On Monday, our nation celebrated the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. A week earlier, my kids and I had our own private moment of reverence in the waiting room of our dentist.
As we waited, my youngest said in response to a picture of broccoli we were viewing in a magazine, “I hate broccoli.” To which I responded: “You dislike broccoli. Let’s reserve hate for those people or things who intentionally and repeatedly cause us harm, and even then, let’s consider another word.”
A woman sharing the wait spoke up, saying she’d tried to teach her children the same thing. “It was Dr. King who taught me about forgiveness,” she went on to say, “taught me to answer everything with love.”
I carried this experience with me into a conversation I had later with my mom, with whom I have been speaking about my passion for liberty. Telling her that while I don’t consider myself politically any more a libertarian than I do a republican or democrat (“how are you going to vote on specific issues?” is what I want to know), I do feel deep truth in many libertarian arguments.
Now my mom is a hippie from way back. She took me to No Nukes rallies, she embodied the Women’s Rights movement with her own life choices, and even in retirement, she employs her professional expertise as a psychologist in helping homosexual, bi-sexual and transgender youth navigate the hetero-dominated culture of her area of North Carolina. If anyone would favor increased personal liberty, I thought, surely Mom would. Not so.
Instead Mom responded with fear. “I remember what it was like before the government stepped in,” she kept saying. “I remember what it was like before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
And she wasn’t alone in her response. A similar conversation with another Baby Boomer netted the same result. He’s a local business owner and if anyone would be in favor of smaller government, I thought surely he would be. Again, not so.
“Where would we be without the Food and Drug Administration making sure our food is safe?” he offered. I countered that I’d hedge my bets with knowing the farmer who grows my food and raises my livestock, that if his family is eating what they’re selling me, I feel pretty secure. But that is a debate for another day.
What is of import here is a single Libertarian position for which I have yet to find a naysayer. It goes like this:
The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified on December 6, 1865, abolishes slavery. Specifically, it reads:
“1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation” (1).
Seems to me that if someone is drafted into the United States military, that’s equivalent to their being forced into “involuntary servitude” and that is unconstitutional. Let me repeat this – forced conscription through the draft into the United States military is unconstitutional, clearly prohibited by the 13th Amendment.
And that, is a libertarian principle that even my mom can support. I have two boys of my own, so you can bet your ass I’m resonating with its truth.
Most folks I talk to don’t believe this idea will leave America defenseless either. They agree that it is absurd to assume a country without a standing army or draft is indefensible. Because should the cause be just, you can also bet your ass that other citizens, like this peace-loving daughter of a hippie, will be on the front line with our children.
So for now, I’ll leave the discussion with my mother there. I won’t tell her about our experience in the dentist’s waiting room where whites and blacks sat together, talked together and agreed together to teach our kids about the incredible power of love as a response to hate — not because Government compelled us to do so, but because a man named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated publicly what many of us already felt in our hearts: that we are all equal.
An idea who’s time has come, an idea that once learned, that once settled into our thought processes infuses all further thought with its clarity — that is a human truth, and we don’t need any government to tell us it’s wiser to live in truth.