Time to ACT UP about the racist drug war
Speaking Truth to Power, AKA Uncle Joe Biden
I tuned in last night to see Joseph Biden boring an all-too-polite crowd with incontrovertible generalities at the Summit of the Americas: The North American region is large and diverse, quoth Joe; the COVID crisis gave North America a disproportionate wallop, quoth Joe; the ensuing economic downturn ravaged economies throughout the hemisphere, quoth Joe. So far, so bland.
But then the president turned to a topic near and dear to his anachronistic heart:
“The United States is… working with partners to… go after drug traffickers.”
What? Is Joseph Biden still supporting the Drug War?
Does Joseph Biden still not realize that the Drug War itself creates the bad-guy traffickers against whom we and our “partners” are fighting? Did he learn absolutely nothing from America’s disastrous experimentation with liquor prohibition? Does he not realize, moreover, that most of these “traffickers” are simply selling medicine from a plant which the Incans considered to be a “god” and that therefore the Drug War is western colonialism run amok?
Sadly, I expected no better from Biden, the so-called Godfather of the Drug War, the man who first plumped for the creation of a “drug czar” in the 1980s. Here is a man who endorsed a rule at the Office of National Drug Policy that REQUIRED the agency to ignore any evidence about the beneficial effects of illegal drugs — whether for medical or any other use — as part of an official propaganda campaign to discourage “drug use.” Here is a man who drafted the 1994 anti-crime bill that resulted in the wildly disproportionate sentencing of Blacks for possession of crack cocaine, while whites with a similar amount of powdered product could go free.
What bothered me was the complete silence in the massive hall as Biden made it clear that he was still pursuing the same failed Drug War policy that had already turned America into a penal colony and disfranchised millions of Americans, thereby resulting in the election of unapologetic fascists.
Not one of the well-heeled attendees coughed disparagingly, or groaned, or booed, let alone stood up and shouted “End the Drug War!” or “Decriminalize Mother Nature at long last!”
The gorilla in the room is getting larger every day — the emperor’s nudity is evermore apparent — and yet the placid heads in the audience just bobbed up and down complacently, as who should say: “Continue the Drug War, check! Yes, of course, that goes without saying.”
No one seems aware of the historical backstory which shows that the very substances that we criminalize today have inspired entire religions in the past and that the Drug War is therefore an attack upon religion, nay, an attack upon the very wellspring and fountainhead of the religious impulse itself.
So just when I was starting to get a toasty patriotic feeling in my tum-tum from all the fine talk about democracy and “the rule of law,” Biden reminds me of his unrepentant Drug War bona fides, and I change the channel, telling Uncle Joe as I did so that: “Ya lost me.”
By the way, I wonder what Biden means by the “rule of law”: does he mean the right of law enforcement to confiscate entire houses and property without a trial should the property itself be suspected of facilitating “drug trafficking”? Does he mean the right of businesses to remove Americans from the workforce without trial because an unconstitutional drug search has indicated that they have used mere traces of plant medicine of which botanically clueless politicians disapprove?
But before I exchanged Joe Biden for The Three Stooges, I had an epiphany: those of us who are “woke” viz. the insidious nature of the Drug War need to steal a page from the ACT UP movement of the 1980s. We should stop the self-congratulatory chat on obscure Reddit groups and start ACTING UP — in settings, like (oh, I don’t know) the Los Angeles Convention Center, for instance. There were thousands of sleepy attendees there this week silently signing off on everything that Drug War Joe said. Surely the anti-Drug War crowd could have found at least one attendee who would have had the chutzpah and sense of moral indignation to shout out “End the Drug War!” the second that Biden broached the topic of cracking down still further on “drug dealers.” The ACT UP protest strategy put gay rights and AIDS awareness on the map. It can do the same for the decriminalization effort.
God bless us, we drug-war opponents are just too polite for our own good. If we want to get our point across in the media, if we want to change the narrative, if we want to put drug-war collaborators on notice that we are wise to their hypocritical and racist game, then we need to start acting up. We need to start pointing to the 64,000-pound gorilla in the room. We need to start screaming out loudly and clearly (at the most inappropriate times, of course) that the Emperor is indeed buck-naked and has been for decades now.
We missed a great opportunity to do this during Biden’s opening remarks at the 2022 Summit of the Americas. Our cause would have advanced by leaps and bounds had someone simply stood up in that auditorium after Biden said the word “drugs” and shouted: “End the flippin’ war on drugs!” (Or here’s my favorite: “Stop criminalizing plant medicine!”)
But as Shakespeare reminds us, “Omittance is no quittance.” Presidents give plenty of speeches, and some of them are actually open to the public — or at least to such a large number of “vetted” guests that there’s sure to be at least one among them whom we can convince to speak truth to power when the well-publicized opportunity arises.
So stop letting President Joe “Crackdown” Biden off the hook: ACT UP at his next public speech — and/or suborn a like-minded attendee to do so for you.