Saturday, September 23, 2006

Willie Nelson, Public Enemy?

by Tibor R. Machan

In the midst of the U. S. A. going nearly broke from the Iraq War,
the War on Terror, and a rupturing corporate and personal welfare
state, I cannot imagine something much more pointless and wasteful
than the war on drugs. In my own neck of the woods several busts have
occurred recently, bringing to "justice" cultivators of various
patches of marijuana in various swanky neighborhoods, at huge cost to
law enforcement organizations, which is to say, to the citizenry that
funds them. But that is not really the worst of it.

Willie Nelson, the singer -- who looks to me to be about as harmless
a soul on the entertainment-celebrity roster as one can imagine --
has recently been busted for having and using some pot on his tour
bus. That, by all accounts, is the reality and the symbol of the
worst aspects of this utterly insane undertaking, the war on drugs.

The man was doing no one any harm -- he could have been sipping a
beer, chewing tobacco, or having a martini but, instead, his choice
of drugs was one that happens, quite irrationally, to seriously
offend influential elements of the voting public and politicians.
This new prohibition is, of course, no more sensible, nor any more in
accord with principles of a just human community -- which is supposed
to leave us free of out of control, offended meddlesome folks -- than
was the previous nationwide prohibition of alcohol that finally had
to be scrapped because of the bona fide crime it spawned throughout
the country. In the case of Mr. Nelson, though, there is something
else that this insane, immoral war illustrates.

American prisons are filled with such harmless drug offenders! I was
recently visiting one of those, in Lompoc, California, and some 70%
of the inmates are there for having been convicted of drug-related
offenses. Some are users, some are "pushers" or dealers, some are
probably more involved on the enforcement side of the industry
(which, being illegal, cannot count on the official police to provide
any remedy for the commercial malfeasance that plagues many

All this is happening in what President George W. Bush and his pals
so proudly call a free country, indeed, as they would have it, the
only country on the face of the globe truly involved in spreading
liberty to all. What a crock that is and how hypocritical it must
come off to most observant foreigners, including, sadly, the worst of
them whose hatred of America and its professed system, a free
capitalist society, is very likely fed by it.

Also, since the U. S. A. has more prisoners than nearly any country
around the world, and since that's something people tend to find
disturbing about a society, namely, its huge prison population --
given that this suggests widespread serious criminal activity in the
place -- the proclamation by our leaders that we are a bastion of
liberty can only be most embarrassing and self-defeating.

Of course, free men and women can become criminals. No one should
expect a free society to be a utopia. Yet, it does reflect badly on
the U. S. A. to have so many of its citizens turn to crime. And when
looked at without a careful consideration of what counts as crime in
the country, this bodes ill for the very idea of a free society --
makes it look like freedom and crime go hand in hand. So the very
objective that supposedly animates Bush & Co. in the Iraqi war --
spreading freedom to the world's enslaved and oppressed -- can seem
rather pointless and even counterproductive, given this association
of what is deemed a free society and the proclivity to crime by so
many of its citizens.

Yet, of course, the crimes these citizens have a proclivity for are
phony crimes -- it is as if eating hot dogs were a crime, or dancing,
or watching professional sports on TV. No wonder the prisons are full
-- prisoners occupy them who have been put there unjustly, without
any good reason.

The statistics do not, of course, show this. But if one extrapolates
from the prison I visited to all the rest, it looks like the criminal
element in the country is but a fraction of those who are officially
deemed to be criminals.

I do wish Willie Nelson could generate a revolution from his own
perfectly unjust and vile arrest on the charge of indulging in the
use of marijuana. We need this war on drugs ended, immediately. Maybe
that would not only improve our reputation abroad but could divert
the misused monies funding it to something worthwhile -- for example,
tax reduction.

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