Friday, August 31, 2007

Reputation busting 101

I don't know how it is at other schools, but at UMD, the student body tends to consider the drug policy reformers to be pro-drug at best and crazy drug addicts at worst. I'm guessing it is that way at most other schools, since it seems to be that way in the world beyond school as well. Take this offensive piece of crap as an example of our reputation as burned out hippies waving packets of illicit substances around on playgrounds saying "Whee drugs for everybody!"

So, let's say you hand someone a flyer and invite them to a meeting. They confess, "It seems that everyone involved in this kind of thing just wants to make life easier for themselves." Here are some comebacks - use whatever's truthful for you and relevant to who you're talking to.

  • "Actually, drugs aren't a part of my lifestyle at all. I don't use illicit drugs/I've never used an illicit drug." Props to you if you can honestly use this one and you've gotten involved in drug policy reform. They will probably ask you why or not believe you, so tell them why. Similarly,
  • "To be honest with you, drugs ruined [something that drugs ruined for you]. But then I realized things might have been better if [some non-prohibition approach had been used instead.] Maybe not in my case - who knows? But overall situations like mine could be avoided/improved."
  • "You're right. Ending prohibition would in fact make life easier for my [friend, relative, self] who [needs marijuana for a medical problem, is trying to beat a heroin addiction preferably without contracting HIV, lives in a violent black market crime area, is suffering disproportionate consequences for a non-violent, first-time, fucking stupid mistake that anyone could have made]." Fill in an appropriate amount of personal details.
  • "It doesn't make sense to me that only drug users would be interested in this. [Laundry list of reasons why non-users would be interested.]"
  • This one's bold, so know who you're talking to if you use it: "Suppose some of us do use illicit drugs. None of us have ever committed a violent crime like murder, rape, or assault. We don't deserve to [lose financial aid/get evicted from dorms/be punished at the level of violent criminals or worse]. Most drug users are non-violent non-addicts, and it doesn't make sense to lock up users or addicts."
  • "Ah yes. Stereotypes plague us all, but I assure you our members shower sufficiently. Come, join us and help us prove that we would not all jump in Jerry Garcia's lap given the chance, were his lap alive and well."
  • "Maybe, maybe not. But hey. Ever hear of a male feminist? A straight LGBT supporter? A white civil rights activist? Not to mention: should women, LGBT folk, and ethnic/racial minority members be condemned as selfish for supporting their own rights and trying to make positive changes in the world?"
  • "I know you are but what am I?" Just kidding.
And then there's the classic values statement!
  • "Actually, SSDP doesn't encourage or condemn drug use. Our members' personal feelings about drugs are secondary compared to our mission to end the federal War on Drugs, which ends up causing more harm than drugs themselves... and we're well aware that drugs can be harmful. We want people to make the safest choices possible, and everyone would be better off without the War on Drugs. Well. Everyone but terrorists and others who are making huge profits off prohibition."
Sometimes - perhaps oftentimes, I don't know - chapters do start with a small group of motivated and outraged drug users. It only makes sense; the Drug War infiltrates their minds and urine, after all, and you can't get much closer to home than that. As more members jump on board, more unique perspectives and new reasons for supporting the cause jump on with them. The best message to send is that we genuinely welcome them all, not for their numbers, not solely for their energy, but for the way their own experiences broaden our understanding of why this change needs to happen.


irinalex said...

Hey Rebecca, thanks a lot for writing this. Couldn't have been more perfect timing. I think you just added a must-read blog to our chapter's list.
Keep a-rockin'

JT Barrie said...

Hey the use of false associations to besmirch someone who brings out embarrassing facts about dishonesty is a longstanding tactic of those in power. Jesus was called "the friend of prostitutes and tax collectors" for his diatribes about the inconsistent and self serving prattle of those in power in his day. Calmly claim to be the "friend of drug dealers and addicts" as Jesus would certainly be called - after he commented on the brazen lies and dishonesty by all those in power who promote this vile policy.
Of course if any claim to disagree, offer to discuss your claim at their local church using scripture. Please note: lying is repeatedly condemned by Jesus and there is no scripture condemning the use of any drug in the Bible. And that includes Leviticus with over 600 arcane prohibitions - half of them are ones that no Bible believing Christian even tries to follow. The mantra of all christian leaders in Philomath is "When Jesus says something that we don't like - we just tell Jesus to take a hike"!

Micah Daigle said...

Great post, Becca!

I love your "not all environmentalists are polar bears" rhetoric... I've started to use it myself. Do I have to pay you royalties for that? ;-)

For another great example of how to handle questions about the motives behind your drug policy work, check out this video of former SSDP board member, Chris Mulligan, who was profiled for the Washington Post website: LINK

Rebecca Ogle said...

Irina - Yay I'm special! Hopefully I'll have time to blog more (aka rock) this semester.

Micah - You don't have to pay royalties but definitely mention that I came up with it, once in a while, to boost my ever-fluctuating self-esteem. (Writers generally either consider themselves geniuses or idiots at any given time. Sigh.)