Drafting the future
Draft registration has fallen off, the selective-slavery bureau revealed Wednesday. And that is good news, to be sure. Just think how we freedom-lovers would feel if we were told that compliance with the draft laws had increased!
While it is good news, in a civilizational context it's not uncomplicated news. That's so, at least, if we find ourselves unable to believe in a sudden rising of rebellious, self-conscious, conscientious libertarianism among male teenagers. I cannot believe in any such thing, so what the news tells me is that our country's demographics and civil culture are continuing to change. And that is not such good news for us Old Americans.
The news tells me, too, that our rulers, who have done so much to accelerate and direct those drastic changes, are reaping just what they've sown. Will they relish that harvest or choke on it? It may be too soon to tell, but we must recognize two facts: the consequences of their policies were pretty predictable, and they're pretty smart people.
Of the current crop of 18-year-old boys, "just 88 percent ... have registered, with compliance ranging from 95 percent in New Hampshire to 73 percent in Hawaii," the New York Times reported May 17. ("Fewer 18-Year-Olds Complying With Law on Draft Registration," by Irvin Molotsky) The slavery bureau gave boys in six states an "A" for percentage of compliance: New Hampshire (95), Maine (93), North Dakota (93), Iowa (91), Nebraska (91), and Minnesota (90). Earning a "C," the lowest grade, were boys in these states: California (79), Georgia (79), Kentucky (79), Mississippi (79), South Carolina (79), Texas (77), Louisiana (74), and Hawaii (73). As recently as 1991, 97.7 percent of 18-year-old boys across the country complied with registration.
I will astonish few of my readers when I report that, for public consumption at least, the slavery bureaucrats engaged in much puzzled jaw-stroking and head-scratching in accounting for the latest results. Lewis C. Brodsky, the slavery system's director of public and congressional affairs, told the Times he really didn't know the reason for the big variance in compliance rates but speculated that low population density might have something to do with promoting registration!
The Times's Molotsky pointed out, however, that Kentucky and Mississippi reported both low population densities and low rates of compliance. Molotsky ventured to push his toe into dangerous territory by writing that "another possibility is that large numbers of immigrants may contribute to low registration," although the immigrant-heavy states of Florida (84 percent) and New York (82 percent) did earn "B" grades. (Actually, I'd give New York a B minus.)
Although the results may be somewhat messy, two facts are unquestionable, as well as mostly unmentionable: the populations of the "A" states are overwhelmingly white, and the populations of the "C" states are significantly colored.
Of the eight "C" states, five seceded from the Union in 1860-61, and six had a star in the Confederate national flag, representation in the Confederate Congress, and troops in the Confederate Army. The lowest-ranking "B" state, Maryland (80 percent), tried to secede in 1861, but the Lincolnite forces arrested its legislature before it could do the deed; and Maryland sent thousands of men to fight for the Confederacy.
As a history-minded libertarian, I've always been infuriated and frustrated by one seemingly ineradicable residue of the Rebel states' integration into the new Lincolnite Union after 1865 namely, the disproportionately high participation of the sons of the South in the same Union military forces that invaded and devastated their homeland! I am aware that region-specific cultural factors go a long way toward explaining that dismal fact. Unfortunately, I am not aware that the strong militarism of Southern whites, compared to that of other Americans, has dissipated much in recent years. In fact, being a pessimistic sort, I doubt that it has. The Confederate states' low scores on registration compliance must have much more to do with what is happening among those states' large black populations. I think it must largely reflect the increased drifting of young blacks out of traditional civil society.
I'll also pick up on Molotsky's hypothesis about immigrants. Like Texas, California is a strong magnet for Third World immigrants; and I'd wager that the failure of colored immigrants to enter American civil society helps account for California's low ranking.
If one of the institutions of traditional American civil society is conscription, it's tempting to celebrate the fact, if fact it is, that large groups of the new American population are drifting out of it or failing to enter it. I think, though, that analysis may bear more fruit than celebration.
There are a number of ways to formulate the great tragedy of America. One good way is to observe that the traditional white Western core of the American population has been progressively induced, at least since Lincoln's time, to confuse patriotism with national-statism. In hindsight, we can see now that that process achieved its peak successes during the years of the Great Depression and World War II.
Out of that time came a generation of people who were, above all, responsible. They worked hard, paid their bills, built families and at least tried to keep them strong. They had a mania for education as they understood it. They did their best to pass along to their children a respect for the property of others, at least at the grass-roots level, so that their children of grammar-school age did not regard neighbors' yards as trashable public parks, as children do today.
Birthing illegitimate children was as rare among them as it was disgusting to them. Although they might joke about sex outside of marriage, or even secretly indulge in it, they regarded open cohabitation as a practice of foreigners, as outré as eating snails. They abhorred vices such as drug abuse, and abhorred real crime and criminals as well. As a measure of that abhorrence in its pure Midwestern form, let me report that I am the only member of my family ever to see "The Godfather," our first cinematic glimpse of mobsters "at home." Those people are criminals! Why would anyone want to see them at home?
But the generation of the '30s and '40s had been scared and scarred by depression and war, and they had been led to believe, and finally had chosen to believe, that the United State incarnated in the holy person of their Messiah, Franklin Roosevelt had saved America. Because they confused patriotism and national-statism, that responsible generation came to exhibit an impervious respect for all law, just or unjust, so long as it was "American" law. They believed the welfare state could take care of good people like themselves without robbing good people like themselves. They despised tax "cheats" and draft "dodgers." They voted for one or another of the regime's approved candidates every chance they got, as long as those candidates had not been divorced but had merely committed war crimes. Following the Second War to End All War, they supported the continual little wars of the U.S. Empire, confusing them with wars that had something to do with America. They retained their faith in the System against all odds. Being a patriotic American, for them, was equivalent to being a responsible citizen of the United State.
But as soon as their cat's cradle of values and assumptions and practices was woven together most tightly, loose ends began to work free. In time the entire fabric began coming apart; whole parts of it were torn away in the 1960s by disaffected children of the Roosevelt generation.
Now all of it, the bad of it and the good of it, is being scattered to the winds.
To be continued.
May 20, 2000
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