Speaking Up, by Dennis O’Neil
The comic book veteran was smiling as he leaned forward to read the lettering on the button fastened to my lapel: Let’s Legalize Pot. His mood changed instantly, to one of anger. He snatched the pin off my jacket, flung it into a wastebasket, and stalked from the room.
That was in 1965 and before I relate another incident from the same era, let me offer a quick clarification. I don’t like marijuana. Never have. The circumstances of my rather bumpy life have, at times, put me close to it and of course, like William Jefferson Clinton and maybe just one or two other pols, I sampled it and found it usually did little for me. Which is not to say I didn’t have addiction problems. No siree. My love of alcohol cost me a marriage and a job and a lot of dignity and some trips to the hospital. But pot? Usually just made me cough. That button? Well, although the evil reefer was not my drug of choice, I thought that if booze and nicotine were legal, evil reefer should be, too.
This was not conventional wisdom in 1965 (and still isn’t) and, although, as we discussed last week, comics guys like the man I outraged were outsiders, they were not rebels. No, they were outsiders by birth and circumstance, not choice, and their values were pretty much those of mainstream America. They wore suits and ties to work, they paid taxes and owned homes, went to church or temple, voted, behaved themselves. Many had served honorably in the war. They were patriots, they were good citizens. They knew, because they had not learned otherwise, that our nation was menaced by godless Communism, that elected officials were as honorable as they themselves were, that what was good for General Motors was, in fact, good for America, that the atomic bomb was an invaluable part of Liberty’s Arsenal and, oh yeah, that the Devil’s Weed would likely corrupt any youth who got a whiff of it. They were my parents, my relatives, and the folks in my old neighborhood.
Except, of course, for the fact that my old neighbors hadn’t been cursed with minority group status. Maybe their parents, or grandparents, had been, but not them.
One member of that generation, the people Tom Brokaw called “the greatest,” told me that he wasn’t against the establishment – on the contrary, he had struggled for years to become a part of the establishment.
Another told me that all those peace marchers who had demonstrated at the Pentagon should have been machine-gunned. Okay, there are extremists in any group and okay; I didn’t tell him that I would have been among the machine-gunnies.
We were luckier than those honorable comics pioneers; we had more and often better sources of information, and could make more informed decisions. Unless ignorance really is bliss.
I don’t know what happened to my Let’s Legalize Pot button. Maybe I sheepishly fished it out of the wastebasket and hid it in a pocket. Or maybe I left it where it was and it got thrown out with the rest of the trash.
RECOMMENDED READING: The Te of Piglet, by Benjamin Hoff.
Dennis O’Neil is an award-winning editor and writer of Batman, The Question, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and The Shadow – among others – as well as many novels, stories and articles. The Question: Epitaph For A Hero, reprinting the third six issues of his classic series with artists Denys Cowan and Rick Magyar, will be on sale in September, and his novelization of the movie The Dark Knight (you may have seen it) is on sale right now.
One of my friends/ex-co-workers made a good chunk of change photographing particularly attractive marijuana buds for the High Times calendar.The old chestnut is that tastes and political opinions pendulum from one generation to the next, as each group of children strive to be "what my parents aren't". I don't know how true that is, but there's a definite period where kids are convinced that everything their parents know, and everything they taught them is a lie. In some cases it turns out to be true (giant hairy killer bats did not, in fact, live in my basement, so I could have gone down there anytime I liked as a kid) but in a lot of cases it's a knee-jerk reaction to that first realization that not everything your parents say is the gospel truth, so naturally everything else they say is flummery as well. One of my current co-workers is festooned with tattoos and piercings, including a recently-obtained nose ring. I shudder to think what his son will have to do to satisfy the generational mandate of shocking one's parents. Perhaps he'll have his scrotum replaced with clear plastic or something (a practice John Waters SWORE he heard about some 20 years ago in a speech at my college. I've never seen evidence of it, thankfully, but I've seen pictures that came damn close in creepoutery).I've not discussed the actual issue of pot yet, because even I realised that's not really what the article is about. Here, as in the world, it's a metaphor for something else. Pot is another one of those topics that This Generation knows That Generation is just plain wrong about. There's lots of positive and negative points on both sides (my father-in-law, the one who used to be a bookie for Certain People, was getting pot from his friends to ease the pain of his assorted cancer treatments near the end of his life) but the topic is SUCH a hot-button that it will be discussed forever, and nothing will ever come of it. Two, three generations from now, maybe, but right now, nobody wants to go down in history as "the guy who legalized pot". Like abortion and the banning of tobacco, they're vote-getters, but nothing will ever be done one way or the other. They will ever spark conversation (often intense conversation, indistinguishable from "yelling") but no progress. They also make great metaphors in blog columns. The risk is that the convsation will obsess on the topic, and not the actual point trying to be made. Let's watch the fun.
Ooh, "pendulum" as a verb. I love it!
The "pot" of 1965 is not the "pot" of today. I was told that if horticulturalists had been able to increase corn yields per plant in the same way that pot growers have been able to increase the THC levels in pot, farmers would be growing corn stalks with fifteen to twenty foot ears of corn.I will agree that our drug laws, enforcement, education, abuse prevention and treatment programs are antiquated and generally underfunded. We incarcerate a larger percentage of our population than any other nation on the planet. A LARGE portion of that is due to our failing drug policies. We have turned our system of judgment and justice into a "machine" that methodically is "mowing down" people's lives.Here's a FAILED drug policy: We went into Afghanistan several years ago to chase out the Taliban because they were terrorists who had attacked and killed thousands of innocents. I'm down with that. So was most of the International Community. Bit since then, on OUR watch, Afghanistan has become the largest opium and heroin producer the world has ever seen, far greater than under the Taliban. How many more will DIE or have their lives ruined because of the International Terror of Heroin that we have unleashed on the world? And we don't seem to have the balls to even attempt to control it! We chose to divert the man-power needed to maintain order in the region and instead PUSH into Iraq. We chose to divert the capital needed to rebuild Afghanistan's economy, so their people could have SOME alternative for income other than trading in illegal narcotics. So much for our "War on Terror." So much for our "War on Drugs." Obviously the emphasis in the war hasn't been on trying to control drug trafficking or trade; the "War on Drugs" was an excuse to incarcerate a larger number of "undesirables" for longer periods of time. The War on Drugs has chosen to invest the most in Incarceration, rather than Prevention, Education, Treatment and Rehabilitation (which are FAR less expensive and, I contend, less disruptive to society too). People need to realize that in order to get tough on crime, we are going to have to be soft on criminals. FREE medical treatment is a cheaper and more effective way to deal with drug addicts than jail. Spending BILLIONS on the schools, roads and infrastructure Afghanistan needs for a healthy economy ISN'T being "soft on terrorists." We won't be able to SMASH away world terrorism with a closed Iron Fist. Eventually it will be the Open Hand of friendship that will be the undoing of terrorism.
We all have our choice of altered states. Mine is understandable and justifiable; yours is a dangerous addiction that's especially threatening to children.As long as what you do doesn't wreck my life (or my lungs), then it's really none of my business.
We've got to save people from themselves because we know better, god told us to push our values down the heathen's throat, and we are morally superior. Now go drive your SUV to the liquor store s block away and get me a six pack.
The only reason the drug-related incarceration business is booming in the U.S. is because prevention, education, treatment and rehabilitation have failed so miserably – something I put squarely on the shoulders of the popular culture industry. How can prevention flourish in a peer-driven environment where “recreational” drug use is winked at, glamorized and even encouraged? In my opinion, Harold and Kumar are far more damaging to anti-drug efforts than any thousand street-corner pushers. I think over time such common and pervasive benign depictions have a general tendency to legitimize drug usage across a large portion of the U.S. population (especially among young people), and the occasional River Phoenix or Heath Ledger drug-related death, while seen as tragic, is no longer an effective large-scale deterrent. And the answer is not to legalize so-called “soft” drugs, as some advocate, to allegedly reduce the number of criminals. According to nationmaster.com, in the Netherlands, where soft drug use is legal, while violent crime rates are much lower than in the U.S. (most likely because people there own far fewer firearms), the total number of crimes per capita is actually higher.In addition, those who argue soft drug use doesn’t generally lead to hard drug use are fooling themselves. The Netherlands is a hotbed of hard drug usage, drug manufacturing, and drug money laundering. It is also a key European hard drug conduit, fanning the hard stuff all over Europe and the rest of the world.Personally, I have always avoided illegal drugs because I think that they are not only destructive on a personal level (and expensive), they are destructive (and costly) to society as a whole.Unfortunately, these days, I am apparently in the minority.
Yeah, damn those Hollywood movies.The world would be so much better if we only watched movies from Bollywood. ;)
Caffeine is the gateway drug.
And the answer is not to legalize so-called “soft” drugs, as some advocate, to allegedly reduce the number of criminals. According to nationmaster.com, in the Netherlands, where soft drug use is legal, while violent crime rates are much lower than in the U.S. (most likely because people there own far fewer firearms), the total number of crimes per capita is actually higher.Not true. It's *tolerated*. The "Coffeehouses" where you can toke up are, in fact illegal.In addition, those who argue soft drug use doesn’t generally lead to hard drug use are fooling themselves. The Netherlands is a hotbed of hard drug usage, drug manufacturing, and drug money laundering. It is also a key European hard drug conduit, fanning the hard stuff all over Europe and the rest of the world.Uh huh. Actually, the main gatrway drug to all drugs (including grass and alcohol) is the least-understood, most addictive and deadliest substance known to man – oxygen.The smallest possible successfully administered doseage causes instant lifelong addiction, there's a 100% fatality rate with withdrawal, and its users all die eventually.And everyone who uses hard drugs (whether he used grass or pills first or went straight to smack) was an oxygen user first.