DARE and Back Again

Sitting through a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) graduation ceremony is a tedious, frustrating, and intermittently infuriating experience. It does, however, have one redeeming aspect: At its end one might feel a little better about the fate of poor little Elian Gonzalez, who was condemned to live in a totalitarian society not all that different from the one taking root here.

Elian, it will be remembered, was the Cuban youngster who was the sole survivor of a group who fled the Caribbean island gulag in 1999. He was seized at gunpoint from the Miami home of his maternal relatives in the course of an illegal and utterly gratuitous federal paramilitary raid.

The last known photographs of Elian depict him wearing the uniform of Cuba’s Soviet-inspired Young Pioneers — a white dress shirt with crimson neckerchief.

That outfit, the neckerchief in particular, symbolizes the fact that the wearer is the property of the state, the True Parent. The Cuban child belongs to his particular family only in a contingent sense; the parenthood of the state, on the other hand, is unqualified.

This is essentially the same lesson being imparted by DARE education, albeit in a more subtle fashion.

DARE likewise employs specialized clothing — in this case only a t-shirt, but neckerchief might be added someday — to help cultivate among children a sense of state-imparted solidarity.

Great care is also taken to encourage “DARE Kids” to act as the eyes and ears of the state in the home, willing not only to refuse drugs when offered to them but also to report drug-related misconduct therein to the police.

On more than a few occasions, DARE Kids have emulated the example of the patron “saint” of the Young Pioneers, Pavlik Morozov, the youngster who was feted by Stalin for informing on his own father, Trofim, for some variety of anti-Soviet behavior.

Pavlik’s contemporary American disciples have been known to rummage through their parents’ liquor cabinets and other personal effects in search of various mood-altering substances not presently sanctioned by the State.

DARE was created in 1983 as the brainchild of former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Daryl Gates, whose legacy is — to say no more — a troubled one. Appropriately, it was also Gates who, fifteen years prior to DARE’s advent, created the first SWAT team.

To be fair, Gates envisioned SWAT as a special-function civilian police unit for use in hostage rescues, bank robberies, and other exceptional circumstances. It’s doubtful that he intended for SWAT units to be the hypertrophied, unabashedly militarized entities they have become.

Not an equal “partnership”: The DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) logo illustrates the conceit that the state’s instruments of indoctrination (schools) and coercion (police) are “partners” with the parents in molding the character of young people.

It’s similarly doubtful that Gates thought SWAT units would be tasked with routine police work, deployed as occupation forces, or dispatched for the purpose of intimidating the public — all of which are now routine uses of SWAT teams across the country.

Three years after Gates devised the SWAT template, the Nixon administration — for reasons of purely cynical partisan politics — formally inaugurated the “war on drugs” (which had been under way, in one form or another, since 1909). This domestic war offered a ready-made rationale for police departments to assemble SWAT and tactical teams, and Washington opened the subsidy spigots to fund the militarization of local law enforcement.

During the Reagan administration, exceptions were carved out of the Posse Comitatus statute to permit the Pentagon to train and equip SWAT teams; the military was also given limited permission to carry out domestic counter-drug missions directly.

This co-mingling of the military and law enforcement accelerated during the Clinton years, particularly after Attorney General Janet Reno inaugurated the Pentagon’s Law Enforcement Support Organization (LESO) in 1995. By the end of the 20th Century, military raids for the purpose of narcotics enforcement had become commonplace.

When the home he was living in was invaded in the pre-dawn darkness by snarling, foul-mouthed storm troopers bearing automatic weapons, Elian Gonzalez experienced something many other American children have had to endure. I’ve often wondered if the unspoken purpose of that completely unwarranted act of state violence was to terrorize Elian into losing his taste for freedom, or whatever inadequate substitute America presently offers. No other initiative — not even the “war on terror” — has done more to abet the militarization of law enforcement than the “war on drugs.”

The target of any domestic “war” is individual liberty, and the DARE program serves as a form of crypto-conscription. It is intended to turn impressionable children into little foot soldiers on behalf of the state’s latest campaign against liberty, whatever form that campaign might take. Militarism permeated the proceedings at the March 30 DARE graduation at Payette High School.

The opening flag ceremony included not only the Stars & Stripes, but also the official institutional banners of all five armed services, each of which was the subject of a lengthy and pious eulogy. No overt explanation was given as to why the military banners were displayed at a counter-narcotics event; none was really necessary — this is a “war,” after all.

Roughly 120 fifth-grade students had been dragooned into taking DARE and attending the ceremony. Awards and prizes of every conceivable kind were handed out in such volume that one suspected the event was modeled after the Do-do’s “Caucus-Race” from Alice in Wonderland, in which everyone wins and everyone gets a prize.

Four students were singled out to read brief essays in praise of DARE’s transcendent goals and the supernal wisdom displayed by its creators and facilitators, each of which ended with a pledge to remain “drug and violence free.”

This prompted me to wonder what would happen if a “DARE kid” were to use the assertiveness tools taught by the program to resist a school-mandated Ritalin prescription: “No! I won’t take that reliably lethal, over-prescribed Schedule II narcotic! I’m a DARE kid! I took a pledge to be drug-free!”

Color me incurably cynical, but I doubt school officials would commend such a child for his strength of character as they had him dragged bodily to the nearest government-sanctioned narcotics distribution point.

Likewise, it’s doubtful that, after military conscription is re-imposed a few years hence, DARE kids will be permitted an exemption on the grounds of their sacred pledge to be “violence-free.” The unspoken but obvious codicil to that pledge, of course, is that kids will eschew all drugs save those the government forces on them, and will abstain from all violence except that authorized by and serving the interests of the state.

I’ll wager that many of the plots in the imperial graveyard in Virginia are filled with the mortal remains of “DARE kids” whose lives were squandered in carrying out some exercise of criminal violence on behalf of the state.

Although it pays frequent lip service to the importance of families and others in a child’s “support system,” DARE unflinchingly promotes the primacy of the state as moral tutor. This was made clear, in ironic fashion, in the keynote address at the Payette DARE graduation ceremony. The address — an extended parable involving the contrasting fates of two girls, Tracey and Brianna — was delivered by Larry McGhee, Idaho state coordinator for the DARE program.

McGhee is also a high-ranking official at the Idaho Police Officer Standards and Training academy and a 30-year law enforcement veteran. Tracey, McGhee told the audience, was a girl from a very good family, but “she didn’t have the DARE program.” So, after a promising start, Tracey succumbed to the apparently irresistible allure of drugs. She found herself surrounded by socially marginal friends who also took drugs.

Tracey became addicted to methamphetamine. Her grades plummeted. She finished high school, but dropped out of college. She had three children by three different men, none of whom she married.

Brianna, on the other hand, came from a troubled home with little money and few prospects for improving their circumstances. She had no father in the home. But — cue trumpets and hosannas — she had the DARE program, that glittering diadem of civic virtue.

Under the kind and thoughtful ministrations of the state’s counter-narcotics priesthood, Brianna overcame her unfortunate family circumstances. She’s 17 now, excelling in her classes and surrounded by clean-scrubbed, photogenic friends. Her prospects are blindingly bright (well, as bright as can be expected as our nation succumbs to a depression).

At this point, astute listeners were expecting a twist ending, and McGhee eagerly provided it. You see, Brianna’s mother is a drug addict … none other than Tracey! And, McGhee continued, adding a pike to his twist, Tracey is his own 37-year-old daughter.

These cascading daytime talk show-style disclosures provoked a Pavlovian gasp from the audience, most of which appeared to miss the ironic implications of McGhee’s story. Sure, they caught the meaning McGhee meant to impart: If this can happen to a 30-year veteran police officer — why, the state coordinator for DARE himself! — what family could possibly be immune to the scourge of drug addiction? How could we possibly survive without the inspired guidance and direction we get from DARE, oh blessed be the name of that program and hallowed be the hands that created it!

I earnestly hope that at least a few others in the audience entertained some variation of the thought that came immediately to my mind: Why on earth should I entrust the moral and character education of my children to a program presided over by someone who, by his own public admission, experienced such a tragic failure in teaching suitable moral lessons to his eldest daughter?

Mr. McGhee, like the others involved in the local DARE campaign, seems like a decent and earnest man whose philosophical compass has been skewed by the state’s malevolent magnetic field. Like other parents with demanding careers, he must have found it increasingly difficult to make adequate time to help his daughter, giving her gentle guidance where possible, and stern correction where necessary.

No government program can serve as a suitable substitute for parental involvement in moral education of the young. DARE actually undermines that involvement by cultivating unhealthy dependence on the state and an even unhealthier appetite among students for social conformity (and the inevitable hypocrisy regarding minor and temporary indulgence that flourishes wherever prohibition prevails).

Most importantly, DARE has no documentable positive impact on rates of drug use and addiction.

A study carried out a decade ago by the University of Kentucky found that there was little if any measurable difference between “DARE kids” and those fortunate enough to avoid the program where the use of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and narcotics is concerned. Another mid-1990s longitudinal study involving a random selection of 23-schools using the 16-week DARE program produced exactly the same results.

DARE thus has to be considered a very costly social placebo, or perhaps even the equivalent of a narcotic intended to anesthetize the public regarding the violent, subversive, hugely expensive and pointless official fraud called the war on drugs. That alone would be sufficient reason to do away with the program. But as noted earlier, DARE is also used to propagate immensely harmful statist attitudes among the young. The whole thing is also unbearably tacky.

Why is it that events like the DARE graduation inevitably involve some hideous anthem sung by listless, defeated schoolchildren? A few years ago, in what must rank as one of the most nauseating incidents of public child abuse on record, the Bush administration assembled a group of “Katrina Kids” to serenade Laura Bush with a bizarre ditty set to the tune of “Hey, Look Me Over”:

Our country’s stood beside us

People have sent us aid.

Katrina could not stop us, our hopes will never fade.

Congress, Bush and FEMA, People across our land,

Together have come to rebuild us, and we join them, hand in hand!

This had to be the most rousing public performance since the Chinese Cultural Revolution, during which “Mao’s Kids” would regularly perform such crowd favorites as “Happy, Happy is He Who Pulls The Night-Soil Cart.”

At what was supposed to be the similarly rousing climax of the DARE graduation, the kids were divided into two groups to perform an entirely execrable, and nearly interminable, DARE anthem.

The number was intended to sound at once contemporary and resolute, but it in fact sounded like something composed on a Wal-Mart quality Casio keyboard by a white accountant with delusions of street cred.

My oldest son, 11-year-old William Wallace, was among the primary victims of this year’s DARE graduation. For reasons I’ve described earlier, we had to quit home-schooling our three oldest children, which was decidedly not our idea. Thus poor William had to spend four months enduring a weekly statist harangue courtesy of DARE.

Fortunately, William is a brilliant and strong-willed individual, and I’ve done my best to cultivate within him a proper disrespect for the institutionalized affliction called “government.”

Here’s a sample dialogue:

William: “Dad, the government — ”

Dad: “William, how many times do I have to tell you that I won’t tolerate such language in our home? Say `those malignant bastards’ instead.”

William (sheepishly): “OK, Dad. I’m sorry.”

As the geologic era-length DARE graduation ceremony ground to a close, William’s countenance visibly brightened. As his classmates dutifully recited the lyrics of the DARE anthem, William stood in silence.

As the number neared its merciful end, amid the visible disapproval of the other graduates, William brazenly removed the DARE t-shirt that to him symbolized submission to an evil, hypocritical system. He yanked off that shirt with the same triumphant defiance displayed by Captain Kirk in “The Gamesters of Triskelion” as he tore the hated “collar of obedience” from his neck.

I’ve never been prouder of my son.