Slavery is a hot-button political issue in the US that is exploited by both parties for gain when it is convenient. As a general rule, since the complete passing into history of the last generations of Americans who either lived in or saw the slavery of the 19th century, it is common to speak of an “antebellum” and “post-bellum” America in reference to the War Between The States, known to some as the “Civil War”.
One of the outcomes of the above-mentioned war was the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, known popularly to many as the Amendment that abolished slavery. But has anybody taken the time to read the full text of the Amendment? Consider the text below:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. (source, source)
Read that highlighted part again:
except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted
The significance of this “exception,” something famous in all of American law, is tremendous.
It is a falsehood to say that the Thirteenth Amendment abolishes slavery at all. What it does is to abolish certain forms of slavery, most importantly direct person-to-person and direct corporate-to-person slavery. That is, a person or a company cannot “own” slaves unless the person is considered a “criminal,” and in order to be considered a “criminal”, one would need to be convicted of a “crime.”
I use the term “crime” as opposed to crime here because “crime” under American law is completely divorced from morality and many times from cultural ethos, but is determined at will by the government and often times at the direction of which lobbyist can throw the most money into the pockets of or hold the largest and most damning amounts of blackmail against the politicians that elect said laws into legal effect.
The average American person does not care about law, or even to a large extent his neighbors. Bound often times by no sense of shared ethnicity, culture, history, or sense of place and meaning in the world, he floats through life as a consuming entity but unsure of his purpose for consumption. Like an animal on a farm, he is aware of his surroundings but often times seems to be unsure of the meaning therein even if he claims to be aware of events taking place around him. What he tends to focus on are his needs in the current moment, and the concept of a “future” to him is not centuries, but rather at most the next five years.
This perspective is reflected in the political order, but runs in terms of the length to the next election. Politicians are not creatures that rise up from the bowels of the Earth or descend from planets in space, but are selected from the men and women in the areas they come from. As such, the “corruption” in Washington that is so often spoken about is not always corruption in “Congress,” but many times (certainly not always) is a reflection of local problems that were not dealt with in an effective way and just grew to their natural ends.
People will often times talk about “those foreign invaders”- today it is Mexicans but in ages past it was German, Irish, Italians, and Poles -but do they ever talk to their neighbors or have any serious relations with them? Just go to almost any American communal area be it an urban apartment complex, suburban areas, a housing development, or the countryside, and what unites Americans would seem to be their desire to get to work and then get away from each other as fast as possible with minimal interaction. This is less common with foreign peoples, but is endemic among “white” Americans, and still an issue but to a somewhat lesser extent with “black” and “Hispanic” Americans.
Taken to the political order, what does this mean? Politicians do not want to “interact” with each other per se, let alone their constituency, and just want to get enough support to get elected in two to six years time, and will do what they believe they need to do in order to get elected.
This is one problem that exists. The other problem is that the people, while professing “freedom,” do not want to seriously hold any position that may inconvenience them or disrupt the social order, and if such does arise, they want a return to the status quo, even if it is harmful. One can see this in action by waiting for a snowstorm or other major disaster, or perhaps a disruption in the supply chain of a popular business caused by natural circumstances. Simply put, wait for the previous set of events and then go to the local McDonalds, Starbucks, Popeyes, or other fast-food place, and watch the chaos unravel:
It’s not an accident that people will attack underpaid and overworked fast-food employees and their restaurants because the business ran out of “McNuggets” or whatever other popular item may be in question, because it is a reflection of the American obsession with a superficial concept of “order” and an inability to deal with interruptions to said order.
The American treatment of “criminals” and “crime” reflects this through the unbalanced treatment of people accused of crimes, where the US is known to give very hard, long sentences to people for minor or petty crimes. This is not to say that crime should not be deal with or that people who do crimes are simply “innocent,” but that the treatment of people accused of criminal behavior, even small accusations, leads to a lifetime of economic and social disenfranchisement and the subjugation to conditions where it is incredibly easy to be re-convicted of a crime and thus be stuck in the mesh of the so-called “criminal justice” system. I speak not here of even one committing real crimes, but for example, getting a traffic ticket while on probation for whatever crime, or perhaps a delay in sending in paperwork due to issues with the Post Office (such as delays caused by natural reasons), as such can be used to “justify” accusing a person of committing a crime (failure to follow through on conditions for probation) and thus be convicted again.
This is just for those who are caught by the system. American law has become so unwieldy that daily living often times results in the average man, as one author notes, committing three felonies a day not because he is an evil person, but because of the laws themselves.
American law is not written to reflect a system of religious, cultural, or social standards, but to reflect a people who ‘do not want to be bothered’ and ‘do not want to cause trouble,’ preferring to do whatever they have to in order to go from work to their homes and not have to interact with anybody.
Now consider the above situation with the law on slavery in light of the state of American law.
Only the government can effectively enslave people, and the way this can be done is to have a person “convicted” of a “crime”, and the term “crime” is highly nebulous and can encompass or be made to stretch to fit such a diversity of actions that almost anybody can be a criminal at some point. As such, a person with a zealous or evil intention to see a man “convicted” could have him convicted on any number of “charges,” and upon being convicted, such a person is, by law, able to become a slave.
Who lines up to support this? Nobody other than major corporations who in turn contract with the government and use prisoners as cheap labor to manufacture their products or to do dangerous tasks, and they do it with the government acting as an agent or broker between the enslaved and themselves.
Slavery never died in the US. It just took on a different and more insidious form. The amendment to the Constitution is just there to give people the impression that things have changed when, as far as the men in positions of power are concerned, nothing changed.