By Frank Wessling
Our national concern about jobs is affecting the way we think. Everything begins to look like a “job” when that word is used like a mantra in our politics.
But some activities, some of the most important, like motherhood and fatherhood, are not jobs. They engage the whole person and can’t be turned on and off by the clock. They are better described as vocations, as duty, as service in the biblical sense of dedication to a cause.
It was a jangling experience for an older American to read last week that the Army is beginning to put women into “jobs” formerly closed to them. A new policy, the story said, “will open up about 14,000 new jobs for women in the military” as they are assigned to combat battalions.
But “there are still more than 250,000 jobs that remain closed to women.”
Those “jobs” still closed to women are presumably direct combat “jobs” involving the kill or be killed confrontations of war. In the high-tech military of today, there is lots to be done at safer distance.
Why does the use of jobs language jangle? Because military “work” — another term used in that news story — has been a service in most of our history; a service and duty. Not that we didn’t look for ways to avoid it, but we understood that a duty of citizenship existed when national need called.
We apparently have given up on that notion as more of our military adventures fail the national need test. No one these days seriously proposes a draft for the military based on the duty of citizens. Now our substitute draft is money. “Jobs.”
In the old days we called that a mercenary Army.
The citizens stayed home, safe and comfortable. We paid folks to go out and fight for our comfort.
If we’re now so thoroughly at ease with a mercenary Army that we openly refer to it as “work” and “jobs,” and only in those terms, is this progress?
It feels corrupting to the soul.