JUST SAY NO
August 13, 2009
When I heard protesters outside President Obama’s New Hampshire town meeting earlier this week shouting “just say no!” they carried me back to Nancy Reagan’s project as First Lady in the eighties. I’m wired like this. I may be losing my memory for names or words, but I remain wired to connect things said and done here and now to things said and done before. In this instance, I presume that the same approach to politics that spawned Ms. Reagan’s war on drugs has spawned protests against health care reform. I’m not blaming Ms. Reagan for her campaign; I assume she was a loyal wife doing what her handlers told her to do. Call me cynical. I assume by a process of survival of the politically hottest even those who qualify to become president largely do as they are told. I have great respect for President Obama as a personal, thoughtful, honest intellect. When I look at how he caves to generals on warfare, I see yet another president who qualifies for office because he will not question military advice. If you place him beside a Dennis Kucinich for example, Mr. Obama qualifies to be president in part because of his foreign-policy naiveté. I imagine that by the time he got to law school, he received and as law review editor accepted the postulate that any lawyer worth his or her salt could become an expert on any issue in 48 hours. What that capacity to digest information at hand leaves out is room for historical perspective, notably on whether we are repeating doomed historical precedents. I have already written about doomed U.S. military hegemony. Now I turn to the limitations of opposition generally and the war on drugs, as in opium production in Afghanistan, in particular.
I also hear one of the people feeding lines to health care reform protesters cite labor organizer Saul Alinsky as inspiration for his campaign. Indeed, Chicago community organizer Saul Alinsky wrote what became a bible even to law-school graduate Chicago community organizer Barack Obama himself.
I oppose oppositional politics. There was a time in my alternative social control systems class when I used to put up labels for me that I did and did not accept. I put left and right on one axis on the blackboard, and then at right angles from the center of that line drew a line that ended in anarchism—living among one another as though no one deserved to be the boss of anyone else. In the Confucian pantheon descending from ruler to ruled thence to father and son…, friend to friend is at the bottom of the list. That’s where Dao/Taoist Laoze and I dwell, in the land where bosses survive (as in Laoze’s time in China’s two millennia ago Warring States Period) by letting go of power long enough listen to their subordinates. After a couple of decades or so as an anarchist criminal justice professor, I believe that I came to enjoy increasing student stimulation and support as I learned to listen to my students.
It is refreshing to have a U.S. president who displays this gift himself. But we cannot expect any father figure (whether man , woman, or body) to grant or legislate our security. One reason I gave up litigation for mediation is that mediation gets you, in another Harvard lawyer Roger Fisher’s terms, that “getting to yes” means getting off oppositional political positions toward negotiating interests. A psychiatrist friend I recently visited branded me oppositional. I plead guilty of being constitutionally opposed to political opposition. Just saying no and zero tolerance just plain make no sense in getting down to negotiating interests.
The draconian Rockefeller drug law had just taken effect when I joined the criminal justice faculty for four years at the State University of New York at Albany in 1972. President Nixon declared the first formal war national war on drugs since Prohibition in 1973. Once it was thrown in my criminal justice face that drug enforcement had become the major contributor to the growth of the crime control industry, growth in jail and prison populations included, I became an avid student of the history of U.S. drug control efforts. And so here, and surely in future posts, I comment on absurdities of drug prohibition. Among other things it has been my Walter Mitty lot to experience, I have qualified for free expert testimony on an array of issues, including drug control issues. My primary research has been to prepare to face two or three hundred South Central Indiana students who typically included local law enforcement. I offer readers these credentials.
Drug control is huge. In this post, I’ll just lay down several conclusions I’ve reached on the subject for comment and discussion:
1. Drug wars only multiply illicit drug production, trafficking, and addiction.
2. The same U.S. govt that promises to curb opium production in Afghanistan set up the production system ca 1980 to fund a covert war against the Soviet Union.
3. As in Switzerland, those with opiate including heroin habits can safely and non-toxically be maintained, so what’s the fuss about?
4. Ideally, the government should take the public health lead by continuing to certify what’s in what we ingest, inhale and inject, and then let us make our own decisions about our own bodies.
5. Today’s npr “Morning Edition” report on how freely one can get medical marijuana in California indicates how simply that by lifting federal law enforcement off the backs of states which allow medical use, we can regain control of our own minds, hearts, and bodies.
How about rising above opposing talking points in drug control, healthcare, and military deployment debates?
Love and peace--hal