THE SCARLET “M”

11 02 2007

A recent Nashville newspaper featured a story about a young teenager who went to a party where she was offered marijuana, which she tried. She decided she didn’t like it, and when she went home she told her ma about it—ma rewarded her honesty by grounding her and taking away her cell phone. Thanks, ma!

Should be end of story, right? Wrong. Girl is waiting for schoolbus Monday morning, reaches into backpack for lip gloss, and pulls out—a baggie of weed! Surprise! Must have been a surprise—no kid in his or her right mind who was intentionally bringing a baggie to school would pull it out and wave it around at the bus stop, for cryin’ out loud!

So, some of the kids waiting with her saw it and reported her to the principal, who showed up at the girl’s first period class with two police officers, took her out of class, and, in accordance with the school’s “zero tolerance” policy, suspended her from school for a year. Since there was no dispute about the fact that she had a baggie of marijuana in her possession, her mother’s appeals on behalf of this honor roll student were denied. This has also led to her losing her driver’s license, so she’s mostly sitting at home reading books and thinking things over. She certainly has a lot to reflect on. She’s really been taught to respect authority, hasn’t she? Authority sure respected her, by golly, didn’t it? Welcome to the machine, kid!

This story does a lot to demonstrate how the “war on drugs” has turned America into a police state. Just for openers, she was snitched off by the other kids at the bus stop. Then, instead of calling her quietly to the office and asking for an explanation, the assistant principal showed up with two uniformed police officers, took her out of class, and cut her no slack for the accidental appearance of a baggie in her backpack. I’m inclined to believe her. I mean, why would she tell her ma she didn’t like it and then bring a bag to school? Unless mom and daughter are presumed to both be lying, it doesn’t make sense!

So, now she has a one-year suspension for “drug possession” in her permanent record, which will make leading a normal life difficult for her in many ways. Hopefully, she will respond to this monstrous injustice not by buckling under, but by devoting her life to changing the inhumane system that has branded her with a scarlet “M” for something she didn’t even intend to do.

So this starts as a story about America’s descent into being a drug-induced police state, but at a deeper level, it illustrates our country’s incredible schizophrenia about illegal drugs. It’s been said that marijuana is a drug that causes panic attacks and irrational behavior in people who hear about other people using it, and that’s certainly what we’re seeing here, and in many other cases where “zero tolerance” has wrecked teenagers’ lives for utterly trivial reasons.

Because–meanwhile, millions of completely functional Americans use marijuana regularly, all the while going to school, working, and raising families—just as millions of people all over the world have used marijuana for thousands of years. What is it about “getting high” that the current world order is so afraid of? Why are marijuana users (not to mention mushroom eaters, etc.) demonized?

Let’s just leave that question sitting there and go to what might at first seem like an unrelated issue—abortion rights. Immediately, though, we see parallels. Some people who would not have an abortion themselves firmly believe that it is wrong for anyone to have an abortion, and want the law to reflect their religious belief. Forget secular government! My religion is the only true one! In fact, some are so deeply committed to what they call “respect for life” that they will murder people who perform abortions. (Does not compute? Try harder!)

Another parallel is that, ultimately, the anti-abortion movement is an anti-pleasure movement—based in the concept that if a woman is going to have sex, she should be prepared to have a baby as a result. That’s the real reason the “abstinence only” and “anti-abortion” messages often go hand in hand—with “just say no” as the third major right-wing control message (and in many ways, their most successful)—because, as everybody admits, getting high and getting laid both feel good—the argument is over whether it’s OK to feel good thataway or not.

The issue of control is where the drug and abortion pieces lock in to the Iraq piece of the puzzle. When Bush crowned himself as “Il Duce,” excuse me, I mean “The Decider,” he wasn’t just talking about Iraq. He was talking about drugs and abortion and education and welfare and social security and the environment and every other issue where his rule has meant windfall profits for the wealthy. And this is where we see the grand scheme of things. If the powers that be can convince enough people that marijuana is a terrible scourge even though it patently isn’t, if enough people will believe that abortion and loose sexuality are terrible scourges even though they aren’t, then it’s that much easier to sell war in the Middle East when it’s really as justified as the Nazi invasion of Poland. If they can get you to buy one lie, it’s that much easier to sell you another, and another, and another….

Green Party politics—what does any of this have to do with Green Party politics? It has to do with the need to change the discourse in this country, to change the view, to change the—dare I say it?–paradigm. Is that word too “New-Agey” for you? Tough beans! The old paradigm is running the planet over a precipice and we gotta do something radical to deal with it really soon—prevention is no longer an option. We’re going to have to settle for damage control.

“Ecological wisdom” and “Future focus” are the two key values of the Green Party that come to mind. “Ecological wisdom” in this case, means getting our priorities straight and refocusing our cultural attention from peoples’ private lives to the overall health of the Earth. Future focus, in the case of the young Nashville schoolgirl, means that we do not make what should have been a minor faux-pas into an incident that’s likely to skew the rest of a kid’s life. You should have to be smarter than that to run a school system.

music: Joan Baez, “The Story of Isaac

Comments

While reading thru your posts I noticed that there weren’t alot of comments, and I began to wonder why not? After long consideration I have concluded that the reason must be that your logic is so thoroughly sound that nothing more can be added. Have an iced ay!
Posted by revelation on 02/12/2007 03:16:34 PM

geez…i hope i’m not the smartest guy in the room! thanks…
Posted by brothermartin on 02/14/2007 05:35:27 AM

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