Sham of a War

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November 5, 2007

I know what you're asking yourself. 'To what particular sham does she refer?' I realize I will have to narrow it down for thinking people. I am referring, dear reader, to the particular sham of the War on Drugs.

Out of two million Americans behind bars (the highest per capita in the world, more so than Communist China, Russia, Cuba, or any Third World hell-hole in the Middle East), one million of these Americans are non-violent drug offenders. If you multiply approximately $40,000 a year to house and prod each and every one, you're not talking about peanuts. You have to figure that someone is getting rich. The term, 'drug lord' takes a whole new meaning, and I don't mean any 'pusher-man' or Big Pharma. Those are topics for another discussion.

Previously, we discussed the pretense of care, which the government uses to perpetuate Prohibition II. (This comes squarely on the shoulders of Prohibition I; also a resounding failure and in my book is still not over.) Cops in our upper-end neighborhood like to hassle young people and non-whites as a matter of course.

As an appendage to one young fellow's night of excitement with some suburban drug warriors who were certain that he was an enemy of the 'selling' type, Tony was recently pulled over in the city of Detroit itself. There they suspect a lone, young, white male of buying rather than selling, based on the prima facie evidence that he exists in their midst.

'Where you goin', son?' 'To the airport to pick up a friend.' 'You know how to git thar?' 'Uh, yeah, I'm taking this to 94 and then to the Merriman Road exit.' 'OK den, cuz uh, you know, uh, they's lotta fellas come down hya to buy drugs.' 'Nope, not buying any drugs.' Without being asked for any papers, he escaped again, unscathed.

It's gotten to the point where he regularly leaves the house 15 minutes early for everything because he is as likely as not to get pulled over by a cop in the War on Drugs who is just doing his job. What an obscene waste of taxpayer money, his time and violation of his right to move about freely. It's a good thing that boy of mine is as clean as a goddamn whistle or his butt would have been in a sling more times than I can count or even care to think about.

'I pity the fool'

A friend of a friend, Dan, worked his way through college as a valet here in metro Detroit . He worked for a lawyer who always asked him if he'd rather have, as a tip, a cap of coke or a ten-dollar bill. The lawyer told Dan that he was the only fellow in his experience who ever opted for the cash. Dan did so, not because of any law. He saw that his co-workers who had accepted the coke wound up slaves to it and in the end received no paycheck, only coke.

The Drug War is an equal opportunity oppressor, at least as far as substance goes. A friend of mine, who was not so lucky, got pulled over once in Detroit under suspicion of drunk driving. He blew over the legal limit on a breathalyzer. Todd found himself seated firmly in the back of a police cruiser (which had been paid for with his tax dollars). Police (whose salaries were also paid by Todd) kept asking him whether he was employed. He didn't answer for a long time because he knew that the answer to that question was about to determine his fate.

Finally, thinking that they might give a break to a working stiff, he answered, as they knew he eventually would. 'Yeah, I'm working,' was his reply. 'Then you're under arrest for drunk driving.' Too late, Todd found out that people who are not employed are the ones who get a pass. They clog up the lucrative machinery of the court system and don't pay their court fees like the workingman does.

Welcome to Detroit , where only the employed get busted for D.U.I. But it's not about money, really! Oh, and justice is blind, too. It sees no evil. Like the three monkeys of Japanese legend, it neither hears nor speaks of it, either.

Another fellow I know, Jamie, was recently stopped for erratic driving but refused to 'blow.' He was thrown in jail for driving under the influence of alcohol anyway. His lawyer discreetly informed him that he could make the entire problem go away about $65K in cash. Luckily, he was able to cough up such a sum and viola! A few days later his driver's license arrived in the mail with a note of apology for the misunderstanding. I believe this is called 'honor amongst thieves.'

As 'Mr. T.' would say, 'I pity the fool' who is caught in the unawares by the criminal justice system. Did you know, dear reader, that if you are incarcerated you'd best have your assets protected? I'm not talking about keeping a firm grip on the soap in the shower. If The Man should find out that you have it, you will be charged $75 per day to pay for your own incarceration. It was the going rate the last time I checked.

The sham of the War on Drugs is apparent to many people; the closer you are to it, the more obvious the sham becomes. Occasionally The Man will 'grow a pair' and publicly admit the truth about it. Richard Brunstrom, the Chief Constable of North Wales, U.K. , recently called for an end to drug laws. Brunstrom states: 'Illegal drugs are now cheaper and more plentiful than ever before. The number of users has soared while drug-related crime is rising with narcotics now supporting a worldwide business empire second only in value to oil.'

The wealth created by the drug trade is due, not to the fact that drugs are possessed of some high intrinsic value, but like the diamond trade, the price is determined solely by manipulation of supply. With drugs it is the fact that they are deemed 'illegal' by government. It is a useful tool for tyrants. With it, they can increase domestic spying, incarcerate hundreds of thousands of minorities who have been impoverished by generations of government welfare and find the drug trade a tempting escape, and manipulate international politics in 'poppy' growing nations, thereby growing itself and related businesses exponentially.

Besides the actual failure record of prohibition and my own personal experience, there's always the nitty-gritty. I find that no matter what your subject matter, it's always a good idea to go to the source to find out 'bout what da business be.' For this, I've interviewed a friend who grew up in Detroit . He frankly lifted the veil and gave me another peek into the dark underbelly of local law enforcement and the War on Drugs. Read on, if you D.A.R.E.

To Serve and Protect

Kevin grew up in the City of Detroit in the Sixties and Seventies, often without the presence of his father at home. Contrary to popular belief, there existed no pusher-man hanging out in schoolyards giving drugs to children in hopes of getting them hooked into the street life. Like here and now in any affluent suburb, drugs are available just about anywhere, anytime. Sometimes Kevin said 'no-thanks' to street drugs and no one pressured him or made fun of him. Sometimes he said 'yes.'

As an aside, dear reader, this I must ask. Does a kid experimenting with drugs to see what the fuss is about deserve to be taken out of his home and placed in a juvenile detention facility to be, at the very least, verbally or possibly, physically and/or sexually abused? You won't convince me that it's anyone's business except his Mama and Papa's. You also won't ever convince me that anyone will affect a child positively unless they actually care for him. You'll never convince me that the state does or could, no matter how many well-intentioned social workers there may be. The initiation of force against another creates an equal and opposite reaction, potentially turning a curious child into a hardened drug user and an enemy of the state. It also creates apathy in society at large because they've already 'contributed' to the 'solution' via tax dollars, when what is really needed is more people willing to get their own hands dirty.

I recently rented the film, 'Freedom Writers,' about a courageous, young woman who starts her teaching career in one the most dangerous schools (public, naturally) in the nation in Long Beach , California . She got her hands dirty and changed the lives of a few dozen seemingly doomed teenagers. The film is based on a true story and gives the viewer a painful understanding of the horrors of institutionalized racism and hatred, and I'm not just referring to educators, although the young heroine witnesses plenty of that.

When Ms. Grewel gets a clue about what life is really like for her students, she starts asking them painful questions, which should never need be asked of children. 'How many of you know someone who has been killed in gang violence?' All hands go up. 'How many of you have been victims of gang violence yourself?' Almost all hands go up.

The film also reveals the home lives of children who take more than one bus to get to school. One teenage girl in the story, in fear of a gang attack on the walk home from the bus rides, arms herself and so remains alive. The only way for her to obtain the weapon with which to protect herself was illegally. If her insistence on arming herself this way would have been found out by 'the man,' she would have been arrested and had a permanent criminal record. Scenes of white police violence in the minority inner city are commonplace here, as in any big city in America . Watching this film finally helped me to understand the suffering behind simplistic rap lyrics and the violent hatred espoused by young people of color for white cops, as they watch their parents, brothers, sisters and lovers being targeted and viciously dragged off by white cops with impunity who are just 'doing their jobs.'

In typical government arrogance, our own gaping inner city wounds, due entirely to government policy, are redacted in the press, while the U.S. government self-righteously exports 'democracy' to Iraq . Its cities become out-of-control war zones, not unlike our inner cities, its prisons notorious, just like, well, you get the idea. Government leaves a big footprint wherever it goes, one no individual or even a private gang of hoodlums could hope to emulate. Don't kill--government hates the competition.

And now back to Kevin in metro Detroit . Today he is a grown man, an educated professional with children of his own. One day a suburban 'D.A.R.E' cop came knocking on his door asking for money (donations.) Kevin told her that he does not support government, apparently least of all a ridiculous program that pays people to perform brainless skits in public schools to discourage children from using drugs.

It is my small-minded opinion that the D.A.R.E. 'performers' could likely find no actual employment outside the bureaucratic wasteland of tax dollars sloshing around the program. Other than a phenomenal waste of taxpayer money and children's time and the temporary employment of a few amateur actors, the skits accomplish absolutely nothing. In fact, they are the laughingstock of teenagers across America , and everyone knows it, including police. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest a positive effect of D.A.R.E. on illicit drug use.

Government gets to decide what drugs and treatments are good for children. Teacher-approved Ritalin is coming to a school near you so that your children will sit still for proper training. God help you if you should decide you don't like their brand of treatment. Bureaucrats can and do simply take your children from you for any old reason they like.

The officer tried to tell Kevin that 'D.A.R.E.' is not a government program. We can't know if she was lying or just plain stupid. Either way, I'm sure it's not an accident that they use a uniform to shake down people for more money for yet another government program that doesn't work. I'm sure there are people who dig out their wallets merely upon seeing the badge, as it is usual and customary when dealing with bureaucracy.

'You a cop? Then you're the government.' Kevin closed the door. He says he doesn't plan on ever calling police for help. It doesn't matter that he pays their salaries. Their priority is to protect and serve themselves and their own interests. When you are given a gun and impunity to use it and the weight of the state squarely behind you, opportunity then becomes tyranny.

Recently, Kevin stopped at a party store on Eight Mile Road on the way home from work. He noticed an old friend pull in at the same time, with an unmarked Detroit Police cruiser immediately following. Inside Kevin discreetly asked his old friend, whom he knew to be a local dealer, what was up with the cop behind him. 'That's my bodyguard,' was the reply. To serve and protect.

Qui bono? Even if the War on Drugs did not violate the most basic right to self determination, which it most certainly does, and even if illegality stopped anyone from using drugs, which it clearly does not, and even if minorities did not wind up incarcerated in grossly disproportionate numbers, which they certainly do, the fact is that it is not only the kingpins of the drug trade who are getting rich. All the little wheels along the way are getting greased and the unseen players at the top of the correctional food chain who are becoming wealthy as a direct result of it is prima facie evidence of the fraudulence of the War on Drugs.

Let's end the insanity, shall we? Like Kevin, DARE to withdraw your sanction of tyranny before someone you know and love is ground up in its machinery. Protect yourself with knowledge and preparation, and for god's sake, keep your wallet in your pocket.

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Retta Fontana's picture
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Retta Fontana is an atheist, anarchist, baker, potter and parenting teacher.  Children are her favorite people.