Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Pronouns of War

The first victim of a drug war is grammar. Here's a good example:

"That's not to say legalizing pot is without risks; it has been shown to impair concentration." (LZ Granderson)

While the entire article is against the war on drugs and in favor of legalization, the whole argument for the war is reproduced in the space between that semicolon and the next word. What, after all, does "it" refer to?

It can only refer to pot, not legalizing pot. The fact that something impairs concentration does not identify a "risk" associated with its legality. Love is legal. Television is legal. Email is legal. And so, of course, is alcohol. Making alcohol, or television, or love illegal today would involve much greater risks than keeping them legal. (The risk lies in driving something the multitudes enjoy daily underground, into the hands of crime lords and the police that, consciously or unconsciously, colludes with them in their business.) Likewise, it remains to be demonstrated that the criminalization of pot reduces the risks associated with pot.

Anyone who thinks about it for a moment understands that this is a complete red herring. But I imagine Granderson would not have been allowed to publish this piece without that sentence. I imagine there was some editor who thought an article that didn't say that the risks associated with pot are also risks of legalization, i.e., that if pot is a risky thing to do then it is also a risky thing to legalize, would lack "balance".

That is, you are not allowed to say that the drug war was irrational at its inception. You must grant, first, that because pot is what it is there was, initially, good cause to make a law against it. But as Granderson almost says, Nixon was not afraid of what pot would do to our ability to concentrate. On the contrary, he was perfectly willing to destroy the left by madness, leaving it starving, hysterical, naked. He was afraid of the left itself, and especially the minorities they represented. He wanted an argument for invading their homes, tapping their phones, and breaking up their families. To this day, the drug war is a way of equipping the police for suppression. It's also a great way to sell weapons.

Leave aside the plain stupidity of the statement "it has been shown [that pot impairs] concentration". As the president once said, with greater honesty than he's presently capable of, albeit on a slightly different matter, "that was the point". Needs no ghost come from the dead to show us this!

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