Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Aha! I Knew It!

Obama balked and backed away from his veto threat.

Do I get a cookie? I knew this was going to happen. It doesn't come as a surprise to me anymore - the Democrats are the party without a spine and guts and the Republicans are the party without a brain or conscious.

What this means now is ... ominous.

Of course, for all the deal I made of this before, one thing needs to be stated clearly - this is the logical progression of how things were going to turn out. No, it wasn't the PATRIOT act's fault (although that sped it up). The problem was and always will be the ongoing "War on Drugs."

This is where our problem starts (I apologize ahead of time for the scattered nature of this post - I had thoughts that, like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, seemed like they would fit together. In retrospect, they might not have fit together as well as I thought).

Most people probably won't be surprised to learn that drugs like cocaine, marijuana, opium, and others were actually legal in the 1800s. Opium dens were a common sight in most western nations, and Sherlock Holmes shot up coke because he got bored. Being in possession of marijuana wasn't enough to get you arrested, and multiple Indian tribes have been using various hallucinogens for their rituals and spirituality. There's a whole religion devoted to it, called the Peyote Religion, in the West (American West) today.

And yes, at one time Coca Cola did indeed have coke in it at one time.

Doctors would prescribe amphetamines to housewives so they could keep up with the load of being a housewife, give them that little pep, and help them loose weight. It's a very dark historical irony why we're not like this anymore. And it's got nothing to do with avoiding a society of junkies - if you're going to take drugs, you're going to take them. Whether or not they're illegal won't make a bit of difference. Making them legal isn't going to have people running out there all at once to get high on crack anymore than making alcohol legal made us a society of drunks, or making caffeine legal made us a society of caff... never mind. That noise you heard was me trying to dig the bullet out of my own foot. But you know what? Even if it is the case, and it will inspire some new people to try narcotics, at least they'll be able to do it safely.

People who abuse alcohol are likely to abuse drugs. People who have substance abuse problems likely have other mental problems that they need redressed. Banning substances they abuse is not going to keep them from abusing the substances. There's not a single argument one you can make for the continued illegality for numerous drugs. There's probably a few that shouldn't be sold for human consumption, but in those cases, it's usually because they're cut with various other chemicals that are extremely dangerous. If you want to stop the drug abuse, then fix the mental problem behind it. But that's a different post for a different time.

No, it's a very dark historical irony why we're here.

See, it starts with - *ta-da!* racism (with a heavy side of period sexism, to boot!)

Opium dens were those vile Chinese trying to sneak in and have sex with our pure, White women. Reefer was those horrible, dirty Mexicans trying to do the same. Marijuana in particular saw such headlines like: "Marijuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, stepon white men's shadows and look at a white woman twice", along with claims that it incited riots in the "colored" communities. This lead White people to call for it's ban.

Maybe I shouldn't call this a dark historical irony. It started with the White majority accusing Blacks of things that, frankly, are not true. Thus, it continues with the power structure put into place - While I'm not sure of the exact statistic, I can make this claim with almost certainty just knowing how the system works: Blacks are more likely than Whites to be charged for minor drug possessions.

There's a vicious, hideous undercurrent of racism in our policy of the War on Drugs. But other, more talented bloggers have explored that, so I'm going to turn away from this into the end results of this. Because you can only push people around for so long before they, frankly, get tired and push back, the police began to find themselves outgunned. Due to a sweet deal with the Feds, the cops are able to get military equipment; drones, heavy guns, armor, that sort of thing. Because of the ever increasing nature of police brutality against community --> community distrust --> community lashing out against police ---> police brutality against community, the police were gradually militarized. The prime picture of this is SWAT; a paramilitary police unit who receives military training.

Welcome to the new professionalism, phrase courtesy of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia.

Up until now, the only people who've been on the brunt end of this militarization are non-Whites. Specifically, individuals from Latin America and Blacks. Now individuals who look like they're of Arab descent (never mind that they're Egyptian, or Jordanian, or Persian, or Azeri, or Turkic, or, you know, guilt of being nothing other than Arabic...) are under the cross hairs too. Because the majority (read: Whites) never experienced it, they saw it as "necessary." After all, America is all about being in control. We'd sacrifice our freedoms at the drop of a hat if it meant that some big, strong White man (or a White man who was perceived as such) was in control of the country. Don't believe me?

Here's 9/11. Here's proof.

Maybe this is that dark historical irony I was talking about. A nation founded by rebels has become a nation of apathetic conformists at best and authoritarian bootlickers at worst. We'd sell our souls if it meant that we had guaranteed safety from whatever nebulous threat it is that's going to nuke our cities/destroy our societies/rape our (White) women this week.

I can't say we've been like this from the beginning, even though we have. It's human nature, really - we're animals first and foremost, and being animals, we will instinctively bow to those with authority. Real authority or perceived. Deserved or stolen. Milgram proved that, and his student, Zimbardo, proved it again. This is part of being an animal. When the Alpha says " Siddown and shut the fuck up", you sit down and shut the fuck up. Very few people have the desire or the capacity to stand up to the Alpha and tell them right back: "No, you."

That takes a degree of moral fortitude and a desire to make the world a better place, and an understanding of the world beyond your limited experiences. Most people don't have that. Most people don't have the time, the energy, the resources, or the capability. Sure, they know it's wrong, but that guy has a badge. And I'm not going to question that guy with the badge. I might get in trouble.

So yes, even "the land of the free/home of the brave" is made of animals who will cow to the first man with a badge and authority. Everyone has a strong sense of self-preservation. It's understandable.

Slowly, the United States has marched towards this authoritarian police state. And no, it's not as bad as the police states in other parts of the world. Yes, we still have the illusion that every other part of the Bill of Rights that's not the First or Second are still applicable, even if they're not. But police states are spectrum things, and the United States has been in one since the 1950s at least. We've been this way because we defined ourselves against an enemy - the United States verses Soviet Russia. Capitalism verses Communism. Both systems are utterly unsustainable when run pure, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that we've been coached, from the end of World War II, into this fear that there's something out there to get us. Something out there to attack our way of life. The Commies hate us because of our freedoms. It goes without saying that the Soviet Union had a field day with the footage of the various riots and the treatment of Black Americans as a way of saying "Aha! See, their system is unsustainable." And you know what? They were right.

But there's always been a big enemy out there. Someone against our way of life. So we needed protection, you see. We needed protection from the outsiders, to ensure that our way of life would continue. We've been conditioned since the Cold War to accept the authority's word on matters. That seemed like it would change in the 60s, but it didn't. It seems like it will change today, but it won't. When the Soviet Union collapsed, and we "won" the Cold War, the country lost huge part of its identity. This is what happens when you identify so strongly against something. Without that counterbalance, we started exporting our ideas of "stability" (read: our own economic interests) through the world. This is nothing new. We've been doing this for a while - since the late 1800s at least.

You don't go around shoving people off their posts and attacking their ways of life without making enemies. And we made some big enemies - most of them in the Middle East. A large part of it is our continued support for unpopular and brutal regimes, like the current leaders in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and at one time, the Shah of Iran, Gaddafi, and Sadam Hussein. These enemies made a new face for use to attack - a faceless one. It fit perfectly with our vision of being a global police force, exporting freedoms while becoming ever more authoritarian at home.

Along came a spider. That spider bit, and that bit hurt. It bit more than once.

And all of a sudden, we developed an intense arachnophobia. We've been conditioned to accept authority from the beginning - it's human nature, it was natural during the Cold War, and now, it was the first place we looked. After 9/11, the approval ratings shot upwards for the President, even though Bush was never more of an idiot than in the moments after 9/11, when he had a chance to shine but failed utterly. Faux patriotism built up a mythology around 9/11 - a sacred American cow that you could never ever criticize - and we internalized that mythology and realized that were in danger. So we turned to the authority in our lives for security and support. And being authority, they were more than happy to oblige.

What started with police militarization in a war against drugs to try and keep the "norm" and stability for the White population has morphed into an intense fear, and rather than the White majority selling off the freedoms and rights of other ethnic groups, it's turned into the White majority selling off everyone's rights and freedoms. The War on Drugs began the change of the police into a military. The War on Terror turned the military into the police. Anymore, there's no difference between the two. The PATRIOT act, the illegal wire tapping, the stymied attempts for government transparency in the name of "national security" - these are outcroppings of the War on Drugs. If I didn't know any better, I'd call the War on Drugs a proto-War on Terror. Almost all of the problems we have today, including the fact that we're now living in a full-blown police state without any doubt, can be traced back to that. And hold on tight kids, because it's only going to get rougher from here.

I laugh every time I hear someone say they "hate us for our freedoms." I think that's pretty well and truly debunked by now. But if that's the case, the place we're heading in the near future should take us out of the clear.

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