Don Digirolamo: Rebuttal #6
[The RP’s Provocation; Jason Atkinson’s Rebuttal #1; The RP’s First Defense: Jason Atkinson’s First Response; Artur Davis’ Rebuttal #2; The RP’s Second Defense; Artur Davis’ First Response; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #3; Jeff Smith’s Rebuttal #4; The RP’s Third Defense; Artur Davis’ Second Response; Jeff Smith’s First Response; David Host’s Rebuttal #6]
The author is an Oscar(TM) and Emmy(TM) award-winning sound engineer, as well and a student of metaphysics and reason for more than two decades.
On March 26, 2009, in a CNN town hall meeting, President Obama stated (slightly edited), “There was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high, and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation, [and I don’t know what this says about the online audience, but this was a fairly popular question], and the answer is no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.”
On the campaign trail a couple of years earlier, our President admitted that there was a time when he smoked cannabis, and when asked if he inhaled, he said he did, that was the point.
Obviously no one would suggest that President Obama has been stunted in his personal or political aspirations as a result of engaging in this (by federal definitions) immoral, illegal, and criminal activity: indeed, we elected him to the highest office in the land.
So what is the story with criminality and drugs? People take drugs, and take them for all kinds of reasons; and I think it’s safe to say, there has never been a point in history when there have been so many drugs to choose from.
People take drugs to wake up, (Modafinil), to go to sleep, (Lunesta, Rozerem, Halcion, Sonata, Edluar, Ambien), or for depression (SSRI’s such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, or Celexa), and other reasons. There is a drug for practically anything you might care to alter in your physiological life.
There are also drugs that have been labeled illegal, such as: opium, heroin, cocaine, psilocybin (‘magic’ mushrooms), LSD, methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), and cannabis (marijuana). For the most part these will kill you almost immediately upon taking them, because they’re all illegal, right? (smile)
They are illegal because our government has stated they are dangerous. What makes them dangerous? Most substances are toxic at some level, but the biggest thing that makes these drugs dangerous is our government. We may not disregard their declaration without facing serious ramifications, financial, and physical, as well as being stigmatized as a criminal. If you are caught in possession of them, you may well be incarcerated, and if you made the mistake of selling them, there is a serious likelihood of being incarcerated for a long time.
President Obama admitted smoking marijuana, and as far as anyone can tell, survived the experience none the worse for wear. This is the case with the vast majority of cannabis consumers, but it undoubtedly would not have been the case had he been arrested for doing so.
Our nation has been conducting a War on Drugs for the last forty years, and like any other war, our government has captured many prisoners of war. Many of these prisoners lives have been essentially ruined, some have been killed. Some have lost their college loans, housing, and their bright future. Nationally there were about seven hundred and fifty thousand drug war prisoners taken in 2009, (arrests) for simply possessing cannabis.
Occasionally SWAT teams break into homes early in the day, thinking they will find drugs, and mistakenly kill the sleepy resident who awakens to find his home has been invaded. If he happens to be armed, God help him.
One such occurrence was May 5th, 2011, when a SWAT team invaded the home of former Marine, Jose Guerena who had survived two tours in Iraq. That morning, he’d come home after working a twelve hour shift at a local mine. Things got confused and frantic, and apparently the SWAT team fired seventy one shots, mortally wounding Guerena. Tucson KGUN’s Joel Waldman, who subsequently pieced the story together, said the SWAT team prevented paramedics from going to work on Guerena for one hour and fourteen minutes. Not surprisingly, he died. His wife and one of his two young children were on the scene. No drugs were found.
Many have mislabeled this as a War on Drugs, but it’s actually a war on dissidents who disagree with the government’s decisions criminalizing drugs, within our borders, ‘the land of the free, and the home of the brave.’
During much of the War on Terror following the 9/11 attacks, people in this country were scared daily for many months with terror alerts of red, yellow, or orange depending on what we were expecting the enemy might do. We were terrorized.
The War on Drugs is the same situation in reverse, where our government terrorizes alleged drug users, who for whatever reasons choose to partake of substances that the government has labeled as being off limits, illegal, criminal, or immoral. The choice to use illegal drugs is seen as a war crime because our government thinks they should be able to forcibly control what people possess to ingest or otherwise take into their bodies. Our government has claimed that right, but it is not theirs to claim, it is a personal violation. Whatever happened to, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” as stated in the Declaration of Independence, “that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” That sentence is the foundation of this country, and if the most basic right of all, to possess and ingest what I want and take care of myself, my body and my consciousness in the way I choose is limited arbitrarily, (even while I’m not infringing on the rights of others), then we’ve been stripped of the most basic freedom of all.
Personally, as we grow and come to refine and understand how we want to live our lives, we choose what works for us, and we can state it. Do this, don’t do that, I like this, not that, and the list grows. Often, once someone thinks, ‘I’ve found the answer’, they find it natural to present their findings and attempt to influence others to live in that same workable manner. No problem, right? Well, no.
While one may have found his own appropriate choices, his neighbor may not be interested, or feel those choices have little relevance for him. Our neighbor has to, or has already come to his own set of constructs, and treasures them as we treasure ours, even though those choices may well be widely divergent from each other. Generally, we each and all think we’re living the right, best, and only logical way. It is the greatest challenge of a policymaker to resist forcibly imposing his preferences on everyone.
If one imagines they have the best idea, and has the advantage of the power of position, yet does not respect the right of choice in another, the proscription could go like this: “My God is better than your God! My party is better than your party! I don’t want to live my life like you! In fact, I want you to live your life like me! My choices are better than yours. I’m successful, I’m in power, and there are a lot of people that agree with me. I have an army and I’ve passed laws and have guns and people who are willing to throw you in a cage if you continue to disagree with me.
“Beyond that, since you disagree with me, I’ll call you stupid, get all my friends to call you stupid, and call your friends and others like you stupid, and do anything I can to invalidate your very existence, you stoner, drunk, dilettante, slacker, moron, addict, smoker, druggie, idiot.
“Beyond that, what’s wrong with you that you aren’t happy with the legally sanctioned drugs we’ve made available for you? What’s that, you don’t like cigarettes and don’t want to get lung cancer and die? Why not? Your miserable life isn’t worth more anyway.
“What’s that? Alcohol isn’t good enough for you…it’s legal, you should appreciate it. Oh, yeah, the liver thing.
“What about coffee, steroids, uppers, downers, prescription opiates?”
That’s all extreme to make a point, but just because there are some choices doesn’t mean there is freedom. If our leaders can’t be at peace with such broad diversity, they need to get over themselves. It cost fifty eight thousand lives to teach Robert S. McNamara, the architect of the Vietnam War, what should have been obvious: “We may have to live in an imperfect and untidy world.” (It actually cost actually many, many more.) Some things simply can’t be controlled.
It is the most natural thing in the world for us all to want to make our own decisions. If nothing else, the experiences of making those choices and mistakes for ourselves, is the essence of the life journey and each of us finding our own way. And as long as our life energy inhabits our body, (regardless of what we may call that energy or what we think its source may be), the choices made by any individual are sacred, their own, and must be honored. I personally don’t take any pleasure from someone laying in the gutter as the result of anything, but whatever they are going through, is part of their sacred life and journey.
In my eighth grade shop class, my teacher Mr. Bronsteader, provided some insight that has stayed with me for fifty years, “People are like bed springs, the harder you push them, the harder they will push back.”
Well the War on Drugs has been pushing people hard for at least the last forty years, and the people have been pushing back.
All world governments have the same problems with people taking drugs. It can be an ‘imperfect and untidy world.’ Yet, we have consumed drugs of one kind or another for thousands of years and survived.
For example, even as broadly lethal as they are, does anyone really imagine either the tobacco or alcohol businesses going completely away? Highly unlikely.
I also know better than to think I can force someone to change their beliefs and actions on any issue with force. I recall a brilliant cartoon of a dungeon prison where the jailer tells prisoners chained to the wall, “The beatings will continue until morale improves!” I mean really, how many decades should it take for our vehicle of state to discover that it has a flat tire?
Ten years ago, Portugal found itself in the same confounding situation with drug use, and had the nerve, and truly, it must have taken a lot of nerve, to say to themselves and the rest of the world, we see that what we’ve been doing does not work. They decided that by treating their drug users as people instead of criminals, decriminalizing all drugs, and approaching the entire drug reality, pragmatically, as a health issue, they were able to achieve their desired results, indeed the desires of any drug warrior: less usage, less crime, less disease, more rehabilitation, and lower costs to society, and did so without adding the insult to injury of demoralizing and ruining people’s lives with the stigma of criminalization as prisoners of war. They decided to stop pushing on their bedsprings.
We have the same opportunity here. As the leader of the free world, the United States can allow people to use their drugs, and live their lives in the manner they choose, or we can continue to stamp the word criminal on their foreheads and toss them onto the living junk pile. We can treat them like people who are entitled to their own decisions, and even though we sometimes vehemently disagree with their choices, allow them that dignity and right. It makes no sense for this or any other government to be involved in this issue with any motivation other than harm reduction. Indeed the War on Drugs has created much more harm than the drugs themselves could have ever created. But…much of this damage can be undone.
We have been the leaders of the free world for a long time, and as such it only makes sense for us to fall in line with the country that has taken the revolutionary and successful lead on this issue, Portugal, and thereby restore our credibility and reclaim our leadership.