The Serve America Act passed yesterday and is on it’s way to be signed by the President. I have no problem with volunteerism and encourage people to partake of such activity, time and resources permitting. In my own experience, volunteerism invoked a sense of satisfaction of self and in the community for those participating. But it is something that has to come from within. It can not be imposed without negative consequences for all involved.
I do like the Act’s restrictions on who may participate: lobbyists, protesters, pro- and anti-union organizations, no partisan activities, and overtly religious groups. In essence political, unions and anti-unions, and religious organizations are not allowed to be funded. It helps ensure volunteer groups are not hijacked by groups like ACORN. Despite this I am concerned about government dictating approved volunteerism considering that there are many fine volunteer organizations involved in politics, unions, and religion that serve their communities well and without imposing their agendas on those they assist.
That said there are some sections of the Act that concern me, among them some rather strange changes to US code. One of these changes, which perhaps sounds frivolous, is changing part of the code from ‘Clothing’ to ‘Uniforms’. Another, perhaps seemingly trivial change, is changing ‘Recreational services and supplies’ to ‘Supplies’. Both sounds rather militaristic in intent to me, but perhaps I’m reading too much into the phrasing. It does sound suspicious to me regardless of intent.
More concerning to me, is the Federalization of volunteerism that this Act seems to advocate by mandating volunteerism in school curriculum to receive funds. That idea is of great concern especially in light of another section of the bill pertaining to the Commission overlooking the implementation of the Act that makes note of the “mandatory service requirements” and the “need for a public service academy, a 4-year institution that offers federally funded undergraduate education”. Those phrases disturbs me greatly as it could easily be corrupted for more nefarious purposes, like conscription replacing volunteerism.
I hope the Act is used to support genuine volunteer efforts and is not subverted into a means for the Federal government to cripple local volunteer groups, indoctrinate volunteers to government sanctioned political policies, or into Federally approved social engineering agendas meant to undercut local historical, cultural, or government practices. I wish I could trust our government enough to not have these suspicions but the evident corruption in our government (TARP, bailouts, tax evaders, FDIC and SEC failure, rampant corruption charges, et al.) is clear and likewise makes anything approved by the government suspect.