As an example of how not to think about America.
In a recent “Answer This” puff interview with website Politico.com, Burnett was asked what she would do if she were president just long enough to issue one executive order.
“Mandate one year of service for young people — whether domestically or overseas,” she said. “It could be military or other service. Travel and exposure to people who speak other languages, have different values or live in different socioeconomic situations is important to raising open-minded, tolerant citizens.”
Sounds innocuous enough – and we would wholeheartedly agree with her that foreign travel and service to others are both huge character-builders.
It does sound as if she thinks Americans aren’t “open-minded” and “tolerant,” but that’s not our beef with her statement.
Rather, it’s that she would, even if in a fanciful way, suggest that the president of the United States either could or should dictate to Americans how to spend a year of their lives.
The statement betrays an odd and frightening, though strangely fashionable, expansive view
of the powers of the U.S. government. An
executive order mandating a year of servitude? Really? Even if for humanitarian reasons,
isn’t that just a bit beyond the constitutional
purview of a U.S. president? Or the Congress, for that matter?
This may have been a throwaway line of little importance, but the way of thinking behind it is no small matter – and this is a woman who speaks to hundreds of thousands each day. It reveals a gaping hole in her understanding of our form of government, of liberty, of self-determination. As a free person, you have the right to dedicate a year or even a lifetime to serving others. We recommend it highly! But you also have a right not to have it forced upon you.
This thinking, that because something is good for you or good for the body politic, that the government can therefore require it of you, is a dangerous notion that threatens our liberties because it covers them over with a cushy layer of what passes for compassion these days.
In truth, true compassion is freedom.