There's a weird irony at work when Sen. Barack Obama, the black presidential candidate who will allegedly scrub the stain of racism from the nation, vows to run afoul of the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery.Oh noes! Barack Obama plans to reinstitute slavery?
For those who don't remember, the 13th Amendment says: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime ... shall exist within the United States."
In his speech on national service Wednesday at the University of Colorado, Obama promised that as president he would "set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year."Wha--? Did Jonah Goldberg just make the argument that adding a curriculum requirement for colleges and schools is tantamount to slavery? Really? I mean, by that logic, isn't compulsory education itself slavery? Does this make No Child Left Behind the Dred Scott decision of the 21st century? And if so, does that mean the anti-choicers have to stop using it as a dog-whistle?
He would see that these goals are met by, among other things, attaching strings to federal education dollars. If you don't make the kids report for duty, he's essentially telling schools and college kids, you'll lose money you can't afford to lose. In short, he'll make service compulsory by merely compelling schools to make it compulsory.
And what of stop-loss orders? Aren't those men and women conscripted in opposition to the 13th Amendment? Was the draft unconstitutional? Are school dropouts part of the Underground Railroad? How deep does this metaphor go, anyhow?
Well, actually not that far, because it was made by Jonah Goldberg. Indeed, one suspects Goldberg made this argument for the same reason that he wrote Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from McEwan to Marcotte. It's wacky and counterintuitive to call a black man a slaveholder.
And so that's what Goldberg does, ignoring the very obvious facts on the ground, like the fact that my daughter will be required to attend school when she's in middle school, every day barring illness, whether she likes it or not. And that's just the requirements from me and her mom -- the government also wants her there. For the government to add 50 hours of community service to that time? Pretty minor compared to the roughly 1300 hours of class time she'll have, not to mention activities and homework. About five hours or so a month. I think if I can work it out for her to do that at the humane society, she could hit 50 hours in the first month.
That's a little different than having your family clapped in irons, shipped across the sea on crowded, disease-ridden boats where half of you die, only to reach land and have the lucky survivors broken up and sold off to the highest bidder, children ripped from parents, husbands torn from wives, families shattered. And then your destiny is to be brought to work the land as much as your owner requires, or to clean your owner's house, or to submit to your owner raping you, to bear children who face your awful destiny, to hope only that some day, some how, your people will be freed -- and to die without the ability to decide for yourself what your life will be.
Cute argument, Jonah. It's not quite "The white male is the Jew of liberal fascism," but it'll do.