“You want me to do what?” The look on Jerome’s face was bewildered, angry.
“It’s like I said,” I replied. “For the next 28 days you have to live at this facility. You have to go into groups of people you don’t know and tell them all you are a drug addict. You have to tell them stories about how drugs ruined your life and harmed your family. You have to go to Narcotics Anonymous meetings and do the same thing. You’ll have to convince everyone around you that you’re an addict trying to get better. And the fact that you don’t have, and have never had, a drug problem will have to remain between you and I.”
“If you want to save your job,” I added.
Jerome leaned back in his chair and let out a great breath. His eyes watered for a moment and then stopped. An African American man that looked younger than his 35 years, Jerome was straight up blue collar and no nonsense. It was clear that nonsense like this did not sit well with him at all.
He had worked for a large telephone company in the Southwest since he was 20, working his way up from lineman to a top tier foreman. He started working there the same year he got married and now had three children.
“How the hell could this be happening to me?” he asked, and his eyes started to glisten again.
The answer to his question was simple. He worked for a company that periodically forced employees to surrender bodily fluids for examination. On a recent weekend, he had been to a bar-b-que at a friends house and someone passed a joint. It was an infrequent indulgence for him, but he took a few hits and passed it on.
The following Monday he was tested. Company policy afforded him the option of intervention and treatment or the end of a career that was the only source of income for his family. There were no gray areas The fact that they didn’t start drug testing till he had invested 10 years of his life in working for them didn’t matter. If you tested positive on a drug screen, you were an addict; a liability, and you needed treatment; expensive treatment, though no one has ever demonstrated that this was true.
I could have told Jerome a lot more about how his life was about to change; the mandated outpatient treatment after he discharged, aftercare meetings for a year, and 12 step meetings, one hour each and every day for the first three months after he went home.
I didn’t have the heart. He would find out at as time went by, and make the adjustments. For the time being my only goal was to help him not do anything stupid. He was caught up in the system, the system that I worked in, and if he wasn’t careful he could lose everything.
I told him, as I will tell you now, that he was one of the lucky ones. Employers can have a powerful impact on your life when they decide to. But it is nothing compared to governments.
Jerome just got a scratch compared to what was happening elsewhere. His was a slight wound from a war on drugs that regularly kills more people than drugs do. We have been doing it a hundred years now; making criminals of our countrymen; making war on our own people in their own homes.
And as MND publisher Mike LaSalle just reported to readers, it is a war that is now hitting close to home.
It started, like a lot of deadly bad ideas, with politicians. We can thank the Democrats for the inception, but somewhere along the line, the Republicans stepped in to prove they were just as stupid.
Woodrow Wilson, who also gave us the Federal Reserve Act, the first draft since the Civil War and rave reviews of the stunningly racist movie “Birth of a Nation,” helped usher in the age where America turned questionable personal habits into concrete walls and steel gray bars.
It was called the Harrison Tax Act of 1914, and it was the result of nearly fifteen years of disinformation and racist propaganda promulgated by Wilson’s associates.
In 1900 the Journal of the American Medical Association published in a report that “Negroes in the South are being addicted to a new form of vice– that of ‘cocaine sniffing’ or the ‘coke habit.’” That was followed up by several newspaper reports that cocaine was causing blacks to rape white women and was improving their pistol marksmanship.
Eight years later President Teddy Roosevelt appointed Dr. Hamilton Wright as the first Opium Commissioner for the United States. Among his most notable observations was that “cocaine is often the direct incentive to the crime of rape by Negroes of the south and other sections of the country.”
Wright also postulated that “one of the most unfortunate phases of smoking opium in this country is the large number of women who have become involved and are living as common-law wives or cohabitating with Chinese in the Chinatowns of our various cities.”
Let’s see. A bunch of drug crazed horny black men and a growing number of loose white women with no qualms about crossing racial boundaries?
Yeah, man, it was time for war, alright; time to break out some fucking law and order.
And so it started. Police began busting heads, most of them black and poor, and prisons started to fill. Law upon law was written and enforced with no more thought to the truth than Dred Scott. The edges of The Constitution were already starting to singe.
It got a boost in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act, signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt. And just like the Harrison Act, its roots are steeped more in racial bigotry than in public safety. In fact, marijuana had already been criminalized in many states prior to the federal prohibition. Most of this started with border states and stemmed from a fear of indigenous Mexicans. One Texas legislator is quoted as saying, “Mexicans are all crazy, and this stuff (marijuana) is why.”
Now it was brown heads getting busted, and prisons became bilingual.
And the drugs kept coming.
And now there is money in it. Big money, your money, fed into a vast machine that is eating up the very freedoms it purports to protect.
Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt were both Democrats, but as time passed and political stances vacillated, it was the republicans that took over the reigns of anti drug insanity, not out of racial prejudice (though for some that seems to be a big plus), but puritanical fundamentalism. Many a good Christian constituent doesn’t cotton much to personal choice when it comes to drugs.
So the right has pretty much owned the war on drugs since. And for the efforts of these “keep the government off our back” conservatives, they have given us the mammoth sized DEA, a thousand federal regulations, a rainbow coalition of busted heads, overflowing prisons, enough dead bodies to please Pol Pot, a meaningless Constitution and a bevy of government functionaries that are literally out of their minds with power.
We wanted a war on drugs and that is exactly what we got. Only it isn’t drugs we are attacking, it’s people. It is a civil war with a guaranteed Viet-nam style ending that might be worth paying attention to.
Because the drugs keep coming.
You would think a century of this would be enough to have learned a lesson or two. I mean, we actually did learn something with alcohol. We made it illegal, and then, when we got tired of mobsters, mass murder, poisoning deaths from bad hooch, graft and the fact that everyone that wanted to was still drinking anyway, we got a little wiser.
Today, we have alcohol in its various forms being distributed nationwide, in complete peace, with no underground economy and most importantly, no bullets flying.
Are there consequences? Sure. Some tragic ones. I have seen it first hand a thousand times over. After all, most of the people I worked with were not Jerome’s, though his situation is a direct result of the woefully inept way we are approaching this problem.
In the end, though, and anyone with a half a mind should already know this, there are plenty of problems you can’t fix with a badge and a gun. The best we can do is damage control.
Sadly, all you have to do is get a news report from the border with Mexico, or take a look inside one of our prisons, to find out just how far we are from the best we can do.