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Just Say No

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With all the talk about the debt ceiling, it would be easy to forget that America is enmeshed in military engagements in Central Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, and the Middle East, not to mention the broader “War on Terror”. There’s a whole lot of war going on, and at least some of us are becoming war weary. Particularly since the killing of Osama Bin Laden, there are increasing calls for us to change course in of Afghanistan for example. Even before Bin Laden’s demise, support for the Afghanistan conflict was eroding. A CNN poll in January found 63% of Americans opposing the war. Some are predicting a resurgence of the anti-war movement as the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks arrives and the war in Afghanistan nears the beginning of its second decade.

For all the weariness with seemingly endless war abroad, the U.S. recently passed a grim milestone of an even longer conflict largely fought at home. Forty years ago, our government declared war, essentially against its own people, and has been fighting ever since at a cost of 2.5 trillion dollars. Referred to during the Nixon administration metaphorically as the “War on Drugs” and literally militarized on a massive scale during the Reagan administration, this policy was recently declared a failure by the Global Commission on Drug Policy:

“The global war on drugs have failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world…Vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers, and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption.”

According to the extraordinary new book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness, the “devastating consequences” have included the mass incarceration of African Americans and the emergence of a system of racial caste. This racial caste system has been built under the veneer of “law and order”, fueled by the Drug War and literally locks thousands of black folk in a position of racial marginalization. The author, Michelle Alexander, refers to this system as the New Jim Crow. The horror she reveals through page after page of research data, jurisprudence, and personal narratives reminds me of the powerfully imagery of ‘Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921), head of the Baha’i Faith from 1892-1921:

“The fires of conflict have blazed so high that never in early times, not in the Middle Ages, not in recent centuries hath there ever been such a hideous war, a war that is even as millstones, taking for grain the skulls of men…Loud are the piercing cries of fatherless children; loud the mothers’ anguished voices, reaching to the skies.”

Alexander argues that nothing short of ending the War on Drugs will be sufficient to dismantle the New Jim Crow. Given the staying power of this policy, this will be no easy task. Thankfully, voices are being raised and forces mobilized for what could be a new kind of “anti-war” movement. Recently, the NAACP passed a resolution calling for an end to the Drug War, specifically citing its negative impact on African Americans. Like past wars, veterans of the Drug War are also speaking out such as the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. As the group’s executive director eloquently put it, “Who ever heard of curing a health problem with handcuffs?”

It’s important to understand that seeking to end the War on Drugs does not require a person to support the recreational use of drugs or alcohol. Such support would be experienced as problematic by many people for spiritual, moral, or even medical reasons. The issue, which the Global Commission on Drug Policy’s report makes clear, is what is the most effective way of dealing with the challenge of drug use and abuse? Is it spiritual, moral, ethical, or even scientific to continue an approach which 40 years of experience suggests has not achieved its stated aims? Is it spiritual, moral, or ethical to continue a policy which, intentionally or not, perpetuates gross racial inequities? A young veteran of another war poignantly asked, “How can you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” We should ask ourselves, “How can we ask a man or woman to be the last incarcerated for a mistake?”

I believe it is time for a new anti-war movement to emerge in America; a movement to end the War on Drugs. I believe it is time for public health to take precedence over the prison-industrial complex. I believe it is time for compassion and commonsense to replace “tough on crime” political posturing. I believe it is time to just say no to the Drug War.

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About Phillipe Copeland

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Amen, Phillipe. Many of us regular commenters at BC have been saying this for years.

    What you advocate makes absolute sense, but it’s not a popular position with the public at large, who are going to have to be trained to think outside the box on this one. The problem is that the “drugs are evil” paradigm has become so entrenched that a lot of people are simply incapable of grasping that the only reason there’s a crime epidemic associated with drugs is because they’re illegal.

    I understand that some might be bothered by the idea of drug barons becoming suddenly “legitimate” if hard drugs are legalized, but in many of the countries where these crops are grown and processed they – frankly – already are.

  • Baronius

    I thought I read this article before. This is the “Frederick Douglass would get high” thread recycled. This article may as well have been written by a Klansman. It says that we might as well do away with drug laws because black people can’t control themselves. Am I overstating it?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Yes, Baronius, you are. The bigger point that the book Phillipe cites is making, if I understand correctly, is that convicted drug felons face the same sort of social stigma and second-class treatment that African-Americans used to under Jim Crow.

  • Baronius

    enslaved grandparents = voluntary drug use

  • zingzing

    jim crow isn’t slavery, baronius. it was a set of laws that fucked over black people. and our current drug laws and legal system fuck over minorities left and right, even if they may do so unintentionally.

    but i do note the very long-lived black people you imagine, baronius. enslaved grandparents…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m still at a loss with respect to Baronius’ presumed equivalence in #4.

  • zingzing

    hey doc–i’ve got a quick question… if you’re banned from commenting at bc, how is that put into effect? is there some system that automatically bans the ip address, or are you and chris forced to make the rounds looking for banned people? (if answering this question would compromise anything, just let me know… i can figure out another way to get in touch.)

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    You mean your friends at that other site don’t know?

  • zingzing

    i asked them as well (or at least one of them… i’m not sure that if the other answered the question i’d be able to decipher his response).

  • Baronius

    If one is to compare the current drug laws to Jim Crow, one is comparing the blacks in the 1950’s South (whose grandparents were slaves) to the incarcerated of today (who voluntarily committed crimes which led to their incarceration). Obviously, I’m saying that such an equivalence demeans the seriousness of Jim Crow laws. It’s like my friend Pat recklessly wiping out on his motorcycle and calling it another Potato Famine.

  • zingzing

    the intention is not the same, baronius, but the effect is certainly comparable, which is the point.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #8, 9

    They’re too incapacitated by hatred to be capable of a rational response.

  • zingzing

    actually, i must admit, he did have a rational response, once you get around the invective. there were a few insults tossed in, but otherwise the answer was pretty straightforward.

  • Arch Conservative

    War on drugs? Another useless “war.”

    Didn’t LBJ declare “war on poverty” with the Great Society?

    Almost 50 years and several trillion dollars worth of government social engineering later poverty is as alive and well as it ever was when Ole Lyndon was around.

    Only a 20th/21st century American liberal could think that the greatest strategy for conducting a “war on poverty,” would be to make citizens less independent and more dependent upon the federal government.

    It’s like the old saying goes “teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime, give a man a fish for free and he will be so grateful that he will vote Democrat for the rest of his life, that is along as you keep stealing fish from others who’ve caught fish themseleves to give to that man.”

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Arch, I’m going to echo something that our Australian friend Stan often says, and ask you what you understand the word “community” to mean.

    I would think that one of the functions and obligations of a community is to protect and support its weakest members. That’s one of the reasons why humans are social animals in the first place.

    Right-wingers like yourself are big on voluntary charity, and on a small scale this can work well. Churches, for example, regularly come to the aid – financial or practical – of members of their congregations who are in need.

    But that’s on a small scale. You go to any country that has no welfare system or a very limited one – which in almost every case will mean a Third World country – and you will see rampant, in-your-face and unrelenting poverty… that persists in spite of the best efforts of organizations like the Red Cross and Oxfam.

    Charity has an important role to play, but I don’t know how you can even begin to imagine that voluntary donations alone could alleviate the problems of the most vulnerable sectors of a community as huge as the United States.

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    After all this time away it’s wonderful to see that some things never change… sigh

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Indeed, Jet. Good to see you back on the boards, though. How are you? At the rate you’ve been going, do you have any original parts left? :-)

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    Hey, Jet. Good to see you’ve ventured out beyond one of your articles. In the past that meant you had the strength and energy to partake in written jousting. Hope that holds up for a while.

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    Probably need another operation on my right elbow, but for now at least I’ve gotten to the point where I can touch type again.

    Thanks

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    Re: Dr. D. parts… hmmmmm

    2 plates 14 screws holding upper right arm together (3 lateral fractures-1 spiral fracture)

    1 plate 5 screws in right elbow (still healing, cant straighten my arm nor touch my face with it… I’m right handed.

    1- pace maker after blo0d clot from leg operation hit my heart.

    2 plates several screws – upper left leg

    1 plate several screws left knee

    2 plates, many screws, rod inserted through my heel after left ankle fused into one piece.

    1 plate, five screws, cadaver bone holding left foot together.

    groan
    The nearly bionic man

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    For you, Jet…

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    I wonder how many idiots are worried about what stone-cold Steve Austin thought of that?

  • http://www.bahaithought.com Phillipe Copeland

    Baronius, this is not an issue of blacks not being able to control themselves but of systems designed to control blacks which is what we see happening yet again. The Drug War has not really been about drugs. Second the New Jim Crow is an analogy, the limitations of which Michelle Alexander acknowledges in her book which I hope you will take the time to read so you see what I mean. The old Jim Crow and the New Jim Crow are not identical, but the similarities as far as the outcome are striking. Do you think that the Drug War should continue? If so, why?

  • Baronius

    In a perfect world, I’d have time to read every book. I did have 1:07:44, so I watched Michelle Alexander’s lecture and Q/A. Very interesting. I didn’t know that felons are cut off from food stamps. Denial of the right to vote, I’m fine with, but a food stamp restriction seems nuts.

    I found a few things about her presentation troubling, though. First off, I didn’t like the way she conflated color-blindness in the name of non-discrimination with disregard. I’m also unimpressed by her assumption that racism can be demonstrated with statistics.

    The big problem I have with the whole conversation is the way she talked about people being “labelled” felons. Nobody’s labelled a felon; they plead guilty or are found guilty of a felony. She doesn’t seem to confront the fact that felons are guilty of crimes. That’s what I mean when I’m talking about self-control. There is no reason that anyone should commit a drug-related crime, white or black, rock or powder, dealing or possessing. The failure to recognize responsibility seriously undermines the argument.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “Felon” becomes a label. It’s a matter of language usage. Try to get a job with a felony on your record.

    What has self-control got to do with it? Many people commit drug-related offenses or other crimes not inadvertently or involuntarily but by design. They just get caught.

    What do you mean by “there is no reason …”? Is it supposed to be read as a moralistic type of statement or as one indicative of some gross naivete? I certain hope not the latter. What other reading of it do you suggest?

  • Maurice

    I am the father of five children. My last 2 became addicted to drugs very early on. Thank god for the justice system and drug laws that allowed them to be incarcerated. One of my sons had overdosed so many times the ER people knew us by name. We have attended many counseling classes in addition to going to many NA meetings. My one son told me at one time that he knew if he didn’t go to jail he would overdose to the point of death. I asked him if he had anything on him. He said he had a bag of dope in his car. I called the cops and they searched his car. He was able to go to jail and do their in house NA meetings and counseling. It didn’t solve the problem but it gave him some much needed clean time.

    One last thought about this issue – handcuffs may not solve the problem but they do allow the addict to live to fight his addition another day.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    er..never heard of rehab, Maurice?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Perhaps Maurice tried, but he said no, no, no.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Maurice –

    I might suggest Canada or Europe – perhaps their approach to drug rehab is better than our own, and doesn’t involve keeping their young locked up in prisons where they interact with thieves and murderers.

    America is not always the best place to live – it took me a long time to realize that fact.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    (hold that thought, Glenn. seriously, keep that in mind–the ‘America thing you just said’ and the ‘prison thing’, we will need that in a future discussion)

    :-)

  • Maurice

    Cindy and Glenn

    I am going to assume you both have sincere intentions. Rehab is only for the very rich. The least expensive rehab in Idaho is 10k per month. Most recommend a 9 to 12 month stay. Typically an addict is ‘cured’ after 9 resident rehabs. When you go to jail you receive rehab treatment and you are forced to be clean. Jail time is clean time. It is also a time to get life training. In jail both of my boys were required to counsel other addicts and schedule work and play times. One son is in Job Corps in Montana and is training to be a welder. He has 2 months of clean time. My youngest son is working at a grocery store and has 8 months clean time. I thank god every night the phone doesn’t ring.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Awesome news, Maurice. I’m glad your two boys are clean and getting back on track. It’s not always easy to face these issues as a parent and you’re right: rehab is a costly option. It may be easy to suggest it from afar (or to suggest “Canada or Europe”), but real life is more complex than that, isn’t it?

    I wish you and your family the best. I don’t envy your position or the tough decisions you have to make.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    There’s always a dig, ain’t it so, Jordan?

  • Maurice

    Jordan

    thanks for the well wishing. Life is a hell of a ride. Addiction is a huge problem and most people are unaware of how pervasive it is and how devastating it is on families. I have always been a chest thumping conservative about all things. My views have changed after seeing what the ‘system’ has to offer for addicts. There is nothing I could have done for my boys compared to what the police officers, judges, and probation officers have done to help these boys. I am still a free market capitalist but I have to admit the goverment programs have helped my boys more than I could have using the capitalist solutions.

  • Maurice

    One last thing –

    my wife and I always go to the court hearings and the judge always asks for our input. Sometimes my wife cries when she tells them to keep our boys.

  • zingzing

    where’s the “dig,” roger?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Ask Jordan.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Roger, what the hell are you talking about?

  • Jordan Richardson

    Indeed, Maurice. There really is no cure-all solution for these sorts of things.

  • zingzing

    pretty sure you misread, roger.

  • STM

    There’s no trick to staying clean. You just don’t pick up no matter what is happening.

    A lot easier than it sounds … which is where the tricks come in. Finding people in the same boat is key.

    That support is the only way to keep it going.

    Try ringing your boss and saying: “I’m having a really bad day. I feel like picking up a drink/using drugs. What should I do?”

    Someone who’s been there, done that, and seen their lives change for the better will be the only one with the answers.

    But ultimately, a drunk or drug addict really has to want to change.

    That’s where the “no trick to it” bit comes in.

  • STM

    And, of course, staying away from your old haunts/and drinking/using mates. Leaving the old environment isn’t easy, but it’s the only way.

    If you keep sitting in a barber’s chair, eventually you’ll end up with a haircut.

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    Although I am glad Maurice’s children are no longer addicts, I am confused as to how they achieved that through being in jail.

    Does that mean all the news reports and documentaries claiming that drugs are rife in American prisons are wrong?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Jordan, the little allusion to “Canada or Europe,” yes, you could have done without.
    And if the allusion was unintentional, which you seem to seem to insist on, then you’re a clumsy writer.

    Take your pick.

  • Maurice

    STM – you are absolutely correct. At the NA meetings they always talk about changing people, places and things. You must have some first hand experience with addicts.

    Christopher Rose – no longer addicts.. is not correct. Addicts can be in recovery and have significant clean time but they remain addicts for life. As far as jail time. Jails are quite a bit different from prisons. My sons have not had to go to prison yet. The jails have NA meetings and rehab programs in them. My one son was regularly drug tested in jail. My wife and I attended a weekly relapse prevention class in jail with him.

  • zingzing

    roger, read #29…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You know, that’s why you’re such a perfect pest, can’t take a hint even when it stares you in the face. Otherwise, I’d love you dearly.

    As to your suggestion, no, thank you.

  • zingzing

    are you suggesting that jordan was digging on glenn? it’s a pretty mild dig, and part of jordan’s point, but okay… if disagreement is a “dig,” i guess that’s a dig…

  • zingzing

    now if you’d like to take a look at #33…

  • zingzing

    and #44…
    and #47…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Never said it wasn’t mild, zing.

    Part of Jordan’s point ought have been that rehab’s expensive, not that giving advice from a far is cheap. Again, if Jordan didn’t intend to generate this kind of reading, then he’s far from the accomplished writer he takes himself to be.

    Anything else you need me to clarify before this thread degenerates as it always does because you don’t know when to quit?

  • zingzing

    no roger. and would you quit it with the digs?

  • Jordan Richardson

    Roger, when I’m making my point, I’ll include what I choose and word it however I want. Deal with it. What you think I “ought” to include is YOUR problem, not mine. I couldn’t give a shit about how you think I should word things or how I should say what I want to say.

    And I don’t “take myself” to be an “accomplished writer,” either. I could care less if your arrogant ass calls me “clumsy.” I don’t care if you don’t like me. I don’t give a fuck if you don’t like what I write. I do not care. I don’t waltz around this site celebrating my own intelligence like you do. I don’t bask in my own ego like you do. There. That was a “dig,” asshole.

    I used to have the patience zingzing has now. Not anymore. You’re a waste of time, plain and simple, and you sit around here picking at things all day because you have no life and nothing to show for yourself. You fancy yourself a philosopher, but you can’t handle an OUNCE of self-examination. Everything is always someone else’s fault and you come up with these cornball little equations like someone gave you say over how others should run their lives or present themselves. What utter arrogance you have. See? That was another “dig.”

    My comment was sincere; I didn’t intend to “dig” at anyone specifically, only the ideas presented. It is NOT easy. That’s the point I was making. Maurice understood that and it was only YOU who had to pounce on my comment and read it from your typically twisted angle. So when you talk about something having “generate(d) this kind of reading,” it’s actually your problem. Again.

    What a stunner. And, as I see in #51, you’re blaming someone else for “degenerating” this thread when it was YOU who started this crap to begin with. Grow up.

  • http://gay-headlines.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    Should I offer you guys some of my Cymbalta or just stay out of this?… never mind

  • zingzing

    if i can’t abuse it recreationally, i don’t want any part of it. roger is easy to abuse recreationally.

  • http://gay-headlines.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    …my bad

  • STM

    I’m sure there are free public treatment options for addicts and alcoholics in the US, the same as in Europe, Canada or Australia.

    I can’t speak for Europe or Canada, but I do know that in Australia, the public, free rehab centres are regarded as the best. Private clinics are often used by people “drying out”, or pretending to get sober, from my experience.

    There’s no right or wrong in that, because stopping even for a few weeks can plant the seed that might eventually see someone get off it altogether.

    And if the epiphany comes in jail and the prisons department does whatever it can to facilitate a prisoner’s genuine desire to change, what better place to remind yourself of where your life has already taken you and where it could end up.

    Sometimes jail or some other personal life-changing trauma, generally a major brush with the law, loss of jobs or relationships, are the only things that spur people to change.

    So jail might not always be a bad thing in this situation.

    Just sayin’ …

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Jordan, #53

    I have no problem whatever “dealing with it.” In fact, I’d much prefer you making your little digs and innuendos, and all the little clues to the real Jordan persona, than trying to efface yourself behind your oft-perfect writing (a difficult task for most of us), especially your denial and protests which, more often than not, take the form of a diatribe. Good for you and good for me. That’s what makes for all the fun, knowing you’re not some automaton but a real-life human being, colorful and with faults and bits of irrationality sprinkled in now and then.

    Cheerio!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #55

    If I remember correctly, it was you, zing, who disappeared from the BC scene for two months or so the last time around because, as you announced to all and sundry, “I’m sick of Roger.” So let’s stick to the facts, ma’am.

  • zingzing

    just had to dry out for a bit, roger. but i don’t think you were the only reason.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Don’t think I want to take credit. That’d be kind of deranged like Kurtz et al, don’t you think?

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    Roger, since you have returned to the politics threads, you have gotten into meaningless spats with at least 6 or 7 people. Most of the time, the spats are [on both sides] childish “did not/did too” stuff instead of sticking to the issues at hand. It’s all a big waste of time and typing.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I agree the spats on both sides, at least you’re being fair, are childish. Six or seven, though. You exaggerate. The comments directed at Jordan and Dreadful weren’t childish, they concerned use of language which I take very seriously. As to my pointed political remarks to Glenn and you, it’d seem that it’s Glenn who’s always throwing a tantrum behind his massive array of “facts.” Your responses, however, have been to the point and measured. Besides, you’re conceding, however grudgingly, other points of view, which you had difficulty with in the past, and I appreciate that. Haven’t seen that from your compadres, though.

    So in effect, we’re talking only about zing, don’t we? since you’ve just been prompted to comment. Well, he’s a special case, I’d say.

    And therefore your point is?