A couple of years ago MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry drew the ire of conservatives when, while discussing public education, she criticized the “private notion of children, (that) your kids are yours and totally your responsibility.” She continued, “we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities”
Conservatives were livid at the suggestion of collective ownership of children. RedState.com was particularly incensed, huffing, “Didn’t we fight a war back in the 1800s to prove that people weren’t owned by the state or anyone else, but were, in fact, people?”
Despite Red State’s tenuous grasp on the history of the Civil War, the site raised a good point. The idea that children belong to the community or the state is indeed collectivist nonsense and, because of this, it’s not terribly surprising when the left advocates it.
But in recent weeks one of the right’s beloved institutions, the military, has made strikingly similar claims of ownership of America’s children. Last week two senior military officials, Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller and Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley, encouraged a change in the Selective Service rules that would require young women to register for the draft, mirroring the requirements already imposed on American males. The two generals believe that this change is only fair considering the recent opening of combat jobs to women.
In clear disagreement with the decision to put women in combat roles, Republican Representatives Duncan Hunter of California and Ryan Zinke of Montana introduced legislation last week that would make the requested change in the Selective Service law. Hunter and Zinke see their legislation as an opportunity to force a national debate on the role of women in the military, but, according to Fox News, “women between the ages of 18 and 26 would be required to register” for the draft if the legislation is approved.
This issue found its way into last week’s Republican debate in New Hampshire. When asked about requiring young women to register for the draft, Marco Rubio replied, “I do believe that Selective Service should be opened up for both men and women in case a Draft is ever instituted.”
When asked if he agreed with Rubio, Jeb Bush answered, “I do.” Chris Christie somehow saw the issue in a libertarian light, stating that “there’s no reason why…young women should be discriminated against from registering for the selective service.” Ben Carson then chimed in with a characteristically off-topic comment. Among the presidential candidates, only Ted Cruz, to his surprising credit, has openly opposed the idea of drafting women into the military.
In the media, some conservatives, including Rich Lowry and Mark Levin, have spoken out against including females in any potential draft, while other conservative-minded pundits, like Greta Van Susteren, have pointed out that there currently is no draft, so the debate is over nothing.
But even among conservatives who are criticizing the current proposals, the draft itself is not being challenged. Conservatives only seem bothered that females are now permitted to fight in the government’s wars and that young women are likely to be subject to the same claims of ownership that the government already makes on young men.
Let’s not kid ourselves about what the draft really is, which is nothing less than the government kidnapping individuals and impressing them into forced labor, labor which in this case is defined as fighting for the empire. This comes very close to the dictionary definition of slavery, which Red State brought up in its criticism of Melissa Harris-Perry. And yet conservatives don’t seem to care all that much about the draft itself.
Just as it is not surprising when the left claims that all of America’s kids are collectively owned when it comes to education, it is likewise unsurprising when conservatives approve of the military’s option to claim ownership over the nation’s youth. Conservatives, even while professing their devotion to the family and the values it instills, have long prioritized militarism and its attendant apparatus over the family.
As Bill Kauffman has written, “The leadership of the famly-values Right is hopelessly compromised by its long-term adulterous affair with the Republican Party” – the party most closely identified, right or wrong, with post-World War II militarism.
Lost on conservatives is the inherent incompatibility of militarism and never-ending war with traditional family values. The empire whirlwinds its way around the world, bringing death and destruction to millions of foreign citizens, and conservatives stand and cheer its virtue. It claims the right to drag their sons from their homes and send them to fight abroad, and conservatives revel in the patriotism of their acquiescence. Now the empire makes the same claim on their daughters and conservatives can only whine about it being the result of feminist activism.
Kauffman is correct when he observes that “conservatives…revere war above all other values. It trumps the First Amendment; it razes the home; it decks the decalogue. And they don’t care.” If the government and military’s intrusions upon the family aren’t enough to make them realize the evils of empire, then nothing will. They are like the Old Testament prophet Isaiah who said, “Here am I LORD, send me” – except conservatives see a lesser authority and sacrifice their children to it saying, in essence, “Here are my children, Empire, send them.”
And they still act offended when the left wants to mark children as a collectively-owned good.
Frederic Bastiat wrote that, “All monopolies are detestable, but the worst of all is the monopoly of education.” Far be it from me to correct Bastiat, but I think in this instance he may have overstated his case. A monopoly on violence and enslavement is at least as bad.