Carl E. Olsen, Ed., Director
P.O. Box 4091
Des Moines, Iowa 50333
July 7, 1999
Thanks for the letter and the Carmen Yarrusso/DRC internet debate. I found Carmen's comments to be very cogent and compelling. You may recall that I raised some of those same issues in my correspondence to you (although not as eloquently). I wrote to you at one time that I have heard so-called drug law reformers say that the government persecution agents should go after powder drugs and leave herb smokers alone. That mentality concedes that depriving adults of their right to possess their own bodies and to think for themselves is appropriate and correct in some cases and it recklessly extends credibility to a public policy that is truly an insidious hoax on the American public. It pretends that government bureaucrats and politicians whose campaigns rely on financing by the tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical companies are sincerely concerned about the public welfare and are better qualified to do our thinking for us. It also tends to suggest that those who prefer or condone the use of psychoactive substances that come in powder form as irresponsible delinquents who deserve to be attacked by marauding drug warrior storm troopers. The enemy of my enemy is my friend and conversely, the friend of my enemy is my enemy.
I found Cliff's paragraph by paragraph response to Carmen's essay to be rather juvenile. Much of his response sounds like the antics of a preppy debate team hero attempting to make Carmen's honest inquiry appear absurd. Egoism rather than intellectual respect sounds like the motivating factor in Cliff's tone who sounds as though he is not comfortable with being challenged by his peers. He reminds me of some of the old self-proclaimed Coptic elders whose egos were nourished by humiliating others. One example of Cliff's puerile behavior is the response to Carmen's statement, "Obviously Cliff and Dave et al do not see (or utterly discount) marijuana prohibition as a serious violation of a basic human right. (Cliff likens it to stopping you from getting sloppy drunk,)" And Cliff responded, "Well, If you wade into the debate with a sloppy argument...." Cliff appears blinded by his egotism, otherwise he could see the contradiction in his argument when he says, "No, you miss the point again. I see it as a basic human right. I also see that lots of other people simply don't understand that argument, so it doesn't work very well. Get the difference? It doesn't convince others." His statement substantiates Carmen's assertion that Cliff is pandering away principle. Cliff apparently believes that due to the fact that too many people in America are completely oblivious to basic human rights, that that is sufficient reason to ignore for now the broader basic human rights violation of oppressing any human being because the psychoactive substance they choose for health maintenance, spiritual exploration, or simple relaxation and stress relief doesn't conform to the status quo. And Cliff in fact buttresses the drug warrior's position with his attitude that would generate comments like: "... until you can convince the nation that you have a right to get loaded for fun." And "... sick people had a higher priority than those who just want to get stoned." It is unfortunate that some people acquire illnesses, but there is no evidence that those people who use cannabis for medical necessity are not also enjoying the experience and communion that accompanies cannabis the same as people who do not have a medical condition that has been diagnosed by a doctor. I found Cliff's comments to be inflammatory and disparaging.
At the beginning of Cliff's response, in his summary Cliff makes several mistakes interpreting Carmen's comments. At "BTW, Carmen ...," Cliff's attitude seems to drip with contempt and disrespect not only for Carmen but for all herb (cannabis) lovers who simply choose to self-medicate without relinquishing their respect and trust for their own senses and ability to think for themselves. I do not read in Carmen's comments that he is calling for an end to activism or progress; he is simply taking issue with that attitude which discredits those of us who do expect to see the total withdrawal of drug warrior troops and an end to the aggression toward and oppression of those of us millions of peaceful citizens who enjoy psychoactive substances. And just as a side note, I want to point out that it is generally those of us who are referred to as wanting "to get loaded for fun," and "who just want to entertain [our]selves," the so-called evil drug peddling enemies of society, are the ones who make available for our sick brothers and sisters the far superior medicine that they prefer over the government garbage.
Another mistake Cliff makes is at 2(b) of his summary. He is forgetting or simply does not realize that the government and its agents are the parasitic oppressors of all free people. Simply because they have the power to convince or deceive people into believing that they are the majority doesn't make them right and us wrong. Remember, this is a human rights violation discussion. And we do have a right in a free market system to make and/or sell whatever we choose. Perhaps Cliff would argue on behalf of those who pander away principle that we have no right to sell poison to people for consumption, but in reality we do and people -- the free market -- will determine whether that is something they want or not (obviously millions of people confirm that they want drugs, they just don't want to be attacked). Besides, if we were selling poison to our patrons and friends, very soon they would all be dead and we would be out of business because poison always kills. Anyway ... that is an argument designed to stir the emotions and fears of a misinformed and ignorant public. Personally I trust my own senses and do not doubt them and I am secure in my own powers of discernment, and I trust and respect every human being's ability to think for themselves. Many of us do not need or want to relinquish our own sensibilities to those people who would force us to be their subjects and property. "Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support, are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters and, so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform." Henry David Thoreau
I read a quote once in an anthology of essays titled On Civil Disobedience: Two Statements by William F. Buckley, Jr., and Noam Chomsky. Chomsky ended his statement with a quote by A.J. Muste, paraphrasing Gandhi: "Unjust laws and practices survive because men obey them and conform to them. This they do out of fear. There are things they dread more than the continuance of the evil." Actually this statement was originally made by Henry David Thoreau in his Civil Disobedience: "Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse."
I'm going to include an excerpt from Abraham S. Blumberg's Criminal Justice which was written back in the 70s but is even more compelling today:
The ultimate in hubris is the fact that though we are unable to resolve our bitterly persistent class, racial, economic, regional, and intergenerational conflicts, we are not deterred from attempting to export our most hallowed pretension -- "the American way of life." Ironically, our frustration and disillusionment are reinforced by the costly misadventures of an American imperium which in imposing its will everywhere else may have seriously diminished our own prospects of achieving the good life that the "American way" so strongly implies. Americans reluctantly accept responsibility for the cracks in their national picture window. Instead, there is a perverse need for enemies and scapegoats, which is rooted in a collective neurosis that produces rage and hatred of those who are different or disagree with us. Many Americans seldom perceive any sort of connection between the shortcomings of their own lives and their improvident failure to invest in the social institutions that serve people. Instead, they attribute their helplessness, the deteriorating quality of their lives, and their disappointments and frustrations in regard to their life chances to a "breakdown of law and order" and "crime in the streets." At another level of angry hysteria, they direct their hostility toward the hippie-bohemian-commie-queer-pervert-fag-Indian-nigger-spic continuum, or whichever group they think is currently threatening them.... So acute has the hysterical fear of crime and disorder become that many Americans would welcome some version of a garrison state, and the scrapping of the Bill of Rights, if that would free them from the problems of living in the city. A sense of alienation and mistrust of government has led to the stockpiling of handguns and rifles, and an ominously growing vigilantism. Irresponsible politicians exploit this pervasive sense of insecurity. Like ruthless hawkers of some worthless nostrum, they have effectively sold the notion that the social ills and political conflicts that beset us can be cured through the destruction of constitutional liberty.
In summary I want to quote Blumberg as he recognized what I have said to you before: "It has been suggested that political and other dissidents could effectively paralyze our judicial institutions by engaging in widespread disorders for which large numbers would then invoke rights to a jury trial." (pg. 185)
Prison is a scary thought because it grossly interrupts our personal lives, but the carnage would be over in a matter of days if all the millions of psychoactive substance users were mobilized and focused. Cliff agrees that "every freedom our predecessors fought and died for is viciously demeaned by any drug prohibition" but I don't understand how he envisions the elimination of that atrocity by isolating medical necessity users from those who wish to actually exercise their right to choose what they "can put into their own bodies." I mean ... doesn't the prohibition of my freedom to choose demonstrate the same tyranny as the prohibition of someone with a medical condition? It is the "prohibition" of anybody's right to choose that makes a mockery of "[t]he very spirit of freedom this country is supposed to stand for ..." And as for Cliff's comment to Carmen to "Watch out for the black people who will tell you that your troubles are not nearly as bad as the people who actually were slaves", I don't see the difference in the troubles I am experiencing as much of a contrast to the earlier enslavement of human beings in this country. The 13th Amendment made criminalizing a person's behavior and convicting them a legal loophole for the perpetuation of slavery and the effect is virtually the same.
Well ... enough of that for now. I hope I have not bored you. I am curious about whether you may have any more information about the Rastafarians? The brothers here want me to begin guiding our weekly gathering and they were hopeful that I might obtain some educational materials to share with everyone. On July 25th there will be a celebration of Haile Selassie's birthday and the brother from one of the islands (I forget the name) will return and I hope he remembers the info regarding the slave ship named Jesus (Geezus).
All right Carl, take care and I will look forward to your next letter. I did receive a newsletter from someone in Arkansas regarding Tom Brown's return home. How is Jim doing? Will you please say hello to him for me. Thanks for everything.
P.O. Box 1000
Oxford, WI 53952