Breaking News:We Just Won an Old Fight

SENDING THE WRONG SIGNAL TO YOUNG PEOPLE

note: this commentary was originally broadcast on WRFN-LP, Nashville Tennessee, on the Green Hour radio show. Other stories from the show can be found at my main blog, Deep Green Perspective.

 

Our truth in strange places award this month goes to Senator Christopher Dodd, of Connecticut, one of the long-shot contenders for the 2008 Democratic nomination, who said in the course of the Oct. 30 debate, in defense of his call for decriminalization of marijuana,

We’re locking up too many people in our system here today. We’ve got mandatory minimum sentences, they are filling our jails with people that don’t belong there.

“My idea is to decriminalize this, reduce that problem here. We’ve gone from 800,000 to 2 million people in our penal institutions in this country. We’ve got to get a lot smarter about this issue than we are. And as president, I’d try and achieve that. “

The only other candidate who agreed with him was Dennis Kucinich. Hey, these two guys are so far behind they have nothing to lose. Former Senator John Edwards spoke for the front-runners when he said he opposed decriminalization because “I think it sends the wrong signal to young people.” The conversation quickly turned to what Sen. Obama was going to wear for a Halloween costume. Over eight hundred thousand arrests a year, over five hundred thousand in prison and countless others hung up in the probation/parole system, swept under the rug just like that. Somehow, one of America’s biggest legal disasters has become just part of the cost of doing business. What a message to send to young people. What a comment on the vibrancy of our democracy.

So remember this, all you pot smokers who are preparing to vote for Hillary, or Barak, or John—you are voting for someone who wants to put you in jail, take your children away, and confiscate your property. Kafka couldn’t have invented anything better. And if you aren’t a marijuana user, but some of your friends are, you’re voting for somebody who wants to suck your friends into the American gulag. You may think you don’t know anybody who smokes pot, but you can just about bet you do. With schoolkids encouraged to tell on their parents, it’s more and more peoples’ secret practice. Hey, a friend of mine, a ranting, raving, pot-growing, totally out-of-the closet hippie, has had to quit smoking in his house because his daughter is going through a teenage rebellion phase and knows she’s got a major hammer over his head with the issue.

And the issue is not “addiction,” the issue is control—the ability of the government to control peoples’ inner lives and personal decisions. Public acceptance of “the war on drugs” is what allows the further erosions of our freedom that are occurring as “the war on terror.” The corporatocracy has put across the Big Lie that marijuana is bad for you. That’s baloney. Using marijuana is of no more consequence than drinking beer, wine or coffee—actually, coffee is much more addictive than grass. Smokers do without just fine, but we all know what happens when people don’t get their morning cup of java!

In the same way, the abortion issue is about control over women, not the sanctity of babies’ lives. While Democrats are willing to support womens’ right to abortion, at least so far, that is about the only sop they are throwing us. Iraq? “No way out,” the big three all say. Bomb Iran? “Why not?” they all say. Get rid of treaties like NAFTA and the WTO that have destroyed America’s middle class and sent waves of Central Americans here, fleeing their own ”free trade”-savaged economies? Not a sound about that. Take down the insurance and pharmaceutical vampires that are sucking Americans dry in the name of health care? “They’re too big. We can’t do that.” C’mon, guys, they’re smaller than Iran—or at least weaker militarily. Financially, they might be bigger than Iran, come to think of it….talk about “sending the wrong signal to young people”–the signal here seems to be to kowtow to power and big money, no matter how morally repugnant…and that is definitely the wrong signal to send to young people, but it’s the one the Democratic front runners are parroting. Hey, it’s what their corporatist masters want to hear.

”C’mon,” you may argue—all the major Democratic candidates have come out for medical marijuana—that’s progress!” That’s knowing which way the wind is blowing, nothing more. If their support survives the election campaign, you can bet they will devise a system in which the state has a monopoly on growing and distribution, and there’s mandatory testing for the families of marijuana patients to insure that the “medicine” is only going to the “proper” person. None of this sloppy, do-it-yourself stuff like what we’re seeing in California and Oregon these days. It’s all about control. Marijuana use encourages people to think for themselves, and we can’t have a lot of strong individuals in the anthill corporatist society that is the ultimate vision of both Democrats and Republicans.

Which is not to say that you have to be a toker to be a Green—certainly not—but you have to understand the significance of the issue. You have to understand how it is a “wedge issue” that opens the door to all kinds of other government intrusion into peoples’ private lives. It is a fundamental precept of the Green Party that people are basically trustworthy, just as it is a fundamental, unspoken precept of the corporatist parties that people are not trustworthy. And, from their point of view, the corporatists are justified in not trusting the people, because nobody in their right mind would go along with the corporatist agenda. That’s why they work to keep so many people hypnotized with television and other mind-control drugs, such as alcohol, Ritalin and Prozac. It’s only a war on some drugs. What kind of reality do you want to live in?

music: Richard and Linda Thompson, “Justice in the Streets

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Pretty much agree...

hmmm I really appreciate your post....I probably agree with 90%+ of what you are saying, and I am frustrated by the Democratic candidates, especially those I had believed intelligent (like Obama), for not being better-informed on the fallacies of our war on drugs.

Irrespective of one's personal philosophical predispositions (i.e. whether you think we should be able to consume whatever we want, or whether you think drugs are evil and rob their users of ambition, energy, and brain-power, or if you're anywhere in between), one should want to see our drug policies changed.

Though I think there is a strong case that the whole "Drugs are bad, they harm you, thus we should try to keep you from using them" philosophy currently animating the drug war is in dire need of change, there is an even easier case to be made that even if we kept a blanket "drugs are bad" ethos we could reduce a ton of the harms caused by drug prohibition just by pursuing these prohibitionist objectives more intelligently.

I am also glad that you mentioned the power of the prescription drug lobby; it has become increasingly the case that there is almost noone in America (much less in the government) who is fighting for wise, equitable public policy that embodies a compromise between competing interests. American Consumers have been done an incredible disservice by our country's leaders' inability (or unwillingness) to look out for their interests. The amount that prescription drug companies spend on television, print, and electronic media advertising is insane when considered in light of the fact that those to whom these advertisements are being targeted cannot purchase themselves purchase the product in question unaided. That is to say nothing of their own ability to evaluate the relative merits and weaknesses of various drug regimens -- or ability to self-diagnose conditions.

While wary of the paternalism inherent in my angle of attack on the status quo, something has got to
be done, this is getting fucking ridiculous.

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