Volunteer. Damn It.

by Ben Kleinman

I have a question. Is there nothing wrong with America? Perfection is not what I'm asking about -- with Republicans around the US will never be perfect. I'd just like to know if there is anyone out there who feels that there is no great injustice in our society.

Why ask? Well, I'm not a protectionist and I'm not as isolationist. I'm also not a bleeding heart (which is a rather gory analogy). And I most definitely have fundamental problems with the foreign policy -- or lack thereof -- legislation the Republifascists have been proposing lately. (But, that's another editorial. It would have been this one but I'm trying to be uplifting and demonstrating the ignorance of our House Speaker and his cronies is rather depressing.)

So I reiterate and rephrase: Are there people in America worse off than you are? People who can't afford to go to college. People who only have one meal a day or one meal a week. People who can't read. Who can't add. Who can't determine what time two trains will pass each other of one leaves Chicago at 7AM CST and is traveling SW at 45 MPH and another leaves Los Angeles at 2PM PST that day and is traveling NW at 60 KPH.

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Not just yes but YES!!!! Parts of America look like third-world countries. There are US citizens who live in squalor worthy of a Save the Children commercial. And in Congress it's just not a priority.

Bill 'the best American since George Washington' Clinton may care. And our Senators and Representatives may care. State legislators and Parish council members may care. But pisspoor government caused a lot of today's problems. Policies ranging from slavery to airline deregulation and from containment to works projects have resulted in large proportions of the population living below the welfare line, a government that wants to keep inflation at a certain level in order to ensure that unemployment stays at 6.5%, and a government that wants to cut spending on the young but is afraid to touch money for the old. (I still find that middle one hard to swallow -- the Fed's stand is that over employment would cause inflation and it is therefore determined to make sure there are millions of unemployed Americans.)

All these people may care but they're impotent. Unless we suddenly drop our pseudo-democracy for a benevolent dictatorship we won't see government solve our social problems. We can ask the government to stop hindering us while citizens do the work.

The French had it right (for once) -- brotherhood is essential to democracy. Unless we work together to improve each other I firmly believe our society will go to pot. 'Hell in a handout' if you will. As much as I dislike this solution it's the only viable one:

Volunteer. Call Cactus, tell them you've got an hour a week to tutor somebody. Better yet, call the individual school yourself. Call the No/Aids Taskforce and tell them you can help out in the kitchen one morning. Stop by a shelter and talk with the kids. Find our about habitat for humanity. Offer your services to the Woldenberg Home for the aged. Stop by Children's Hospital or help our with Special Olympics. Call the YMCA. Call the Jewish Community Center. Call the Boys or Girls Club.

What you'll discover is that there are ways for you to help. Pictures of poverty don't have to merely instill a sense of guilt and shame -- they can inspire action. Maybe you don't have time to make a weekly commitment. Fine -- just go once. Yes, you might hate it and have an awful time. But you might have a blast. And you will make a difference.

There are ways to benefit from volunteering. If you find you desire to make a long term commitment then Clinton's Americorp will pay for college in return for a year of work. Many schools and classes offer some type of credit. It may even lead to a paid job.

Remuneration is not primary concern here. The survival of our country is. Only be helping people learn, by sharing the knowledge we as university students have, can we truly help to end the endless cycle of poverty. America can be reunited -- the scission of our society by the shears of educational and social disparity can be prevented.

What it takes is you. You need to make the effort. You need to make the call. An hour of your time now, or the end America later. Take the time. Volunteer.

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