Friday, September 07, 2007

"Let's analyze the poet's comparison."

Sorry, I'm an English major. And also a poet. I hereby swear to the blog gods that my next post won't be like an essay.

Okay, so in this post from June, I wrote "not every gay rights activist is LGBT, not every pro-choice advocate has had an abortion or is even sexually active, not every feminist is female, and not every environmentalist is a polar bear - duh."

I've been getting good reviews about that, particularly the part about polar bears. I like that rhetoric too, and here's why. (Note: Drug policy reformers do not necessarily support the causes/ideologies listed below.)

I hear a lot of rhetoric about how the War on Drugs is like the civil rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, and the abolitionist movement. This is true in the sense that a group of people are fighting social injustice over decades of powerful grassroots action, and, as with these historic movements, we are slowly but surely getting results. A growing number of people are on our side morally and intellectually. All we need is action, we can't be sure when push will come to shove, but those involved are already shoving soooo we're pretty much gonna win. Also, the connections to civil rights are clear in drug policy reform.

However, in a sense it's more like the environmentalist movement because it's not all about civil rights. It's also about creating safer communities, using our resources more wisely, and letting sound science take precedent over batshit crazy politics. There are a lot of actions we can take now to save money and improve quality of life in the long run. Another similarity is that the best advocates for reform in these camps must have a strong, very interdisciplinary knowledge base.

It's like the LGBT rights movement because we're fighting a prohibition of something that has to do with lifestyle choice. I don't personally believe that being LGBT is a choice, but in both cases people are punished and stigmatized for a part of their personal identity. Laws are enforced against people who simply are not criminals. And, as Ethan Nadelmann said when he telepathically stole my joke at the NE Regional Conference, in some ways both have to do with what you choose to stick in your own body, which is really nobody else's business.

It's like the pro-choice movement because it's based on reducing harm. We don't advocate recreational drugs any more than pro-choice activists advocate abortion. The point is meeting people where they're at and helping them in the best way possible, whether it's giving them information or giving them appropriate resources when they have a crisis. All this because abstinence-only just isn't effective.

Then there are endless ideologies that relate to drug policy reform: Libertarianism: people should be free to make their own choices. Christianity: freedom of choice, judge not lest ye be judged, compassion, and even sobriety (As the protestants learned during the temperance movement, prohibition did not cause people to "walk properly, not in drunkenness." Verse from Romans 13. If I understand Christianity, then sobriety and a law-abiding lifestyle should come from one's personal relationship with God and scripture, not from the law... but anyway). Wicca: Harm none, do what ye will. Hell, you can apply anything really. Existentialism: Well who knows why we exist but while we're here let's do something meaningful. Nihilism: Dude. Whatever, nothing matters. (Most reformers aren't nihilists - too much effort for nihilism. :D)

We shouldn't need these analogies to legitimize the movement as a whole. My feeling is that such comparisons should be focused on the context of the conversation at hand. We are not freeing slaves here, and unless you encounter the perfect context for the analogy, don't go suggesting that we think we're abolitionists. That would be misguided and sad. We are not misguided and sad. We're heavily based on strong principles and we're not out of our minds and we've thought about all the implications of the issue and we have good experience and research to back ourselves up. Every issue and philosophy is unique and multi-dimensional. Many issues overlap, but never entirely. Don't let anyone forget. Relying fully on analogy is for people with poor understanding of the issue at hand (see Godwin's law). But uh, that doesn't mean you shouldn't use them when appropriate.

Also let's get some polar bears in on this action. Can you imagine a throng of polar bears marching on the Capitol? Fuck, I can, and it's awesome. (Not all drug policy reformers have a potty mouth like me.)

2 comments:

JT Barrie said...

What I can't stand are the false associations. If you equate good parenting skills with support of the drug war then you create a false association. You can be a good parent and debunk the dangerous drugs mythology. If you want to deter kids from using or abusing drugs it's always a good idea to motivate them to defer for the right reasons.

Micah Daigle said...

Roar. You just brought out the polar bear in me.