Friday, November 7, 2008

Volunteers of America


"When you choose to serve -- whether it's your nation, your community or simply your neighborhood -- you are connected to that fundamental American ideal that we want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness not just for ourselves, but for all Americans. That's why it's called the American dream."

The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

1. Does it not seem ironic that voluntary service, which so embodies the "fundamental American ideal," is about to be made mandatory, evidently under the rubric of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?"

2.Do you not suppose that service in the newly-formed Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, Veterans Corps, and Classroom Corps might involve some measure of political indoctrination, along with the doing of good deeds? Is not the requirement that one serve in such organizations itself a form of political indoctrination, as it implies that one's talents, energies, and ambitions are owed to, and owned by, the state?

3. Do you not suspect that a current or future administration might channel "volunteers" into such organizations as will serve the interests and/or political priorities of that administration?

4. Do you not wonder on what grounds, constitutionally, the Federal Government may assume the power to "require" students, or anyone else, to engage in "community service?"

5. Does it not seem preferable that private citizens, rather than the Federal Government, decide which types of charitable or state organizations, if any, they shall contribute their time and effort to?

6. Are you not curious as to what may happen to skeptical or reluctant citizens wishing to opt out of such "service?" Will they then be opting out of a high school or college education as well?

7. Do you not wonder in what ways retirees will be "encouraged" to join the volunteer ranks?

8. Does it not seem significant that these "volunteer" programs are to begin with middle and high school students, who cannot vote, and college students, a demographic particularly predisposed to "faith" in the president-elect?

9. Does it not seem an irony of historical proportions that -- while involuntary servitude under private landownders is taken to be America's "original sin" -- our nation's first African-American president plans to institute a program of involuntary servitude, only this time under the authority of the state?

10. Do you not wonder if somehow, somewhere, Orwell is smiling, not with pleasure, but recognition?

"Hey now its time for you and me
Got a revolution got to revolution
Come on now were marching to the sea
Got a revolution got to revolution
Who will take it from you
We will and who are we
We are volunteers of america"

-Jefferson Airplane

Addendum: In the past twenty-four hours, Obama's website has changed the wording of this post to read, "Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free."

Here is a screenshot of the CHANGE.GOV post in its original form.