This was the question put before the Alaska House of Representatives for a vote last Friday. Of course, the question wasn’t phrased quite so candidly as that. Instead, it took the form “shouldn’t veterans from these two ethnic groups be given a special veteran designation on Alaska state drivers licenses?”
And with this simple question we watch the pernicious march of identity politics creep ever so slowly and innocently into our state laws. At the outset, it is never about treating individuals of one race or ethnicity poorly—it is rarely about that—instead, it’s about treating individuals of another race or ethnicity better.
There are ample noble justifications for creating and giving special legal status to members of one ethnic group over another. I won’t list them because the possible justifications are literally limitless.
The question yesterday (House Bill 125) was whether two specific ethnic groups should be given veteran status, and veterans from all other ethnicities should be excluded. In reply to that question, I offered an amendment.
My amendment removed the ethnic qualifier, and returned to what should have been the real question all along, “does this individual’s military service merit veteran status in Alaska state law?”
You see, once you identify the real issue—military service—there is no longer a need to limit veteran status to a particular set of individuals based on race or their ethnic heritage.
And why is that important?
It is critical for every state legislator to recognize that you cannot draw lines based on ethnicity without including some individuals, and excluding others.
In the amendment I put forward, veterans of any racial background would be eligible for veteran status, as the original bill already declared, if they “served in military operations in support of the United States” between “February 28, 1961 and May 15, 1975.”
I didn’t choose those specific dates, they were chosen by the author of the original bill. But in reading the bill, I looked for examples of who was being discriminated against in the bill. I then asked why we would be discriminating against these veterans in state law?
I could find no good reason. I still can’t. And I believe that our politicized legislative system is a terrible process for trying to figure out which race or ethnicity should be accorded special benefits and privileges. Our political process rewards groups with political power; namely, votes, money and lobbyists. Can you think of a worse process for deciding which groups will be looked on more favorably by the government?
As I said to my colleagues in the House, this is a question that governments have no business answering. No matter how clear the answer may seem to a group of politicians, there is no good answer to the question.
The Alaska Constitution declares “that all persons are equal and entitled to equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law.” Any laws that try to assign rights, opportunities or legal protection based on race or ethnicity are a direct and unmistakable violation of our constitution.
But let us pretend for a moment that the U.S. Constitution and the Alaska State Constitution did not exist. What then? HB125 would still be a terrible law because it promotes discrimination based on a person’s ethnicity.
Read “Human Events: What Really Happened at the Bay of Pigs” by Humberto Fontova.
Both groups were recruited to fight for the U.S. by the CIA. Both were trained and equipped and led by the U.S. government. Both groups received their weapons and supplies from the U.S. government. Members of both groups fought alongside American servicemen, and members of both groups gave their lives in doing so. Both groups were promised support and protection by the U.S. President. And both groups had those promises broken before later emigrating to the U.S. with their families in large numbers.
With this new law, the State of Alaska declares by law that only one group will be given veteran status for their military service in support of the United States. Those who fought with the U.S. in Cuba, who were captured, tortured, and then exchanged by the U.S. government and personally welcomed to the U.S. by the President of the United States—We now declare in state law that their sacrifice was not worthy of veteran status because of their ethnicity and because we place a greater value on the military service that took place in Asia than we do the military service that took place in the Americas, even though both took place at the same time and under the orders of the very same U.S. President.
This is the evil of racism, and laws that draw lines between races and peoples can never escape it.
As another legislator observed nearly two hundred years ago, “If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?” (Frederick Bastiat, The Law)
Watch the vote in the legislature here: https://goo.gl/mvvyXK
Rep. David Eastman is a firefighter in Wasilla, a former military police captain on JBER, and currently represents residents of the Mat-Su (District 10) in the Alaska House of Representatives.