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July 21, 2005 - Collegiate Times (VA Edu)

War On Drugs Is Not Delivering Peace

By Michael Krawitz

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Some say the secret of life is to find what you love to do and do it as long as possible. I believe the center of all seen and unseen, the entity many call god, places a burning in your heart and if you clear away enough of the distractions from your mind you will see clearly what it is exactly that you are meant to do. The thing that will fill your heart with love and joy and peace from a job well done. Sometimes it may be nothing more than sitting on the porch petting your cat while enjoying a beautiful sunset. For some, when the air is still and the hustle and bustle of school or work subsides for a moment, the sound of despair fills their ears and becomes a call to action.

I believe all living things are somehow connected and that true peace cannot coexist with blatant suffering but rather it is through the quest of reducing suffering that peace can be attained. There is something very human about the urge to ease another's suffering. The forces that oppose suffering are legion and do great things. Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, The Salvation Army, The Red Cross and others have millions upon millions of members and spend their time working to improve the human condition.

Whenever there is a war the TV news shows glorious battles with "smart" bombs and "smart" missiles and tactical missions with exciting firefights but rarely is the "invasion" of the legions of peacemakers televised. But there they are handing out medicine and food to those displaced and trying their utmost best to repair the tears to the fabric of humanity left behind the rocket's red glare. There is one war however where the legions of peacemakers have been mostly absent. That is the war on drugs.

Several years ago I had a life-changing journey called the Journey for Justice, I joined appx: twenty others from several states and together we caravanned from prison to prison across Texas to bring about attention to the injustice that is the war on drugs. At each prison we set up a vigil and were greeted by many family members of those incarcerated and more than a few guards and the stories they tell are life changing.

Built upon a house of cards the war on drugs is fifty miles wide and an inch deep. Scratch anywhere and the funk of a hate crime wafts through. The drug war is built upon a couple of completely false premises and enacted with multiple layers of racism and classism. I remember having a discussion with my dad when I was in highschool where I asked him "if the government didn't want people to deal drugs why would they say they are worth so much money?" Have you ever heard the DEA say that hundreds of pounds of worthless white cocaine powder was busted at the airport? No, of course not. The news reports "a Multi Million dollar cocaine bust" and every poor schmuck working for a living wonders if they should go into the drug dealing business.

The drug war is not now nor has ever been about drugs. If the war was really about stopping drug use alcohol and tobacco would have been the first casualties. No, the war is against people. A game of attrition, the war requires a strong and constant disinformation campaign to support its assumptions or it will collapse. Truth! Your child probably doesn't use drugs and probably never will. Only a couple of percent of the population ever tries a hard drug and although marijuana is used pretty widely only about one percent of marijuana users go on to use cocaine! Ask the most ardent anti drug person you know if they would become a dope addict just because drugs were made legal [again] and after they stop laughing at the preposterous idea you'll see the fallacy of the chicken little vision of drug war. I say chicken little because like chicken little the drug warriors claim the sky will fall if they stop persecuting drug users. Not them of course, always the other guy that will be the problem. Well I gotta tell you there is NO they!!

So why do politicians support the drug war when it causes such harm? Part of the answer is found by visiting an organization called the Prisoners Of the Census at www.PrisonersoftheCensus.org. From their website:

"Miscounting prisoners undercounts democracy. In 48 states prisoners cannot vote, but the Census counts the nation's mostly urban prisoners as residents of the mostly rural towns that host prisons. Every decade, states use these "phantom" populations to redraw state legislative boundaries and re-apportion political representatives and power accordingly. With U.S. incarceration now setting worldwide records, and the consequences of that falling disproportionately on people of color, the harm to our democracy and civil rights is measurable and profound."

So as you can see the drug warriors are dragging young black men out of their "blue" neighborhoods and incarcerating them in "red" neighborhoods. One who really gets the short end of the stick here is mom who has to practically live on a greyhound bus if she ever wants to see her baby boy again.

Some of these moms have had about all they can tolerate of a system that provides no treatment to get off drugs but rather seems to have unlimited funds to incarcerate, berate and belittle. These courageous ladies led by Kay Lee, the founder of The Journey For Justice, and Family Members and Friends of People Incarcerated, an organization based in Montgomery, Alabama are calling for individuals and organizations to travel from their respective communities to Lafayette Park, Washington, DC on Saturday, August 13th, 2005 to "make a unified demand for justice."

An amazing array of people heed the call to end suffering. Heading towards DC as I write this column is David Losa of FACTS (Families to Amend California's Three Strikes). David has undertaken an epic Bicycle Journey for Justice, a 3,000 mile ride from his home in Santa Barbara, CA, and is scheduled to arrive in Washington D.C. just in time for the FMI March on Washington. David's efforts are "to promote the need for prison reform and the injustice of California's Three Strikes Laws."

At least one soul from Virginia is planning on attending. Lennice Werth, founder of Virginians Against Drug Violence, is taking time from her demanding life as a working mom to trek to DC. Lennice says "It's overdue that people take note of the enormous numbers of people behind bars for private acts between consenting adults and the horrible widespread consequences of this national obsession" She hopes enough people will make it to the capitol to make their voice heard.

I have great respect for those who are heading to DC, and I hope that tens of thousands of people show up to protest but my previous experience with the Journey For Justice tells me that there will be a beleaguered few that actually make it and with the hundreds of thousands of mostly African American, annual, casualties in the war on drugs and the millions of hurt bystanders and billions of dollars spent where are the legions of peacemakers? To give credit where credit is due, the legions appear to be slowly waking up. Awhile back the League of Women Voters passed a resolution against the drug war followed by the Unitarian Universalist Church and most recently the National Organization for Women has joined suit with a resolution but what is needed here is action. According to the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services there are thousands of children under 18 years old arrested each year for drugs right here in Virginia. If your child were incarcerated for eons for a little bag of worthless powder you would demand action. Immediate action. Like the kind the Red Cross delivers.

Michael Krawitz is a regular columnist for the Collegiate Times.

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