by Myles Kantor
The Fourth of July witnesses mass affirmations of American freedom, but it is a false chorus.
It is a false chorus because America's splendid ethos of freedom is in fact a caste. While indisputably sincere Americans extol our country at block parties, BBQs, and fireworks shows, many of our countrymen have been reduced to something less than fully human.
I refer to those Americans who on this first Independence Day of the new millennium are in prison for using particular chemicals. The War on Drugs, futile and immoral, has subjugated and continues to subjugate thousands upon thousands of Americans.
Vincent Bugliosi observes, "By making the use of drugs a crime, the anomaly is created of the perpetrator and victim of the crime being one and the same person." Immense treasure and police power are thus paternalistically deployed to smash a personal indulgence. Bugliosi concludes, "[T]he only rationale for making the use of drugs illegal is that we want to protect people from themselves."
I consider narcotics a stultifying waste a money, so I don't have to worry about incarceration and disenfranchisement on a drug charge. This might prompt some to ask, "Why should you care about anti-drug laws since you're not affected by them?"
As citizens, we are all affected when our government enacts laws that deny our self-ownership and renders a class of Americans inferior for innocuously using their elemental property (i.e., their bodies). An anti-drug law, in other words, threatens enslavement for a certain exercise of self-ownership. (Murray Rothbard described such policies as a "totalitarian cage" for a reason.)
Terribly, there appears to be a consensus of indifference to drug users behind bars. Consider the dismissive sentiments of Jonah Goldberg:
…prisons haven't been overflowing with non-violent, first-time drug offenders. The latest numbers…show that only 8.8 percent of the more than 1 million people in state prisons (where 90 percent of all prisoners reside) were there for drug possession…Aha! But what about the federal prisons we hear so much about? Well, there, only a meager 2.2 percent of criminals were imprisoned solely for drug possession. The idea that our prisons are filled with harmless stoners is a myth. (See "Lock them up – and keep u2018em there!" JewishWorldReview.com, June 15, 2001)
The thrust of this is that taking a chainsaw to families, dreams, and livelihoods for a victimless preference is negligible if the dispossessed are a minority. This attitude is many things, but conservative or decent isn't one of them.
Imagine a law is passed that makes it a felony for albino libertarians to criticize Mao Zedong. I'd speculate this law would affect a paucity of individuals. Anyone with a scintilla of concern for freedom, however, would demand the law's repeal. Such conscience is largely absent with respect to criminalization of drug use.
Murray Rothbard envisioned a world where "a person's ownership rights in his own body…are not invaded, are not aggressed against." For the antithesis of his vision, look at the War on Drugs.
A country that claims to be a land of freedom cannot demolish certain citizens' freedom without betraying itself. The drug war's counter-constitutional demolition of American liberty does not do our country proud. So long as this iniquitous crusade persists, America is the land of the free only in relative terms.
To paraphrase Frederick Douglass, what to the imprisoned drug user is the Fourth of July?