If you are in any way sympathetic with correspondent Graeme Wood's misleading musings on the Drug War (in his July 2019 homage to Mark Kleiman), then I plead with you to read the following, and read it with an open mind. I write this because I'm an enemy of America's Drug War, and I'm convinced that its "staying power" is due far more to liberal confusion on this topic than to conservative recalcitrance. As you must know, the Drug War was commenced by Richard Nixon as a means of silencing his critics by turning them into felons and removing them from the voting rolls. It was not set up with America's health in mind. Yet Nixon's Drug War remains entrenched in the American zeitgeist today. Why? Because even those who oppose it put forward weak and contingent arguments that unnecessarily yield ground to the Drug Warrior's bogus concerns and justifications.
To make my points as clearly as possible, I will proceed by citing a variety of well-meaning liberal assumptions about the Drug War, followed by my explanation of why they are misleading. Let me assure you in advance that this is not an exercise in liberal bashing, since I consider myself a liberal as well, albeit one in the stamp of GK Chesterton.
1) Liberals generally share the conservative viewpoint that human beings should not use mother nature's bounty in order to improve their mental health. Such a viewpoint, however, is nothing less than the theology of Christian Science as applied to mental health. As such, it is a religious tenet, not a view based on scientific facts.
2) Liberals tend to talk about the misuse of drugs in isolation. Thus, if they see teenagers misusing drug A, they write movingly of the problem, considering that they are advancing an implicit knock-down argument for the criminalization of drug A. This kind of argument completely ignores the needs of millions (perhaps even billions) of human beings who could benefit from the responsible use of drug A. Furthermore, it ignores the millions of innocents who will be made homeless or killed on behalf of making drug A illegal, victims on both the domestic and foreign front, caught up in violence so prevalent that it has spawned an entire new genre of movies: the Drug War genre. This genre includes films like Clockers, American Gangster, Empire, Cocaine Cowboys, L.A. Wars, etc., films in which self-righteous Americans gleefully violate the U.S. Constitution to "take down" Russian and South American "scumbags" (our custom-made bad guys created by the Drug War out of whole cloth).
3) Liberals tend to take the criminalization of Mother Nature's bounty as common sense. What they fail to realize is that this criminalization is a modern invention, established by corrupt and bigoted politicians, politicians who don't so much object to drugs as to the folks who use them. Many, including myself, would make the argument that government had no right to outlaw the God-given medicinal bounty of Mother Nature that grows at our very feet - especially in a country where we're granted the right to pursue happiness. America is a country built on natural law, and natural law has always supposed an Earthling's right to the plants and fungi that grow at his or her very feet. In the Jefferson America envisioned in the Declaration of Independence, there is no legitimate way for government to infringe upon our access and use of the plants of Mother Nature, a viewpoint clearly stated by John Locke, Jefferson's political inspiration, in Two Treatises on Government.
4) Liberals have rolled over and played dead when it comes to drug testing, to which no one seems to object today. In short, it is a total victory for Nixon's know-nothing Drug War. For what is drug-testing? It is the extrajudicial enforcement of Christian Science as applied to mental health. It is the punishment of a misdemeanor offense* with starvation, because anyone who dares use the medical bounty of Mother Nature is deprived of a job - in the absence of proof that said drug use would have impeded their job performance.
*Actually, it's the punishment of a non-offense, since the law does not generally punish the mere presence of illegal substances in the bloodstream.
5) Liberals tend to associate psychedelic plant medicines with hippies. They are thereby ignoring almost 2,000 years of western history, in which a who's who of Ancient Greeks and Romans (Plato, Cicero, Plutarch, Aristophanes...) attended the yearly Eleusian mysteries, where they "communed with the goddess" with the help of a psychedelic substance, a secretive ritual which many participants later described as the most important event of their life. The ceremony was held yearly until it was tellingly shut down by a Christian emperor as a threat to religion. Just so we banish psychedelics today as a threat to the modern state religion of Christian Science as applied to mental health.
6) Liberals like Kleiman believe that we should legalize only SOME plants, and then do so "ever so carefully." It's as if the freedom of speech had been taken away from us by corrupt politicians and now liberals are advocating that we restore those rights "ever so carefully." Why "ever so carefully"? Does Kleiman not realize that this is a matter of principle, a wrong that is demanding immediate redress? Kleiman can only draw such meek conclusions because he holds many of the false ideas outlined above. For starters, he bases drug policy on the potential and theoretical ills that it might bring, totally ignoring the enormous ills that the Drug War is already bringing each and every day by ruining lives, overcrowding our prisons, killing inner-city residents, and justifying U.S. intervention in foreign countries.
There is much more to say, but I stop here because, quite frankly, I do not believe that you are going to read this, much less give it an objective hearing. These ideas of mine might have rung a bell with liberals 40 years ago, but it really seems like the drug-war mentality has triumphed in America. That said, I'll assume the best and end by telling you why I feel so strongly on this matter.
As a depressed American, I have spent the last 45 years on the receiving end of psychiatry's addictive nostrums. Like more than 1 in 10 Americans, I have to take an SSRI/SNRI for life, not because I want to but because I have grown to be chemically dependent on the substance. But why did I start on these addictive pills in the first place? Because Nixon's Drug War outlawed the non-addictive psychotherapies that had shown such promise in treating depression in the 1950s. And so I'm forced to remain on these mind-fogging meds for a lifetime thanks to the Drug War. Moreover, I am banned from enjoying the therapeutic benefits of the psychedelic renaissance since most psychedelics are contraindicated for patients taking modern antidepressants.
Psychiatry has thus addicted me (first with Valium, later with antidepressants) BECAUSE of the Drug War. Where is the liberal concern for myself and the millions like me, the casualties of Kleiman's "slow and cautious" approach on legalizing psychedelics? And yet liberals like Graeme feel free to flippantly dismiss the value of psychedelics and wholeheartedly accept the fascist notion that plants and fungi can justifiably be criminalized.
Plants and fungi: criminalized! It sounds like a Ray Bradbury science-fiction story to me: a future tyrannical government outlaws plants! And yet this is the "enlightened" public policy that America is following in the 21st century? Unfortunately, humans tend to have myopic vision when it comes to recognizing the blatant injustices of their own time. So I'm not sure you catch the irony here.
But here's hoping that you do! Here's hoping that the Atlantic will think twice in the future before running stories that only serve to philosophically strengthen the Drug War zeitgeist.
If I've convinced you that the default liberal position is blind to certain truths, feel free to forward me an advance copy of your next article in which one of your authors speculates on drug legalization.
I'll be happy to highlight any mistaken philosophical assumptions on which the author is unwittingly basing his or her argument. Because, to repeat, the Drug War remains in place, not because of conservative arguments in favor of it but because of the liberal critic's inability to rebut those arguments clearly and with philosophical rigor.
Author's Follow-up: November 10, 2022
My depression would end overnight and there would be peace in Mexico if we re-legalized mother nature's medicines, especially the coca leaf, which has been chewed by the long-lived Peruvian Indians for hundreds of years. But Drug Warriors would prefer that millions, perhaps billions, like myself should live lives of silent despair rather than letting us use the plant medicine that grows at our very feet. This will be someday be unmasked as the anti-scientific barbarity that is it, and the Atlantic's reputation will suffer accordingly.
No Drug War Keychains The key to ending the Drug War is to spread the word about the fact that it is Anti-American, unscientific and anti-minority (for starters)
Monticello Betrayed Thomas Jefferson By demonizing plant medicine, the Drug War overthrew the Natural Law upon which Jefferson founded America -- and brazenly confiscated the Founding Father's poppy plants in 1987, in a symbolic coup against Jeffersonian freedoms.
The Drug War Censors Science Scientists: It's time to wake up to the fact that you are censored by the drug war. Drive the point home with these bumper stickers.
You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at abolishthedea.com. Brian is the founder of The Drug War Gift Shop, where artists can feature and sell their protest artwork online. He has also written for Sociodelic and is the author of The Drug War Comic Book, which contains 150 political cartoons illustrating some of the seemingly endless problems with the war on drugs -- many of which only Brian seems to have noticed, by the way, judging by the recycled pieties that pass for analysis these days when it comes to "drugs." That's not surprising, considering the fact that the category of "drugs" is a political category, not a medical or scientific one.
A "drug," as the world defines the term today, is "a substance that has no good uses for anyone, ever, at any time, under any circumstances" -- and, of course, there are no substances of that kind: even cyanide and the deadly botox toxin have positive uses: a war on drugs is therefore unscientific at heart, to the point that it truly qualifies as a superstition, one in which we turn inanimate substances into boogie-men and scapegoats for all our social problems.
The Drug War is, in fact, the philosophical problem par excellence of our time, premised as it is on a raft of faulty assumptions (notwithstanding the fact that most philosophers today pretend as if the drug war does not exist). It is a war against the poor, against minorities, against religion, against science, against the elderly, against the depressed, against those in pain, against children in hospice care, and against philosophy itself. It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions, Nazifies the English language and militarizes police forces nationwide.
It bans the substances that inspired William James' ideas about human consciousness and the nature of ultimate reality. In short, it causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, meanwhile violating the Natural Law upon which Thomas Jefferson founded America. (Surely, Jefferson was rolling over in his grave when Ronald Reagan's DEA stomped onto Monticello in 1987 and confiscated the founding father's poppy plants.)
If you believe in freedom and democracy, in America and around the world, please stay tuned for more philosophically oriented broadsides against the outrageous war on godsend medicines, AKA the war on drugs.
PS The drug war has not failed: to the contrary, it has succeeded, insofar as its ultimate goal was to militarize police forces around the world and help authorities to ruthlessly eliminate those who stand in the way of global capitalism. For more, see Drug War Capitalism by Dawn Paley.
Rather than apologetically decriminalizing selected plants, we should be demanding the immediate restoration of Natural Law, according to which "The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being." (John Locke)
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