It's beginning to heat up in San Antonio (figuratively and literally -- it's 100 degrees!).
Before I tell you about what just happened, I should preface it with a few things:
1) As I mentioned in my previous post, I have the utmost respect for the vast majority of law enforcement personnel and truly beleive that the D.A.R.E. program is carried out with the best of intentions. (This probably has a lot to do with the fact that I had a great relationship with my DARE instructor growing up.) Even if we are critical of the program itself, we must remember that their goal is to keep young people safe, and they probably wouldn't be teaching DARE if they didn't truly believe that it works. My experience this week has reinforced that conviction.
2) Since I give DARE officers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their intentions, I'm trying to be respectful and nondisruptive even when I hear something that makes my skin crawl. If I "come out" as an SSDP member, it would create a scene and I'd probably be removed from the conference, which wouldn't be productive. Thus, I'm doing my best to keep a low profile even though my age, video camera and lack of a cop uniform make me stick out like a sore thumb.
3) I'm a terrible liar. A big reason I'm involved in working to make our drug policies more sensible is because I've always been drawn to truth. So whenever I'm the least bit deceptive, my pulse quickens, I feel uncomfortable, and I swear my nose grows four inches.
With all this being said, you can probably understand why I froze when I was identified as being a DARE critic during a packed session and questioned afterward about what brought me to the conference.
The session was entited "How the Media is Killing Our Children." Throughout the course of the presentation, the speaker claimed the following:
-It doesn't matter if DARE is effective or not. It matters whether it has the potential to be effective. In fact, we shouldn't trust studies or numbers. The studies and numbers don't matter, so long as there's a chance that DARE miiight be working.
-If your state passes a medical marijuana law, that means that the guy flying your plane or the guy "driving your taxi when your family visits the 911 memorial" could buy a fake penis to pass a drug test and then get you killed.
-Oh, and the media is killing your children.
To be fair, some of the information about alcohol advertisements geared toward children was spot on. And he was a fun guy with a compelling presentation style.
But he must have caught me squirming in my seat when he said "I don't trust numbers" because he pointed at me and said "so if this guy is a DARE critic, you can tell him..." He then asked me to turn off my camera and I complied.
During a break in the session, the presenter approached me and politely explained that he asked me to turn off the camera because the presentation includes copyrighted material. He then asked where I was from and why I was at the conference.
I was torn on what to say. I didn't want to lie, but I also didn't want to get in an argument, cause a scene, and jeopardize my ability to continue gathering information about DARE to bring back to all of you. So I told him that I direct the nationwide Good Samaritan Campaign, an effort to prevent overdoses on college campuses. Not a lie by any means (since I do direct SSDP's Good Samaritan Campaign) but not entirely the whole truth either.
The whole truth would have involved me telling him that my friend's mother, who was finally able to relieve her MS symptoms legally after RI passed its medical marijuana law, has presumably never bought a fake penis for the purpose of passing a drug test, nor is she a taxi driver. The whole truth would have involved telling him that I've seen the studies on DARE and realize that the potential to do good also comes along with the potential to do harm -- in fact, some studies have indicated that DARE may actually increase drug use among young people.
But even though I was being completely honest and defused the situation successfully, I still feel slimy. As a friend joked via email today, I'm a wolf in wolves' clothing.
So consider this post a confession of sorts. Although I knew from the start that my goal was to gather information without making too much of a scene, it's getting more and more difficult to hold my tongue because the truth deserves a proper defense.
Tomorrow may be my chance to do just that. It's the last day of the conference, so I don't have much to lose. Besides, they may have googled me and found this blog by now anyway. That doesn't mean I'll be rude or disruptive, but I'll probably be more inclined to ask tough questions and show my cards.
But for now, I've got a bowling tournament to get to. Oh, and I just did a thoroughly entertaining and informative interview with Miss Texas and Miss Maine. I'll post the video soon.
I'll wrap this post up as I began one in 2004:
"I am Christopher Columbus at a flat earth conference.
I am Charles Darwin at a creationist conference.
I am Micah Daigle at a DARE conference."
Not much has changed.