A rare moment of agreement between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney during last week's GOP debate was on the DREAM Act. The bill, which has been languishing for years thanks to GOP opposition, would allow undocumented minors—brought to this country by their parents through no fault of their own—a path to citizenship if they pursued military service or a college degree. Both candidates endorsed the military service provision but rejected the college degree route.
And acting presumably on the theory that half an enchilada is better than no enchilada, Rep. David Riverva, R-Miami, yesterday sponsored the Adjusted Residency for Military Service (ARMS) Act that would do just that, giving anyone "willing to die for America" a chance to live in America.
Nothing, however, could be further from the American spirit than this shameless glorification of Spartan self-sacrifice.
Sparta was a martial republic in ancient Greece that gave full citizenship rights only to its soldiers who were groomed from childhood to live and die for the city-state. But the whole point of the American Constitution is not to cultivate citizen soldiers but to guarantee the life and liberty of individuals so that they can pursue their own happiness as they see fit. The highest civic duty of Americans, at least when the country is not facing an imminent threat, is to their own individual projects and dreams. They can certainly choose to devote themselves to some cause bigger than themselves, but the government has to stay neutral among those causes.
By making military service a condition of citizenship, Newt and Mittens are signaling that an individual's life is worth more if he or she sacrifices it for the country. The contributions that individuals make to their families, neighbors and communities in the course of improving their own lives—by getting an education, taking up a job—are somehow less noble and morally worthy.
This is the Spartan mentality writ large. It is the elevation of the collectivist mindset over the spirit of individualism that has animated this country. And when the self-appointed defenders of the American Constitution are the ones doing such elevating, it might be time to give them citizenship rights to the lunar colony that one of them wants to build.