WILLIE NELSON, PUBLIC ENEMY?
In the midst of the United States going nearly broke from the Iraq war, the war on terror, and a rupturing corporate and personal welfare state, I cannot imagine something more pointless and wasteful than the war on drugs. In my own neck of the woods, several busts have occurred recently, bringing to "justice" cultivators of patches of marijuana in various swanky neighborhoods, at huge cost to law-enforcement organizations, which is to say, to the citizenry that funds them. But that is not really the worst of it.
Willie Nelson, the musician -- who looks to me to be about as harmless a soul on the entertainment-celebrity roster as one can imagine -- was recently busted for having and using some pot on his tour bus. That, by all accounts, is the reality and the symbol of the worst aspects of this utterly insane undertaking, the war on drugs.
The man was doing no one any harm -- he could have been sipping a beer, chewing tobacco or having a martini but, instead, his choice of drugs was one that happens, quite irrationally, to seriously offend influential elements of the voting public and politicians. This new prohibition is, of course, no more sensible, nor any more in accord with principles of a just human community -- which is supposed to leave us free of out-of-control, offended meddlesome folks -- than was the previous nationwide prohibition of alcohol that finally had to be scrapped because of the bona fide crime it spawned. In the case of Willie Nelson, though, there is something else that this insane, immoral war illustrates.
American prisons are filled with such harmless drug offenders! I was recently visiting one of those, in Lompoc, Calif., and some 70 percent of the inmates are there for having been convicted of drug-related offenses. Some are users, some are pushers or dealers, some are probably more involved on the enforcement side of the industry ( which, being illegal, cannot count on the official police to provide any remedy for the commercial malfeasance that plagues many enterprises ).
All this is happening in what President George W. Bush and his pals so proudly call a free country. Indeed, as they would have it, the only country on the face of the globe truly involved in spreading liberty to all. What a crock that is, and how hypocritical it must come off to most observant foreigners, including, sadly, the worst of them whose hatred of America and its professed system, a free capitalist society, is very likely fed by it.
Also, since the United States has more prisoners than nearly any country around the world, and since that's something people tend to find disturbing about a society, namely its huge prison population -- given that this suggests widespread serious criminal activity in the place -- the proclamation by our leaders that we are a bastion of liberty can only be most embarrassing and self-defeating.
Of course, free men and women can become criminals. No one should expect a free society to be a utopia. Yet, it does reflect badly on the United States to have so many of its citizens turn to crime. And when looked at without a careful consideration of what counts as crime in the country, this bodes ill for the very idea of a free society. It makes it look like freedom and crime go hand in hand. So the very objective that supposedly animates Bush & Co. in the Iraqi war -- spreading freedom to the world's enslaved and oppressed -- can seem rather pointless and even counterproductive, given this association of what is deemed a free society and the proclivity to crime by so many of its citizens.
Yet, of course, the crimes these citizens have a proclivity for are phony crimes. It is as if eating hot dogs were a crime, or dancing, or watching professional sports on TV. No wonder the prisons are full - -- prisoners occupy them who have been put there unjustly, without any good reason.
The statistics do not, of course, show this. But if one extrapolates from the prison I visited to all the rest, it looks like the criminal element in the country is but a fraction of those who are officially deemed to be criminals.
I do wish Willie Nelson could generate a revolution from his own perfectly unjust and vile arrest on the charge of indulging in the use of marijuana. We need this war on drugs ended, immediately. Maybe that would not only improve our reputation abroad but could divert the misused monies funding it to something worthwhile -- for example, tax reduction.
Brownsville Herald, The (TX)
Copyright: 2006 The Brownsville Herald