Call for National Service

” The political spectrum is not a straight line. It is more like the Greek letter omega, with the left and right extremes bending toward each other. The common denominators of the hippies and the MAGA militias are a delusional pessimism about our country and a warped emphasis on individual expression — on freedom, that most seductive and dangerous of democratic principles — with no corresponding regard for responsibilities.”…

“In the end, the one thing the armies of the American left and right may have most in common is a weakness for performance art. We are the luckiest people in human history. The overwhelming majority of us — evenmany of those who have suffered the scourge of bigotry — have never experienced war or privation. And so we invent our demons. According to Mogelson, 23 percent of Republicans believe that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global sex-trafficking operation.” That could happen only in a country with too much leisure time on its hands.

The recommendations of the Jan. 6 committee’s final report are numerous and worthy — such as reform of the Electoral Count Act (since passed) and the criminal referrals of Trump and others to the Justice Department — but incomplete. There is nothing to address the nation’s viral playacting, the elitist posturing of the left and the nativism of the right. There is nothing to encourage the rigor and unity that Mailer’s generation experienced in the U.S. Army. So I wonder: Would it be too much to suggest the need for a universal boot camp as a coming-of-age experience where, under muscular duress, we might get to know each other again, followed by a requisite period of national service that is not necessarily military? Democracy demands effort and sacrifice, as well as freedom within limits, especially in a multifarious society. In our affluence, we ask nothing of substance from one another, and nothing of significance from ourselves. It is hard to imagine how a republic can be maintained under those circumstances.”

Joe Klein is the author of seven books, including “Primary Colors” and, most recently, “Charlie Mike.”