Friday, January 20, 2012

Cut and run

So, this here ain't one of them political blogs.  Ain't my thang.  Lots of smart people are doing it, besides.

But I'm not a particular fan of the little nutcase known as Ron Paul.  I'm not fond of libertarianism as it is usually manifest.  I'm not well disposed to his racist associations and writings, or his ideas about civil rights or religious liberty or money or pretty much anything.  And then there's this crap.  But lots of folks, from surprisingly diverse parts of the political spectrum, seem to think the little guy's the bomb.  And because his little racial problems come up a lot, there has somehow been developed a stock rejoinder that, hey, man, Paul is the best damn thing going for them blacks, because he wants to end the drug war which imprisons so many blacks, they'll dig it the most!

So I think that's the biggest lie of the campaign season so far.

Look, I don't think the occasional doobie is doing anyone any harm.  And I'm well convinced by arguments that the drug war does more harm than good, here and abroad, and may aggravate the very problems it seeks to mitigate.  I'm all for stopping that.

The "drug war" has created a massive prison population of largely harmless individuals.  Now, that prison population is disproportionately minority -- but then again, minorities also seem to get disproportionately hit for non-drug crimes, and for that matter we seemed to do a hell of a good job discriminating against minorities in the legal system before we had the drug war, so I'm not really convinced that drug laws aren't just a handy pretext and that in their absence we won't find something else to hand.  Now, you could mitigate those problems with strong civil rights law and federal bans on racial profiling or discrimination -- but guess who opposes those things?  It's also ridiculous that in many states a huge part of the black population can't vote because of laws disenfranchising felons -- but presumably you could fix that easily without reference to drug laws, and again, guess who would find that an unConstitutional stepping on states' privileges?  If Ron Paul wanted to help minorities from being sent to jail by drug laws, he has easier ways to do it!

I also know lots of people whose lives were simply, completely ruined by drug addiction, sometimes even addiction to weed or alcohol or stuff I find minor.  Now, I've heard Ron Paul (in a speech that should shame some med school somewhere) making fun of addicts who need government help not to be addicted, so I know he doesn't care a lot about these folks.  But I do.  So when I talk about "ending," I'm talking about moving away from jails and busts and investigations and more into treatment and prevention -- something that will also require money, and compassion.  For that matter, addictive drugs can be damn dangerous things and probably should be, if legally sold, subject to medical regulation and supervision.  How do we figure Ron Paul feels about those things?

The absence of that regulation, or of treatment and support, will be felt most brutally in minority and disadvantaged communities.  Furthermore, some part of money and effort in the "drug war" has gone into finding ways kids in those communities can keep busy and improve their lives without falling into the criminal activity which pervades them, and into more engaged and active law enforcement and social investment in those communities.  Simply cut off, as opposed to reorienting, the "drug war," and those things collapse.  But the violent networks and structures that strangle those communities will not collapse so easily, and will continue their damage with no interest from the likes of Dr. Paul.

When we go into someplace and trash it in the course of toppling a dictator we don't like or chasing out a terrorist group, we have a moral obligation to try to rebuild.  Now, I find it perfectly understandable that after some length of time and some loss of blood and treasure -- different people will have different sense how much that is -- we say, the hell with it, we've given it our best shot and that moral burden is no longer part of our strategic calculus.  But the disadvantaged fellow Americans whose homes are being destroyed in this "drug war" are our own, and simply quitting and going home as opposed to repurposing, figuring out what resources that needs, and committing them, is morally empty, and I'm getting sick of being told otherwise in wide-eyed credulity.  What's on offer is the ability for white kids in the suburbs to get a hit without worrying about the Man.  That's not nothing.  But it's not some great bit of philanthropy either.

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