensus about the important things we have to do together as a nation are going to be pretty slim.


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