With the elimination of the draft, American wars are not being declared by Congress as is required by the U.S. Constitution, and are almost exclusively being fought by soldiers who leave school without either the tolerance of those different than themselves or the possibility of gainful employment -- both of which come from being well educated. The rhetoric in our society still almost exclusively deals with people of color being discriminated against by the dominate White and comparatively affluent people who control this country. However, the endemic racism that pits inner-city minorities of color against each other remains unscathed by education or the social reality of gangs and poverty largely based on race and neighborhood affiliation. A measure of public education is the realization of the commonality of what it means to be an American, but this does not come without real public education that is the sole means of addressing the provincial ideas upon which racism is based that remain for the most part unchallenged in 2010 public schools. In terms of shear numbers there are far more ignorant -- not stupid -- Whites being moved through schools without basic skills than there are minorities. This only goes to completing the social isolation that is anathema to teaching the common values as what it means to be an American.
The fantasies that Blacks and Latinos still harbor about each other and the White feelings of entitlement remain unscathed because our public education system has done little in the last half century to confront these fantasies with the reality that comes from being educated in an integrated society where the daily interaction in schools of all Americans would finally put to rest the virulent racist fantasies that continues to preclude the American dream of advancement based on merit and not birth.
The minority and generally poorly educated students, many of whom have dropped out of school, continue to swell the ranks of the American military, because it is one of the few opportunities other that selling fast food at $8 an hour that is open to them without education or skills. As one of my Black students said about being a truck driver in Iraq with Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) all around, "Hell, I can get killed in Los Angeles by a drive by, but here nobody other than the army is giving me a $20,000 bonus plus benefits for just signing up." He went on to say that "Yes, some guys get killed, but not everybody, so I'm willing to take my chances for a chance at a better life than the one I'm living." The fact that he is being sent to another country to kill people of color similarly placed in the social pecking order of that country is lost on this ex-student who cannot find Iraq or Afghanistan on a map.
Without all citizens being required to fight America's wars, several things happen. There is no moderating view of all Iraqis and Afghanis as being anything but the same indistinguishable enemy that finds no logical contradiction in lumping together Sadam Hussein and Al Qaeda in a manner that someone ignorant attacking this country might do in putting together the Klu Klux Klan and the Black Panther Party because they are both American. Furthermore, something as basic to this democracy as the idea that government represents the will of the people is easily substituted with patriotism coming to mean blind obedience to government policy while labeling those that object as being unpatriotic.
In Nuremberg after WWII, the judgment that the Allies passed on the German people was that there comes a point when saying "I was only following orders" is not an acceptable response or excuse for war crimes. With the average American soldiers today being mostly unable to tell you when the Civil War took place (1861-65), it is clear that the historical reality of what our freedom is based on is not being taught in our schools. In remembering the words in President Lincolm's Gettysburg Address:
"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."
The most important battle American is presently fighting is not in Iraq or Afghanistan, but rather in our predominantly segregated inner city public schools.