Greetings and salutations from the sand, sun and surf of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and the showery (hit or miss), comfortable, peaceful island of Nantucket! Great to be with you and yours on this Tuesday morning at the Hyannis/Hyannis Port Waterfront(s)–this fourteenth day of July, 2015–a Tuesday to be sure, and looking out of my office window, it seems the bike ride might have to be postponed for a few more moments; the rains that dangerously drenched the Midwest recently have leaked into this pristine hamlet, one filled to capacity with people from every corner of this great big, blue spinning rock called EARTH.
In the independent film “The House I Live In“–a fascinating documentary about about the ‘war on drugs’ in this country, dating back to it’s inception with the Nixon administration, but even going further back than that–one is left in awe and blind wonder regarding the wisdom utilized in this so called free and fair country over the course of the past oh, say, fifty plus years. It shows with facts and figures just how insidious this “war” has become. How it has turned on itself, becoming a real life monster that has affected millions of Americans, mostly African-American and mostly males and mostly under the age of 30.
In the immortal words of “The Dude” (Jeff Bridges) in the classic 1998 “cult film”, “The Big Lebowski”– “…this aggression won’t stand man.” The ‘Dude’ referencing then U.S. President George H.W. Bush (who was referring of course to Iraqi aggression in that U.S. coveted oil rich region, upsetting this ‘new world order’, or band of richer than God plutocrats who have literally taken over the world), going all the way up the ranks, visiting ‘the chief of police’ in the city of Malibu, who, it turned out, was quite ‘the reactionary’… No where is this clearer than in this 21st century mutant called “The war on drugs”, really a misnomer, for it is most clearly a war on the poor.
When people have no hope, moreover, no economic prospects–other than an illegal drug industry on the street of ‘take your pick’ ghetto in ‘take your pick’ U.S. city–Gabor Mate, an addiction specialist/MD, made the point, “…the real question is not why the addiction, but rather why the pain?”
Because of “mandatory minimum” prison sentences handed down to low level drug offenders nationwide, almost all non-violent ‘offenders’, over 2.1 million Americans now call prison their home, far outpacing every other nation on the planet. The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population, with 25% of the world’s prisoners. Therefore, as in any ‘good’ capitalistic society, for profit prisons, and all that comes with it, have become all the rage on Wall Street, creating that ‘profit’ for the sacred ’shareholders’; invisible souls who have replaced the Apostles, just as the CEO’s have replaced Jesus.
There are more African-Americans under correctional control (prisons, jails, probation, parole), in 2015 than there were enslaved in 1850, ten years before the onset on the Civil War. Begging the question, ‘what is really going on here?’…
The seeds of this monstrous “war on drugs” can be traced back to the mid-1950’s, mostly in response to the ‘dangerous narcotics’ being used by 5% of the U.S. population. A fact the “powers that be”, the “authorities”, deemed as “counter-cultural” at that time and place. At least that is the story on it’s face. Drug use was increasing during this decade by all races, but by the 1960’s, drug use grew exponentially, and for black communities, increasing poverty pushed the use and sale of drugs onto the street, making them an even bigger target for law enforcement. By the late 1960’s, most urban cities had a mass market for drugs. By the 1980’s, it was a drive up window at McDonald’s. Thus, the argument of fighting a counter-cultural problem could no longer hold water, the ‘war’ had morphed into an all out war against a whole community..
Professor Ogletree of Harvard University stated in the film, “…there’s a structural problem in the U.S. we keep ignoring. We have 2.1 million people in prisons and jails, a million of them are African-American. Most male, non-violent offenders. This is a pattern that has overtaken the African-American community, because you get a whole generation of kids who have the assumption they are destined to be in the criminal justice system. What you see over and over again in urban America are kids living in a crowded house, who are hungry when they go to school, who lack attention (not to mention love), because they’ve heard gun shots or other things where they live. A ten year old girl faces drug dealers right outside of her front door as she makes her way to school; no economic opportunity. The school is warehousing her, and she doesn’t see any prospects. How is she supposed to get out?”
‘I wonder how a matter of public health didn’t just inspire early drug laws, but became the full blown target of war?’
This ‘war’ began, as stated earlier, by then U.S. President Richard Nixon, and let’s be honest, it was really intended to ‘get his poles up’ in 1968… Nixon was progressively minded though in this matter initially, for two thirds of that drug war chest was solely dedicated to treatment rather than law enforcement, laughable today. With the forward thinking (at times) Nixon being quoted in the early 70’s as saying, “…you don’t turn to drugs unless you can’t find satisfaction in any other way in your own life.”
Unfortunately for Nixon and countless addicts, with the 1972 election looming, politics once again trumped reason and humane treatment. Nixon’s folly opting instead for brutality in the form of more law enforcement, rather than tackling the source of the overall problem with proven drug treatment programs and a change in our overall biased and ignorant viewpoints in general. A harbinger of things to come to be sure. For that tough talk on crime proved a recipe for electoral success, with state after state following suit, adopting tougher and tougher drug laws; mostly in the sentencing structure and implementation of more and more prisons being built, thus forcing someone to be put inside one of them! This all happened via New York’s famous “Rockefeller Drug Laws”–an example of harsh penalties–soon adopted by other U.S. states in short order. Indeed, the 100:1 crack cocaine to powder cocaine being the most glaring injustice of them all…
Raul Hilberg spoke at length about this topic in his book, “the Destruction of European Jewry’, (the Nazi annihilation of over 6 million Jews, mostly done in secretive concentration camps during World War II, Germany, ~1938-45). For if one were to look closely enough at what happened to the Jews in Germany during WWII at the hands of the Nazis, one could draw parallels with what is going on today with African-American males in the United States, as well as poor white males. Many now with no job prospects, hope or help, hooked on the next evil crack, meth. He spoke at length about this millennia old ‘destruction’ of a group of peoples as a step-by-step process, with much of which happening of it’s own accord, it’s own momentum. And the destruction does not necessarily have to be as graphically raw as the carnage in Dachau or Auschwitz. But can be just as effective ‘at the end of the day’…
In this ‘Chain of Destruction’, Hilberg describes the first link as being one of “Identification”. A group of people who are “the cause” of all our woes and suffering, portraying them as ‘bad’ or ‘evil’. Exactly what the Nazis did in the late 1930’s to it’s own Jewish citizenry. “Ostracism” being the second link in the chain, wherein a society learns how to hate and moreover, FEAR these people-the dreaded “other”. Therefore, it behooves employers to begin taking their jobs away, making it harder for them to survive. People lose their place to live, forcing them into ghettos (designed that way on purpose), keeping a “lid” on ‘the situation’ as it were. The third link in this ugly chain of hate and death is “Confiscation”; designed to take away people’s property, their rights and their civil liberties, thus taking away the people themselves. The fourth link is “Concentration”, wherein the powers that be (at the moment), concentrate “them” into prisons, jails, institutions, camps (F.E.M.A. camps?), etcetera. This is done for many reasons, but the result is they can’t vote any more, they can’t procreate any more, and they basically don’t exist to US any more. This step effectively takes away all of their remaining rights, leaving them as little more than animals that are ready for the slaughter. Which is the next link in this chain of horror, as number five is “Annihilation”. This might be indirect, such as withholding food, water or medical care, or preventing further births. Or, it might be deliberate, where people are systematically killed as was the case in Germany in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.
Is the “War on Drugs” a failure? Most law enforcement agencies who are rolling in this new found gold mine would say, “hell no!”. We are locking up more people, so we are making more money. So is the taser gun industry, private prison construction industry, private phone companies, all kinds of new technology companies ready to help out the ‘good guys’ (and most are), heck fire, anybody affiliated with this new and upcoming self generating ‘war on drugs’ industry can make a “killing”. Moreover, the deeper purpose of this ‘War’ is now as clear as a bright blue Nantucket summer day.
“WE created the ghetto for a reason.”
Have a nice day everybody!
PRESERVE THE WILDERNESS! Peace~M