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America's Middle Passage Into the 21st Century

"The Involuntary Guest Worker Program"
America's Middle Passage Into the 21st Century

By Mark W. Bradley

I promised myself I would listen to Tuesday night's “State of the Union” speech with an open mind, and I must now report that armed with a rare combination of honeyed rhetoric and steel-trap logic, the president won me over entirely to his point of view. It’s an admission I make with no small degree of humility, as I have spent the past seven years mercilessly lampooning Mr. Bush, intimating that he's the sort of imbecile who could weather a brainstorm without getting the inside of his head wet. Now, of course, I feel compelled to recant such unjust pronouncements and offer him my sincere apologies. The president’s speech was brilliant, prophetic, and jam-packed with innovative and ingenious strategies designed to address a whole litany of seemingly insurmountable problems plaguing our beleaguered nation. In short, I liked what he had to say, and I loved the way he said it!

First of all, it was comforting to hear from the mouth of our stockholder-in-chief that the economy is on solid ground. This came as a welcome relief to me personally, as my wife and I recently borrowed 4.3 million dollars in the form of cash advances on our combined Citibank cards, which we in turn used to purchase variable-rate mortgages on several ski chalets atop scenic Mt. Kilimanjaro. I’m confident that this impeccably sound investment plan will provide the two of us with a fairly secure nest-egg for our retirement, but just to be on the safe side, I’ve decided to give up teaching and pursue a career in rhinoceros hunting. Not only is it safer, but given the provisions of Mr. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” legislation, it frankly offers more job security.

Just as importantly, I was thrilled to learn that the president has at last come up with a bold initiative to do what most politicians lack the courage and foresight to even suggest - that is, accelerate and expand America’s Global War on Terror through the use of ever-more-vigilant domestic surveillance techniques, reform and reorganize Social Security and Medicare by placing them under the jurisdiction of the Nevada Gaming Commission, increase the size of our armed forces by 90,000 troops while continuing to conduct a rapidly escalating war in Iraq that shows signs of persisting well beyond the declining years of our grandchildren, arrest and reverse catastrophic global warming by researching and developing a wide range of alternative energy sources including a mysterious substance best described as “grassoline”, and balance the federal budget in less than five years, all without raising taxes. I dare any and all you “Doubting Thomas” types out there to try and find fault with a plan as carefully thought out as this one!

But how can all these ambitious goals be accomplished in one fell swoop, you ask? Well, given the kind of conventional thinking most world leaders are bound by, it would be an utter impossibility. But as President Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have successfully demonstrated on countless occasions, “thinking outside the constitutional box” can yield the most mind-numbing semantic labyrinths ever misconceived by the human imagination. In light of that history, what they are about to unveil in the coming weeks is guaranteed to confound their legions of critics and amaze an increasingly incredulous world.

It is a pilot program that has been dubbed “PIGSHIT” (The Project for Involuntary Guestworkers in the Service of Hegemony over International Trade). As we approach this program with an open mind, let us liberate ourselves from a lifetime of prejudicial thinking, and dare to re-examine one of the most economically successful social experiments ever attempted in the history of our country - the institution of slavery.

I know what you’re thinking. Slavery (if not regulated properly) can be a cruel, and in many ways inhumane form of labor management. But trust us - this is not your great-grandfather’s “Peculiar Institution.” With the kind of voluntary safeguards the Bush Administration has promised to put in place during this special limited trial period of compulsory servitude, the opportunities for the systemic abuse of involuntary guest workers will be drastically reduced. And for those of you who tend to have a knee-jerk reaction against the very idea of slavery, consider this. Remember the sort of revulsion we all used to feel at the very mention of torture? Well, somehow we managed to get over that little bit of squeamishness, now didn’t we? As Vice-president Cheney likes to remind us, 9-11 changed everything. Nowadays, EVERYONE expects the Spanish Inquisition...

So let’s just drop all the hypocritical outrage, shall we, and take an objective look out how modern slavery would operate. I know there are a lot of you (especially you African-American folks out there) who have understandably negative feelings about the institution of slavery. But you can relax. There are no plans currently on the drawing board to subject American citizens, black or white, to permanent enslavement of any kind. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which such drastic measures would ever be required to fill involuntary labor quotas.

After all, as the Romans discovered back in the 3rd Century B.C., the most effective way to provide for an aspiring empire’s infrastructural labor needs is to sally forth boldly and conquer other nations, preferably smaller, weaker ones. Once you’ve humiliated them with a series of crushing military defeats, disbanded their armies, publically crucified their deposed leaders, burned and trampled their crops, gutted their livestock, raped their womenfolk, and leveled their cities, you sort of have them over a barrel. Labor negotiations from that point on are pretty much a snap. There’s no real need to conscript slaves at all, as most of the ambulatory survivors are sufficiently traumatized to fall in line and volunteer at the nearest labor camp without asking the recruiters too many annoying questions. Fortunately, the only out-of-pocket expenses likely to be incurred by occupation army soldiers seeking to enslave large numbers of locals are those associated with the cost of human transportation. In most cases, ordinary shipping containers should suffice.

In fact, according to a recent study by the GAO, if the United States were to initiate this pilot program later this spring in a potentially hostile country (Iran, for example), by early summer we would be in a strong position to provide all the hotels, factories and corporate farms in America with a reliable work force made up of flexible, compliant, and accommodating employees exceedingly grateful for the opportunity just to escape torture, mutilation and death on a daily basis. And best of all, such a program would be guaranteed to alleviate the pesky and persistent problem of illegal immigration. Think about it - what kind of savvy corporate CEO worth his benefit package is going to pay “hard cash” when the “hard lash” works just as well at a fraction of the cost?

Slavery - it’s an American tradition. Let’s try it again for the first time.


Mark W. Bradley is a history teacher and political satirist in Sacramento, California. He can be contacted at markwbradley @

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