Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Unexpected From the Sports Page

Good insight into politics:

Gregg Easterbrook at ESPN:

Orwell Would Wince
Surely there are thousands of illegal immigrants who would cover kicks in the NFL for less than the $275,000 minimum salary for the 2006 season. So why not allow illegal immigrants in the NFL? They could be called gastoffsiders and paid $5.15 an hour, the scandalously low federal minimum wage. No health care insurance would be provided, plus they would be expected to bring their own ankle tape. Or they could work as football day laborers, gathering each morning in the predawn hours at some 7-11, hoping an NFL general manager comes by and offers them a day's work on the scout team.

OK, enough of that joke. Whatever you think of the immigration debate -- yours truly is pro-immigration but points out that America does now annually accept more immigrants than all other nations of the world combined -- it's ridiculous that politicians and journalists insist on calling the people in question "undocumented arrivals," as if the problem was their paperwork had been misplaced. The problem with illegal immigrants is that they are illegal: They've broken American law. What to do about those who broke the law when they entered the country, but since have been law-abiding good citizens who love America, is the crux of the debate. Focus must be kept on the word illegal if the core dilemma is to be addressed. Using a silly euphemism like "undocumented" only makes it hard to think clearly about this issue.

Similarly, it's ridiculous that politicians and journalists continue to call those being held at Guantanamo and Bagram airbase in Afghanistan "detainees." You are detained when your train is late; if you're dragged away in handcuffs, locked up and not allowed to speak to a lawyer, you are a prisoner. Those being held at Guantanamo and Bagram are not told, "Excuse me, sir, we will be detaining you. Would you like a fresh brioche?" They're told, "You are our prisoner, do as we tell you if you want to live." We can't think clearly about the hundreds of men being held without charge by the United States government unless we call them what they are, prisoners. George Orwell's point regarding language was that society cannot face political issues unless it calls things what they are; the purpose of political euphemism, Orwell wrote, is to prevent clear thought. People living here without visas are illegal immigrants and people jailed without charge are prisoners. Politicians might be addicted to fudging words but the media, at least, should call things what they are.

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