Let’s Stop Lying to Ourselves and Call Them Jails


When I was in grade school, back before the turn of the century, it was somehow A Thing that my classmates would say “Ommmmmm” when presented with a scandal. “Ommmmmm, he kissed Cindy!” “Ommmmmm, he said a naughty word!” This was often followed by the proclamation that someone in authority would be told.

I have no idea whether grade school kids still do that, but the impulse is certainly alive and well, and regularly exercised in current politics. So in order to avoid the shame of the cool kids saying “Ommmmmm” we adopt euphemisms like “undocumented” or “migrants” or “detention centers”. And of course, we also try to push pejorative euphemisms, like “concentration camps” in place of “detention centers.”

Today, I want to suggest we cut through the bull–, er, euphemisms and speak plainly. There is a word for the place where people who are thought to have committed a crime, and who can’t be trusted to appear in court are held. It’s not a “detention center”. It’s “jail”.

In the United States, jails aren’t pleasant places. You might argue that’s a bad idea — I certainly have my suspicions — but that’s the way it is.

Jails cost money, but then so does everything. One reason US jails are not more pleasant places is that making them more pleasant costs more money, and our Anointed Clerisy doesn’t want to spend it. We know that because @AOC, the Goddess of Woke, and her “squad” voted against spending more money when they had the chance.

To be fair, they were bipartisan in this vote: they voted against more money whether in a bill proposed by Democrats or Republicans.

Of course, the succession of talking points and euphemisms probably confused them. In the last year or so, Her Wokeness went from crying in a photo-op at a parking lot to saying that there was no crisis and Trump was manufacturing it, to seeing the crisis as must awfullest thing ever except when asked to do something to ameliorate the crisis.

For the euphemizing hoards, “ameliorate” means “make it better.”

In any case, it reminds me of an old Donovan song: “first there is a crisis, then there is no crisis, then there is.” We’ve been through more than just one iteration, however. In 2014 when Brandon Darby was reporting on the conditions in the deten– jails, it wasn’t a crisis. It wasn’t even news. In 2018, with an election coming, it was a crisis good for at least photo-ops by an ambitious beginner. In 2019, while RUSSIA RUSSIA RUSSIA was still the story, it became a “manufactured crisis”, and when that fell apart, the economy was good, and the little people, in general, were thinking that the usual foreign policy mess was at least no more of a mess than usual and might actually show promise of getting better, it became a crisis again, documented with photos — from 2014, when the then-Administration might reasonably be thought to be responsible.

Well, there are plain-speaking terms for people who want to exploit the suffering of real people on the border when it’s politically expedient and don’t give a damn otherwise.

But I can’t use them here and I refuse to give in to euphemisms.

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