“. . .with liberty and justice for all.”
Driving to my morning swim, I pass a building called the “Justice Center.” A few miles away, there is a complex called the “Juvenile Justice Center.” These names have little to do with what goes on at the buildings that bear them. Our society is not particularly fond of the truth; less so when the truth is unflattering.
The “Justice Center” is a police station, city jail and municipal court. “Fine collection, intermediate detention and police operations” does not have the same ring. Also, “Justice Center” has fewer letters, saving cost on the sign.
The “Juvenile Justice Center,” affectionately known as “juvie” among people acquainted with its workings, is more like a child retribution center. But Americans don’t imprison children, so we call them “juveniles” and we lock them up in “Juvenile Justice Centers,” which we pretend are not prisons. Bet your bottom dollar on the fact that the only difference between such places and “real” prisons is the age of the inmates. Many of these kids are doing hard time.
The radical right has taken a great many terms and made them into veritable curses, then hung them around the necks of public servants like millstones and pushed them into the drink. The airwaves have rung with many of these terms over the last days.
Many of the campaign ads have taken a germ of truth and dressed it in misleading language. Others have been outright lies, but the most egregious lie that has been told to the American people for the last 20 years is that they can get something for nothing.
Tea baggers think that the country can run on the good will of people. They think that police officers and fire fighters will not expect raises to keep up with the cost of living. They claim that the private sector will take care of roads, prisons, er, justice centers, libraries and utilities. They think that they can roll back taxes and America will keep rolling on. They think that paying their fair share is unfair.
Taxes will not go down if they win, but costs will certainly go up. Privatizing public utilities always results in higher costs; private prisons are less accountable and do nothing except warehouse convicts, not even teaching them trades. Any road that is built and maintained by a private concern is sure to cost the users in the form of tolls, and the list goes on.
The insidiousness of the tea baggers’ song of “no more taxes” is that it sounds so reasonable. Taxes are not an affliction; they are the price of living in a society where order prevails over chaos. Those who think otherwise need to spend some time in Somalia, where there is no government, and the growth industry is piracy on the high seas. This is what America will be, if the tea baggers get their way. The pirates will go to work in Brooks Brothers suits, and the victims will be ordinary people rather than ships at sea, but otherwise the situation will be the same.
Calling things something other than what they are is a favorite trick of the radical right, but saying that the moon is made of green cheese doesn’t make it so. Calling a prison a justice center does not change the experience of the inmates.
Paying one’s dues is the American way. Every tub stands on its own bottom. The justice Americans expect is a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, not what goes on behind the walls of “justice centers.”