The April edition of Harper’s Magazine features a lengthy argument for decriminalizing all drug use. I cozied myself into my easy chair to see what Dan Baum, author of “Legalize It All”, would have to say. The second paragraph ended all coziness. Richard Nixon was the first American president to announce a war on drugs. Baum interviewed Richard Nixon’s former domestic-policy advisor, John Ehrlichman. Here’s what he quotes Ehrlichman as saying:
The Nixon campaign in 1968 and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
Is this old information? How come this admission isn’t all over the American news stations? Nixon might as well have killed a million blacks himself, personally.
This article makes me think of two things. First I was tempted to take on the guilt, to say to myself, ‘so this is what it is to be human, this is what we humans are capable of’. But then I stopped myself. This is what Nixon thought it took to be a man. This is what he, and all men, learn early in life. To be a man you have to compete to the death, you have to do whatever it takes to come out on top. If your climb up destroys others, they’re just losers and they deserve what they get. I wonder if Nixon finally got his father’s approval with this government-initiated destruction of black culture and lives. Did he believe his Daddy would pat him on the head? Did he believe his Mommy would finally know that he was a man and not a boy?
The second thing I wondered was why is it so easy for one man to pull the wool over the eyes of an entire community, whether that community is a city, a country or a whole ethnic group? People listen to men. We listen and we believe. When the man has power, we fall into line like a box of mindless dominoes. And this only seems to be getting worse. In the past week I’ve seen the sentence, “they drank the koolaid” twice in print. We know what it means, don’t we? Somehow illusion, fabricated by one person for personal gain, has become easier to believe than fact.