A young black man is taken away from his wife and child by armed men. They haul him away across a great ocean and force him to labor for them. If he tries to escape, they will place him in chains. If he succeeds in escaping and is recaptured, they may decide to kill him. His life is theirs to dispose of as they please. He must obey them blindly, any questioning of their authority may result in being chained to a post and whipped.
Do I describe slavery in 1790, or the draft during the Vietnam War?
Guess what; I’m not going to even tell you which one it is.
Would it matter?
What kind of “free country” would allow the above description to apply under any circumstances at all? People are quite fond of asking this of the kind of the slavery that ended in 1865, but not the kind that was started in 1863.
The one form of indentured servitude still legal for non-convicts in the United States is military service. When you join the military, you have fewer rights and freedoms left than did “indentured servants” in the Americas three centuries ago:
- You have masters whose orders you must follow without question.
- You are not allowed to “quit” until your contracted term ends (if then), unless your appeal to your masters and they agree, which is unlikely.
- They command labor from you, while you’re paid a token sum and given a minimal standard of food and shelter.
- You may well be doing it on the promise of training that can become a career once you are freed of the obligation.
So far, this describes an indentured servant in the Colonies in 1700, or a US soldier.
But unlike other indentured servants, as an American soldier you’re not allowed to sue your masters, not even after you leave.
Now I’m not saying the above is necessarily a bad thing. Well, except the not suing part…that’s obscene.
But it’s certainly hypocritical that this kind of treatment was also banned by the US government, except that it makes itself the exception.
Sadly, though, that’s normal for government, the kind of double standard that lets a state ban gambling as harmful to the poor, then set up a state lottery that it markets specifically against poor people, at worse cost/payoff ratio than any casino, sporting event, or numbers runner.
But the difference between an indentured servant and a slave is simply that one chooses (if only through his actions) to be an indentured servant, and signs a contract agreeing to its conditions and to when it will end, as with volunteer soldiers, while a slave is taken by force and kept until his masters choose to release him.
It is a line that should never be crossed, of course, in a free country.
That is the line, of course, that is crossed by the draft, or any other mandatory “service”.
Some people would claim that this is “necessary for the defense” of that free country, or some other accomplishment.
Of course this is not true.
If someone were actually to attack that free country, its people would rise up and eagerly fight to defend it, as their own liberty is at stake.
It is when the country aggresses against another, or decides to risk the lives of its subjects in some foreign war, that the people are reluctant to die at the command of its leaders.
In other words; if the country deserves to have its military ranks filled, they will be filled.
A country that can’t get its people to fight for a cause does not merit their help in the first place.
It is never justified in resorting to slavery, for any cause at all.