Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Inner 3rd World: The War On Drugs

There are a large number of proggy types who love to watch The Wire. Even the head unity Pony has said it's his favorite show. I tried, but to be honest it wasn't groundbreaking or interesting to me because I was living in that environment. I want shows that give me an escape from poverty and violence, not a reminder of what my daily life entails. 3 shootings with a football fields space from me and the Kid's numerous muggings/near muggings in the last few years have kinda numbed me out to the thrill of urban street war.

But I do like that there is a show out there that depicts what life is like for the rest of us. And I sincerely appreciate David Simon's work of trying to get the other America to open its eyes and ask the question. Why? Why is it so different for us?

Now it's time for the confession that will officially end any hopes of a political career. 15+ ears ago- I sold drugs. I was never a big time dealer, just acid and pot and for a very very brief period of time, crystal meth. I never made much money, usually only enough so that I never had to pay for drugs myself. But I always thought I had other ways out of poverty, like work and education. Those hopes hadn't been so thoroughly dashed at 17 and 18 as they have been at 33. I can understand how someone, say a young African American male, who is already looking at severely diminished prospects in even getting a job at McDonald's, would turn to the one career option where his race won't matter.

We are 30 years into this war on drugs. 30 years. And nothing is better for it. We rarely ask why people might turn to drugs to make them feel better. We assume it is a willpower failure. We don't even imagine a state of such hopelessness in this country that one's only escape comes from the masking effects drugs have. Oh if I had ever let myself use cocaine on a regular basis, I would be a goner. The few times I have used it, it hit the happy making part of my brain like a freight train and for a few brief hours shook off the paralyzing effect my near constant depression has on me. I could see how dangerous it was for me, and made a point of staying away from it.

And there is an entire underclass of people like me. People who are without hope of improving their lives in the ways we are told that work. So they do what they can. they find whatever ways they can of just getting through the next day, the next hour, the next few minutes. Whatever they can to keep the giant pit of despair from pulling them under. It is a lot of work to live on the edge. It takes a lot out of you. Drugs can seem like a tiny escape from that pit.

I have this not that far fetched idea that all addictions are just self-medicating for untreated mental illness. Anyone who spends most of their waking hours under the violent threat of poverty is surely shorting out the neurons that keep us going during times of stress. Humans weren't made to live under this constant pressure.

Then I have this much farther fetched idea that the reason why drugs are illegal in this country is for the same reason that prostitution is illegal. Prostitution is one of the few jobs where women make consistently more money than men. Drug dealing is one of the few jobs where being a black man doesn't hurt your chances of advancing.

In my ideal world, all drugs, even those ones that are this years current scary menace (when I was a kid it was crack, as a teenager heroin, and now crystal meth is the big scary boogey man) would be legal. We'd throw open the prison doors, and put the money from the unused beds into treatment of addicts and education (not anti-drug education, but get you a job education) of the poor. Cause right now with the War on Drugs all we are doing is paying the lower middle class (as police officers and prison guards) to keep the bottom locked up and/or scared. It's costing us a lot in terms of time, money, and lives wasted and it's not eliciting any benefit except for the owners of the private prisons.

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