Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanks, and no thanks

As many of us gather with our families for Thanksgiving dinner, let’s reflect on what we really have to be thankful for – as well as what we don’t. Perhaps this exercise is a bit played-out and cliché, but maybe it can help us put into context where we stand in this big ol’ Drug War.

I’m thankful to live in a country with a relatively high level of academic, political, and journalistic freedom. It’s unconscionable that people in some parts of the world don’t enjoy the simple freedom to compose their thoughts, broadcast them to the world, and engage in communication with their peers, whether it be because they’re stifled by an oppressive government, poverty, illiteracy, or a combination thereof.

But since we’ve got this fantastic freedom, we might as well use it to air our grievances and state what it is we’re not so thankful for.

No thanks, drug war ideologues and profiteers, for enacting policies intended to protect us from ourselves. We’re insulted that you think so little of us!

No thanks for continually wasting our hard-earned dollars to build new prisons, to spray poison on people in other countries, and to blast out misleading and offensive anti-drug advertisements.

No thanks for putting us through the DARE program and lying to us back in elementary school. We didn’t believe what you had to say then, and we sure as hell don’t believe you now.

But those of us who can, should give thanks that we haven’t felt the brunt of the Drug War as much as so many others have.

Let’s keep in our minds and our hearts those who so want to join with their families this holiday season but can’t because they’ve got to eat their dinner cold, alone, and behind bars. I know I’m thankful that I’m able to visit with my family when I need to without having a glass plate or steel bars preventing me from embracing them.

Let’s also give thanks that many of us are able to have the privilege of being able to attend institutions of higher learning and devote so much of our free time and resources to ending a war that has destroyed so many other lives. Of course, we should be proud of ourselves for making sacrifices and taking steps to help make the world a better place for everyone. But let’s not look disparagingly at those who, because of their family situation or socioeconomic status, aren’t yet in a position to be able contribute as much time or energy to this effort as we do.

Finally, and ironically, I’d like to thank the Drug War itself for introducing me to some of the kindest, hardest-working, most selfless people I’ve ever met.

It is precisely because of the destructive policies we’ve decided to battle against that I’ve met so many of my closest friends. And you are the most beautiful, caring, and passionate people I know.

Thanks, Drug War, for bringing so many dedicated people to the realization that we can, if we try hard enough, make a difference.


Kris said...

I'm thankful for Tom Angell and his hard work toward bringing justice and healing to our society. Thanks Tom. And I'm thankful for SSDP folks in general, for the same reasons. Thanks SSDP.

I touched on this same subject on my blog this morning (shameless plug!), albeit with a bit more brevity. Feel free to stop by- main line is now open.

Ross Wilson said...

Let's not forget that drug dealers also have the Drug War to thank for their livelihood. Wasn't the Kennedy family fortune built on alcohol bootlegging during prohibition in the 20s?

Kris said...

Ross, do you think you might be over-simplifying a particularly complicated, and multi-faceted issue? The term "drug dealer," with all of it's alienating/ us vs. them connotations, is sweepingly broad in and of itself. What quantity of sales qualifies a "drug dealer," and how much money constitutes a livelihood? And what motivates people to break the law in order to make money– malice, greed, necessity, desperation?

I'm not convinced that a dynamic of gratitude is warranted, under a number of possible circumstances.

Micah Daigle said...

Well noted Kris.

But I think we can safely say that the big drug dealers (i.e. the mob or cartel kingpins) benefit greatly because of drug prohibition. The unregulated market is a perfect place for a crime-boss to make a killing (literally and figuratively), oftentimes with the punitive consequences being absorbed by lower-level street dealers.

DEA Administrators, tough-on-drugs politicians, and cartel-kingpins can thank all the imprisoned low-level dealers for bearing the brunt of the illegitimate economy that lines thier pockets.

gcruse said...

You're fighting the good fight. The War on Some Drugs is a war on us all. Carry on.

hair-e-guy said...

**I tried to post a comment to the "Why Kids Play Doctor" post but it didn't work so I'll post it here**

I completely empathize with these "kids" and their dilemma. One little noted aspect of drug prohibition is the prohibition on self administration of presciption-only drugs. Ostensibly the regulations by which doctors control prescription drugs is for the protection of the patient consumer. The doctor always knws best, right? Well, the article makes it apparant that this rationale is getting a little threadbare, especially when people are confronted with "health care systems" where a patient is lucky to have a 30 second conversation with their doctor before the doctor dashes off to the next patient.

Doctors can be great allies, but that is all they are, not the sole arbiters of health, as many people prefer to view them. Experts give us advice in many different situations--lawyers, auto brokers, realators--but none of them is allowed to tell us we have to take their advice, buy the car or house they want us to. Should it be any different with our health care? Doctors should be free to make recommendations about drugs, but consumers ought to be able to buy and consume the drugs that best fit their own needs with or without the consent of the physician.

The current corporate health care situation has doctors working as mere presciption writing machines and patients as adversaries who are often forced to beg, grovel and lie to get around the liability concerns, morality (mis)judegements, ignorance or laziness of their doctors. The NYT article implies that people who think they "know more" than their doctor are arrogant or misinformed, but frequently doctors have defered to my judgement because of their own confessed lack of knowledge about a given health condition or a drug.

Doctors often have little time to covey information to patients about risks and benefits (let alone spend the time researching a question for a patient when they don't have an immediate answer. And lets face it, sometimes even the most well meaning doctors don't really give a damn about your health concerns when you're one of dozens of patients they must see to meet their quota in a typically overbooked clinic. We must therefore conclude that patients are better able to decide which drugs to take themselves rather than have a doctor who doesn't know enough about them, their body, their condition or even the drugs decide for them.

Working under far fewer time contraints, liability concerns, drug company lobbying or other pressures, a patient has far more motivation then a doctor to choose the correct drug for their needs and use it safely.

An idealist might admit that these problems exist for doctors but instead of reverting to the "anarchy" of abolishing the prescription drug system we can educate doctors, tell them to spend more time talking and listening to patients, blah, blah, blah. That will never happen, simply because these sorts of reforms are half-measures and they would cost money, thus decreasing the profit margins for HMO's.

Instead of trying to figure out how we can pretend to find ways to make the current system work, we should try to find ways to articulate sound reasons why it should be done away with. Along with the sound reasons listed above, we might also point to the fact that the reason the prescription drug sustem of regulation was begun in the first place was to regulate the quality and purity of dose, and to understand the risks and benefits of drugs. These controls would all still exist if patients had access to prescription drugs without a doctors' prescription. The only thing that would change is that patients would be responsible for their own choices. If drug research data and medical journals were widely availible, patients could finally makes choices that are just as informed as doctors. I think most Americans could live with that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tom. That made my day. -- Troy

Jonthon said...

I am thankful for the cannabis plant, and its various and sundry uses. =)

Ross Wilson said...

Kris, thanks for your question. But I'm not sure how the term "drug dealer" is unfair to drug dealers. Whatever your judgment about drug dealers, they do, in fact, deal drugs. I'm happy to entertain ideas for new names, though. Drug sellers? Illicit drug vendors? Controlled substance entrepeneurs?

In any case, I think that I was trying to make a "simple" point: that, in the absence of drug prohibition, there would be (almost) no black market and therefore no black market drug dealers.

And regardless of whether they're small time drug peddlers or the head of a cartel, they're gaining income from a black market created by prohibition. For some, maybe it's not a "living wage," but again, because of prohibition, there are no drug dealer unions or minimum wage laws.

Large or small, I'd be happy to see them all put out of business because it's certainly not a safe or orderly way to be distrubuting psychoactive chemicals.

Dan Goldman said...

There's no doubt that the term "drug dealer" is used frequently by many as a prejorative term. Certainly we don't call pharmaceutical sales reps by the same term when they're engaged in roughly the same area of commerce.

My guess is that the folks involved in the illict drug distribution business run the gamut from high-end bankers, to corrupt law enforcement officials to young street-level entrepreneurs and everything in between.

I'm thankful for all of them, and the risks they take to make currently prohibited substances available to those who wish to consume them. Ross is right, it's certainly not an ideal or safe way to be distrubuting psychoactive chemicals but right now, they're all we got.

Ross Wilson said...

Sorry, I couldn't help but comment on Dan's suggestion that we be thankful for all drug dealers and the risks they take to provide us with illegal drugs.

Dan's point about the diversity of drug dealers is well taken, but among them are certainly some nasty, morally repugnant people who use violent and exploitative means to advance their self-interested business. A number of Latin American cartels and American gangs certainly exemplify the dirty underbelly associated with the black market drug trade. I refer anyone with doubts about this to Mike Gray's "Drug Crazy."

Sure, there are small-time (or even big-time) dealers that don't themselves engage in this type of behavior, but the risks they take are nonethless far from altruistic. Like the rest of us, they're out to make a living. One exception might be those who grow prohibited substances specifically for medicinal or therapeutic use.

In the case of cocaine or heroin, it's highly probable that someone has been harmed or exploited in the course of their production and transport.

I think that idealizing all drug dealers as freedom fighters against the Drug War is virtually identical to saying the same about the alcohol bootleggers. Some made moonshine for their friends' consumption; others were thugs like Al Capone that made a name and a fortune off Prohibition.