What I’m going to do is to proffer an olive branch to those who firmly support other, equally divisive issues and to make a suggestion that I believe is long overdue. That suggestion will be; how about if we all come together as American citizens and voters and see what common ground we can find that may result in everyone regaining some of those many freedoms we’ve lost. I’ll try to show that our common enemy isn’t one another but the politicians who need bumper sticker issues in order to distract us from our true, common goals and, of course, the media, which needs something to put on their news programs and into their newspapers that won’t end up doing any damage to their control over our lives and futures.
Every day, we hear about divergent groups lobbying or demonstrating or forming massive marches in Washington for their particular causes. There was the Million Mom March for stronger gun control and a far smaller but equally vocal group of Moms demanding that their Constitutional right to be armed for protection be respected above all else. You have the black and Latino communities enraged at the practice or profiling drug related criminals as usually black or brown and law enforcement using that as an excuse to stop innocent drivers on the highway for, as it has come to be known, the offense of DWB (driving while black/brown). You have an immense disproportion in both the number of black Americans who commit the “crime” of smoking marijuana (20%) and those incarcerated for that crime (58%), a problem that is, with probable justfication, attributed to the undercurrent of a malicious form of racism in our law enforcement and criminal justice systems. More and more of your tax dollars go to building and maintaining prisons while we spend an average of $23,000 a year to house and control Americans whose only crime was the growing or selling or possession or use of a once common and unremarkable weed. You have a situation where far more lethal drugs are more available in prison than on the streets because the guards themselves become the dealers. Even more of your tax dollars, tens of billions of dollars, are spent for law enforcement’s attempts to intercept the tons of marijuana entering this country every day but which even the most optimistic estimates maintain that less than 2% of which are ever discovered and seized by those same law enforcement personnel. You have cops everywhere finding the money surrounding the drug trade too irresistible and who will lie and perjure themselves and steal money from dealers and shoot and cripple or kill innocent Americans in their unthinking zeal to either garner the wealth of the trade for themselves or to continue the long ago lost War on Americans Who Use the Wrong Drugs.
For all of these reasons and for the many others too numerous to mention, America finds itself at a crossroads in its history. We are faced with the reality that we can continue our private battles for our own pet desires and against the desires of others or, instead, we can acknowledge that nearly all of the major issues facing us as a people can be traced back to two very simple problems.
First, no matter how hard our government tries and no matter how many hundreds of billions or even trillions of your tax dollars they spend trying, it is impossible to legislate the morality of a people. It hasn’t worked even once in our long history nor are there any examples of it succeeding in any other nation no matter what the penalties or pain inflicted in that cause.
Second, this is a nation of hundreds of millions of individuals, a nation that has a nearly uncountable number of personal belief systems and spiritual goals and ideals. No one religion can or should ever be allowed to speak for the majority. What is a sin to one is a religious ritual or a rite of passage to another. All that our government should ever be involved in when it comes to the religious or spiritual communities of America is to ensure that no one harms another physically nor does any ritual cause unnecessary harm to the environment or to the creatures that we share this planet with.
Once religion and personal ideals of morality are removed from the debate, then the essence on which to base our deliberations become far clearer.
America is a nation of laws, on that I think we can all agree. The most fundamental of all laws for this nation are found in our Constitution and those Amendments to the Constitution which have come to be called our Bill of Rights. When we learn to frame our debate using only these documents as our guides, we will find that we actually have much in common with one another.
Consider the pro-gun/anti-gun debate. Those who demand that the Second Amendment be construed to guarantee every American the right to own whatever weapon they desire without the need for the consent of the government (licensing or registering or any other public acknowledgment of that possession) have a very strong argument. In as much as the Second Amendment was written in a time when the threat to life and property were very real (from “hostile” Indians and the British and the French and lions and tigers and bears, oh my!), the right to be armed was of great concern for those who lived in a time where many nations banned that right and, as a result, reigned without constraints over their helpless populace.
At that time, as can be argued is still the case, Americans knew that their personal safety began and ended at the end of their flintlock rifles and that any abridgment of that right, even with the societal guarantee that government’s law enforcement personnel would act as that provider of safety, was meaningless. Unless society agreed to allow the various police agencies to grow so huge as to put an officer on every block and on every front porch, then the possibility of immediate and substantial protection from harm would have to be a personal issue.
Those who watched the so-called Rodney King Riots witnessed the sad spectacle of the Los Angeles Police Department refusing to act to stop the chaos, allowing Americans to beat and even kill one another in full view of TV cameras, allowing every single American to see for themselves how useless and helpless our law enforcement agencies can become.
Now, America hears every day of the horrors emanating from the LAPD and the New York Police Department and Philadelphia and Miami and in city after city where the police have become as dangerous and out of control as the criminals we hire them to protect us from. We’re learning that our police will lie and perjure themselves on the stand in order to appear to be doing their job. We’re seeing case after case where innocent men and women are arrested and, in far too many instances, murdered by the state through the poorly contrived capital punishment system on the word of corrupt, evil cops and district attorneys and with little or no true assistance from their inept and incompetent defense attornies.
We have Presidential candidates that laugh when asked if their state’s judicial system might not be as corrupt as those in the state’s which have placed a moratorium on carrying out the death sentence. We have another that supports the death sentence but refuses to explain why he supports it.
All in all, we are exposed every single day to the sad realization that America’s law enforcement and judicial systems are corrupt and for sale. Those few who labor mightily within these systems to provide for our safety and security are constantly over shadowed and stained by those who labor only for the power of the position and the money that is so terribly available from the criminals they are expected to control.
Therefore, the desire of so many for the security they feel when armed is, perhaps, very appropriate. When you cannot expect the police to protect you and your family and your possessions from criminals, then any rational person would seek out some way to provide that protection for themselves.
What we must examine now, though, is the seed that creates such a lawless and dangerous society, one in which the possession of weapons for protection becomes such a powerful issue.
Criminals are very seldom born as such. It is very rare to hear of a newborn stealing the blankets of the others around him in the maternity ward and it is seldom reported of children shooting other children from the back of their tricycles. Instead, there must be some germ or germs in society that acts as the cause that turns people towards the life that threatens the rest of us.
In my judgment, there a number of causes, some that can be remedied by society through intelligent, non-political actions and some whose only remedy is incarceration away from the rest of us.
Poverty, above all else, is the spark that ignites the flame of hatred towards “normal” society and into the belief that the wealth of anyone is fair game for those who would take it. To grow up in need and hunger while watching those more fortunate or whose lives have been touched more fully by fortuitous advoc155.html events (one’s address, the color of one’s skin or other perceived benefits not held by those others who feel left out) is to see the world as completely unfair. To take from those others then can easily be justified, but never excused, simply as an act of the “redistribution of wealth” from the rich to the poor. We even make heroes out of such criminals by attributing to them some higher purpose and adding character traits that may or may not have existed (Robin Hood gave to the poor what he stole from the rich, outlaws of the old west robbed banks and stagecoaches - both symbols of “the man” of that era, etc.).
A lack of education is another reason some turn to crime for a living. Schools that are poorly funded, school systems that spend more money on administration than on books and supplies, buildings that are falling apart, the constant threat of violence that distracts from any hope of focusing on the lessons and so many other realities produce adults that have lost whatever hopes they may have once had and who now face nothing but minimum wage jobs and ignoble working conditions and absolutely zero financial security for the rest of their lives. For these Americans, the choice between theft or selling marijuana for hundreds of dollars a day eclipses those dead end, miserable jobs at McDonald’s or whatever. There is no choice between the two and any honest man will agree that the choice is a Hobson’s choice.
Basically, whatever the causes are that has created this huge criminal class should be examined and studied not to find better ways to arrest and imprison the participants but to find some way to alter our society so that these causes become less prevalent and crime less attractive as a career option.
Why has crime become such a common part of our everyday lives? We’ve agreed that poverty and a poor education both figure prominently in the equation but might there be an even more fundamental cause? Many Americans live in poverty and attend bad schools not because they have created this situation themselves but because the tax base in their communities do not include many businesses or factories. It is these taxpaying entities that provide the vast majority of most school district’s property tax revenues. Why do these industries locate elsewhere? Is it because of the crime and a lack of an educated labor pool? What causes this crime and this lack of an educated labor pool? What so frightens the owners of these businesses that they refuse to locate their plants and jobs where they are needed most?
In one word: drugs. Because drugs are so unbelievably profitable for those who grow or manufacture or transport or deliver or deal these products, America has reverted to its roots during the time when alcohol was “prohibited” and was only available from those who ignored the law and provided for the huge market for whiskey and beer and the like. Now, since the government has decided to legislate their narrow form of morality on America, marijuana can only be acquired from those who choose the career path that puts them at direct odds with the laws and institutions created to ban their products. Because the occupations associated with marijuana distribution carries such harsh penalties, the cost of this product rises to match the costs of concealing those sales or to defend oneself once apprehended. Because those costs have risen, people with no qualms about employing violence to protect or to expand their ability to produce or distribute or sell their products creates an atmosphere where those costs rise even further. Violence becomes a part of the community, one that destroys the people who live there and the children who are swallowed up by the gangs who have, for financial reasons, formed into violent “corporations” that do business and “merge” with others or act out “unfriendly buy-outs” on their neighboring “corporations”.
What is the one act that our government could perform that would drop those prices to next to nothing and to put an end to the vast majority of the crime in America? Simply put, the simple act of regulating drugs with the same low profile and minimal penalties as it currently offers the alcohol and tobacco industries.
By taking the huge profits out of the marijuana trade, we would also free up our law enforcement personnel to go back to their original purpose of protecting us from the truly violent elements of society (not to mention the wide spread and far costlier problems associated with White Collar Crime). It would free up the courts and nearly empty the prisons, leaving all that room for those few who are truly a danger to all and must be separated from the rest of us for our protection. It would also allow us to begin the process of decreasing the costs of law enforcement and the judicial system and the penal industry. We would be able to slowly allow attrition to decrease the number of employees in these areas, to turn those hundreds of billions of dollars we now waste on the useless “War” towards more positive goals for all Americans like a free education and a centralized health care system for everyone and better highways and safer buildings and for seed money for small businesses and for greater research into the many diseases that plague mankind and on and on. Those billions could turn this nasty, greedy, punitive, moralistic and misguided nation into one which would truly be the envy of the world not because we have perfected the art of greed and selfishness but because we have perfected the art of respect for personal freedoms.
By taking the profits out of marijuana, the government, through the FDA, could regulate its growth and packaging in order to ensure a supply of a safe, pure and inexpensive product. Laws regulating its use and sales would be the same as those for alcohol and tobacco but the enforcement of those laws for all of those products would be stronger and the punishment for violating those laws, for crimes such as driving under the influence of any drug or the sales or transfer of this commodity to minors or committing a crime while under the influence of any drug, marijuana or alcohol or any other, would be harshly but evenly applied. Taxes could be levied and collected solely for the purpose of providing educational material and instructions regarding the dangers and health effects of these various drugs so that children would have the necessary information to make informed decisions when they attain adulthood. These taxes could also be dedicated to providing treatment and assistance in moving away from these drugs should the individual feel a loss of control to them as well as for treatment while incarcerated and after for those found guilty of the laws controlling those drugs and their use. Just the taxes on tobacco and alcohol and marijuana could fund every program needed to enforce the restrictions on their use and abuse as well as the education for our children regarding the facts surrounding them. The hundreds of billions of tax dollars once wasted in enforcing unenforceable laws today would be freed up for the benefit of all Americans.
Finally, by removing the awful violence surrounding the sale of marijuana and the vast amounts of profits inherent in the trade we, as a nation, could go back to feeling far safer in our neighborhoods and stores and parks and on the street and in our homes at night. The pressing need for greater and greater firepower to protect oneself and family from that violence would disappear nearly overnight, leaving the topic of guns to be debated on a far more factual, and far less emotional and frightened, level.
The acquisition of guns and the personal use of marijuana would again become a personal freedom issue and cease being an issue that is used by politicians to divide us and to distract us from the realization that we are really fighting exactly the same battle; one of regaining the freedoms taken from us in the names of the false gods of the War on American Who Use the Wrong Drugs and absolute gun control.
Every issue that we face as a nation is answered quite plainly in those two magnificent and unique documents, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Both argue successfully for a nation in which the government’s power is limited to that which is necessary to provide for its citizens a nation in which all of our other freedoms are protected, not one in which we must give up any of our freedoms in order to satisfy the sick lust for power that too many politicians are infected with and that is spewed upon the rest of us in the forms of prohibitions and limits and their insane “Wars” and prison sentences for those whose only crimes are using the wrong drug or possessing weapons not approved by that same government. The simple and expedient act of retaking those freedoms that have always been ours, but which the few have been able to circumvent without our knowledge or without our consent, will recreate the nation envisioned by those who founded this nation and those who offered the ultimate sacrifice in defense of those freedoms both here and elsewhere on this planet.
It is time for us all to sit down calmly and discuss and debate exactly what WE want this nation to stand for and which solutions WE will accept. It is time that WE, the citizens of this nearly great nation, told the politicians what we expect rather than listen to the drivel and drool that they offer every election and which they immediately forget the moment that money is laid on their desks or slipped into their pockets by those who forbid you and I from regaining those inalienable rights so dearly purchased for us with the blood and limbs and lives of thousands of American men and women over the last two hundred years. It is WE, you and I, who have the right to choose where this nation goes and what path it selects to get there. We have, for too long, ceded that ultimate power to the greedy and insane few who care little for you or yours but whose only goal is to steal more and more of your freedoms away in order to gain your willing consent to be subjugated and ignored by that same wealthy and moralistic few.
In an America truly governed according to its Constitution and its Bill of Rights, I would have no need to write nor complain. In an America truly governed by those documents, all issues would be openly and constantly debated using the clear and complete information offered by a media that is under the control of the many rather than just the few. In this America, we wouldn’t have to pick between two complete idiots for the same office, a choice nicely described as between a Democan and a Republicat, neither of whom is even qualified for the job. Instead, we will encourage the truly gifted Americans to lead us, those who will see it as their duty to offer themselves to the nation and the people, individuals whom we will again be able to recognize and differentiate as the great rather than simply the greedy. In this America, the promise of the ideals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” will finally come to pass.
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