Arment: Land of the doublespeak

America is the land of the free, and the home of the brave. Well, not quite really.

Living in this country means you are either willfully ignorant, or brave — brave enough to pay attention; brave enough to pry your eyes away from the spectacle of sports and celebrity gossip and realize there are those who are absent of the freedoms that you yourself are enjoying.

Speaking of freedom, we’re the land of that as well, right?

The knee-jerk reaction to that question every patriot has is to shout, “Yes!” even if you’re beliefs are jaded and cynical — like mine tend to be — you say something like, “Were working on it.”

No one says anything like, “Actually, from 1987 to 2007, our countries prison population nearly tripled, and as it stands now 1 in 100 people are incarcerated.”

If you ever hear someone say that, hide your disbelief, lest you show yourself to be a less knowledgeable person than them. The person you hear say that isn’t telling a bad joke, they’re telling you the truth.

Our nation’s penal systems have swollen to a size never before reached in our nation’s history, according to a 37-page report titled “One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008,” released by The PEW Charitable Trusts.

The report breaks down the statistic in it’s second paragraph:

“For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling. While 1 in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine. Gender adds another dimension to the picture. Men still are roughly 10 times more likely to be in jail or prison, but the female population is burgeoning at a far brisker pace. For black women in their mid- to late-30s, the incarceration rate also has hit the 1 in 100 mark. Growing older, meanwhile, continues to have a dramatic chilling effect on criminal behavior. While 1 in every 53 people in their 20s is behind bars, the rate for those over 55 falls to 1 in 837.”

I know you find this troublesome, and you are undoubtedly duly alarmed; stay with me though because here’s the real kicker: That report is from early 2008.

When Stephen Colbert had Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner on his show Aug. 4, and brought up the fact the United States has more prisoners than China, Posner replied with “Well I’m not sure if that’s true.”

Never mind that Posner is the Assistant Secretary of State — an organization that touts itself as the “Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.” Never mind that the information Colbert was quoting is two years old. Pay attention to the doublespeak going on.

America is the land of the free, but has the most prisoners of any other country. We are the home of the brave, which can be argued is truer for some people than others. For instance, as the above paragraph from the report says, one out of every nine black males from ages 20 to 34 is in jail. So, statistically, you have to be a little braver to live in this country and be black, because the prison rates for the same age demographic of white males is 1 in 30.

Does that mean black males have to be roughly three times braver than white males to live in this country?

I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m not surprised Posner didn’t care enough to have read the report and know the numbers and figures. Look at his demographic. He’s 59 years old, and the incarceration rate for people over 55 is 1 in 837. He’s also white, successful and above working or middle class. In other words, unless he does something really crazy, Mr. Posner will probably never be incarcerated.

Our nation cannot afford to have leaders unaware of what’s happening. Yet time and again an example presents itself that shows the people in charge aren’t in touch with what is actually reality.