Concentration camps for prostitutes

One dark chapter in the American story gets left out of the history books: the American Plan, which detained tens, and possibly hundreds of thousands of women from the 1910s through the 1950s.

Under the plan, conceived during World War I to protect soldiers from “promiscuous” women and the diseases they possibly carried, women were surveilled, picked off the street, detained without due process, imprisoned sometimes for years, and forcefully injected with toxic mercury treatments for sexually transmitted infections they were merely suspected of having. The American Plan laid the groundwork — and sometimes, the actual foundations — for some women’s prisons and arguably led to the mass incarcerations of today. Progressive luminaries like Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Sanger endorsed the plan, as did Earl Warren, forcing its victims, disproportionately women of color, to fight back on their own.

From the incarceration of citizens of Japanese ancestry to the detention of prostitutes, not to mention the treatment of black people, one has to wonder what the Supreme Court of the United States has been thinking in its role as “defender of the Constitution” and of civil rights. It has made some honourable decisions, but the gross misreading of the Constitution in the matter of gun ownwership, and the crass idea that “corporations are people” and can freely use shareholder funds to subvert democracy, suggests that, while legal training in the US might be good, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the Justices collectively use their intelligence, common sense, moderation or simple human kindness to good effect.

I fear that, for all the blah about liberty we cannot rely on a Trump Supreme Court to protect us against the drift toward authoritarianism, even less now that Trump has nominated to the Court a hard Right Constitutional literalist who was alledgedly willingly implicated in the un-American Bush torture policy. Epicurus deplored militarism, bullying and loss of individual freedom in his day. We should oppose it now. The United States is lurching in the same direction as, say Poland. Getting it back looks more difficult every day. Too many citizens simply don’t care. Tell me I am being too gloomy!

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