Stars and Prison Stripes

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In a recent article for Reason (“Putting Stars Behind Bars,” April), William Anderson and Candice Jackson make note of federal prosecutors’ increased proclivity to criminalize poor sportsmanship among America’s more famous athletes. While this may seem like a lunatic trend to anyone not born under the Stars and Stripes, even a few native-born Americans are starting to notice that America’s politicians incarcerate people at a record-setting pace; much-maligned dictators such as Castro and Chavez don’t even come close.

For all the possible reasons that may be given for this disgraceful trend – “tough on crime” policies, the War on Drugs, all the jobs that building and running prisons provide, or federal employees more focused on enhancing their careers than on seeing justice done – the increasing urge to slap anyone and everyone in prison (with the exception of the political class, which, even when caught redhanded, rarely sees the inside of a cell) is seeping into our national DNA.

This seepage was bought home to me by the untimely death of Michael Jackson. Upon learning of the man’s poor physical state, my fellow employees began to sound off on how his personal physician should, you guessed it, be put in jail. If Eugene O’Neill wrote “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in today’s America, he’d have to include a part where heavily armed, Kevlar-encased DEA agents burst into the home, throw everyone to the ground, shoot the dog, and drag the drug addict mother off to prison.

The Clash once sang of their English homeland, “Out came the batons, and the British warned themselves.” Every day, with every new law, America’s politicians beat us over the head a little bit harder. One day, however, they’ll inadvertently knock some sense into our skulls and we11 bring a stop to their madness. Until then, it can be a small consolation to foreigners experiencing our military’s attentions that America’s political leaders treat American citizens in the same way.

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