Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Comments

Recently, a computer-savvy friend of mine suggested that I might get more comments if I changed the blogspot default setting to allow people to comment anonymously. This seemed like a good idea until I gave it some more thought.

It had been my original intention (one month ago today!) to leave the comments section to the readers, and reply to interesting ideas in the posts, and that policy will continue. But I had worried, since I knew I’d be introducing some controversial ideas, that these comment debates had the potential to get ugly, as they do at so many websites. I didn’t realize that readers couldn’t make anonymous comments, under the blogspot settings.

Based on the comments that have come in so far, I think it’s wise to leave the settings where they are. Aside from the fact that some of the comments have been complimentary (which I naturally enjoy), all the comments have come from people I know personally, and have all been thoughtful and heartfelt. I think this may be the natural consequence of the fact that people have to identify themselves, which encourages the spirit of Ghandian “truth force” that I hope to cultivate here. Besides, I’m not anonymous (as many bloggers are). This keeps us on an equal footing.

I prefer having a few well-considered comments to hundreds of comments from people going back and forth, calling each other names. And frankly, I barely have time to write this blog, much less police a comments section. So you guys are on your own.

Having said that, let me move on to the most recent comments, at the end of “The whole story 5.”

Jim d, a local friend of mine, has left several comments about the political realities of life in Hampshire County that are dead-on in their analysis. It’s like reading an alternative history of the county (rather than the Chamber of Commerce-approved version you read in the Hampshire Review), reflected through the eyes of someone who has always had the courage to speak the truth, and put himself out there, in an environment that can often be hostile to the ideas of outsiders. I’m very grateful for his interest in this blog.

What inspired today’s post, though, is the second comment, from “winnacunnet jag,” someone who is obviously very close to me, and who deals every day, in her work, with the young casualties of recreational drug use, and who, from that perspective, quite legitimately challenges my opinion that an honest discussion of drug use in the media should include a “pro-drug” message.

Actually, there is very little in her comment that I would disagree with—for example, she’s absolutely right that “context” is important to any drug message, pro or anti (and the absence of context has been the persistent problem with the media dialogue about drugs). But let me add some nuance to my earlier conclusions, by answering some of her objections.

First, I very deliberately used the word “simple” to describe my former editors at the Hampshire Review, not only in the positive sense of rural people whose idea of America is virtually unchanged from the postwar optimism that characterized the ‘50s, despite the darkness of heart that has been revealed in the decades since (assassinations, Vietnam, Iraq, etc.), but also in the negative sense of “simplistic.” Unlike Winnacunnet, who clearly sees the damage that the drug war has wrought, Charlie and Sallie See are unrepentant drug warriors who, from my experience, are incapable of processing information that contradicts their views (and certainly don’t allow it in their newspaper), and use their powerful position in the community to perpetuate a policy that damages more lives than drugs ever do.

By coincidence, there’s a column today at Salon.com by Joe Conason that makes my point, by suggesting to both presidential candidates that, if they’re looking for places to save the taxpayers money, they start with the drug war, which costs local, state and federal governments about 50 billion dollars a year (he doesn’t say where he got this figure, but I suspect that indirect costs would make the total much higher).

Conason discusses past drug use admitted by both Barack Obama and Cindy McCain, and concludes, “The only reason to talk about past drug abuse by Barack Obama or Cindy McCain is to point out the waste and injustice of the ongoing drug war. Both of them broke the law, repeatedly, by their own admission, but neither deserved to go to prison and no useful purpose would have been served by punishing them.”

You don’t need much imagination to realize that Obama’s name would not be on the ballot today, had he not been one of the lucky young black men to escape the drug war dragnet (or that his avoidance of arrest was more than likely due to the fact that he was living in a white community, rather than a ghetto, when he did his early experimentation). “Waste” would be exactly the right word, had his fate been different.

One thing that won’t change, whether drugs are legal (like Oxycontin) or illegal, is that people will continue to destroy themselves, like they do with alcohol. When alcohol prohibition ended, there was an upsurge in alcohol-related social problems. Yet the American people had discovered that, as grievous as these social costs were, they were much more manageable and less dangerous to society than the costs of prohibition. In today’s world, the costs of prohibition include the tragedies of meth labs and prescription drug abuse, which flourish in the subterranean underworld that prohibition creates.

This is the message that drug policy reformers have been trying to convey since the drug war ramped up in the Reagan era. But it’s a message that can’t get past the media gatekeepers who, for a variety of reasons that I’ll continue to explore in this blog, won’t allow it to be heard by the American people.

And it’s a message that most definitely requires “context.”

2 comments:

Winnacunnet JAG said...

OOOHHHH I'm in the blog! I'm in the blog!!!! *excited*

Jim D said...

Drugs offer a pseudo spiritual awareness. The epiphanic revelations achieved through psychedelics are transient, soon dissipating, delusional. Our senses may become more acute, but our reasoning powers are distorted. What was intended as a respite from reality, and in no way represents reality.

Drugs are not a panacea. What seems rational when high becomes unrealistic when our minds are purged of drugs; not unlike when our minds are purged of religious dogma. We are unconstrained and free. Our ability to think is expanded, our ability to reason uncompromised. Our minds become clear and unfettered, unfazed by superstitious delusions.

If you seek yourself, look within. If you seek knowledge, look without. If you seek wisdom, weight your life. If you seek the truth, open your mind. If you seek God, look around you.