Pubdate: Thu, 09 Dec 2010
Source: Albany Herald, The (GA)
Copyright: 2010 Creators Syndicate
Author: Marc Munroe Dion
Note: Marc Munroe Dion writes for Creators Syndicate.


Headlines are often more important than the stories on which they

No newspaper editor ever headlined anything using the word "tragedy"
unless he figured he had a weeper of a story.

Which is why I've noticed the prevalence of the words "failed" and
"lost" in stories about America's drug war.

A couple decades ago, a newspaper might have headlined a story about 
a huge international drug ring with the word "smashed," as in "Drug 
Ring Smashed." Now, newspapers do news-y think pieces on the drug war 
headlined, "America's Failed Drug War: Cartels Flourish."

Of course, the first headline is a kind of truth, as is the second --
but the choices made in the headline tell it all.

Nationally, when it comes to the war on drugs, we're a white flag in
search of a place to wave.

The logic is inescapable. Drugs are everywhere in America, so that
must mean we've lost the war on drugs.

And it's a logic that can be extended to so many other "wars" we fight
against things we think are wrong or evil.

Take that whole domestic violence crusade we've been on for the past
30 or so years. Are men still beating, stalking, terrorizing and
killing women? Yes. Guess we lost the war on domestic violence, too.
Get those laws off the books. Those restraining orders cost millions
of dollars to serve and enforce, and they don't work at all.

Drunk driving? Oh, sure, it's down a little, but it's still pretty
popular, and we've spent billions on that one. I say we've lost that
war, too.

Child molestation. Awful. Absolutely awful. But no matter what we do,
those guys just keep re-offending. That's not a lost war. That's a

Ah, you say, but drug abuse is a victimless crime.

And, hey, if you're sitting in your den, smoking a joint and listening
to a little Cee-Lo, maybe it is victimless.

But in the urban area where I live, a place none too shiny to start
with, we know better. Blocks and blocks of the city are drugged-out,
zombie-d, stripped of everything that can be sold, bereft of commerce,
gutted, weirdly silent at noon and carnival loud at 1 a.m., when the
party is going full-force. The man hits you when he's high. Your mom's
boyfriend rapes you after a night of crack smoke "partying" in the
living room.

But, you stammer, addicts need treatment, not jail. Hey, so do wife
beaters and drunk drivers and baby fondlers. You jail 'em, they don't
get better, they just get meaner.

Of course, there's the argument that addicts only steal because the
stuff is so expensive.

If you believe that, you haven't been downtown in a while. The drugs
are cheaper than ever, stronger than ever, better than the
prescription stuff, which is why people start with Oxycodone and move
to heroin, because the illegal stuff is a much better deal.

You say, legalizing drugs will take the violence out of the

And there, you're right. Turn the illegal drug trade over to the big
pharmaceutical companies, and instead of gangbangers shooting each
other over $25 in dope money, you'll have lobbyists bribing senators
with millions, you'll have campaign contribution scandals, and of
course, the price of heroin will skyrocket while the quality plummets.

For years, I've wondered why my 82-year-old diabetic mother pays more
for an insulin pill than you pay for a rock of crack. At least the
guys on the corner try to keep the customers happy by keeping the
price down. If insulin were illegal, my mom would be able to buy it on
the corner for $5 a pop.

Some people who are reading this live in places where "junkies" are
not a normal, easily identifiable part of the community. I don't.

Like a lot of urban Americans, I see junkies or crackheads as a
recognizable part of the community, as easy to spot on the street as a
UPS driver in uniform.

"See those two guys over by the Dunkin' Donuts?" a friend will say to
me. "Yeah," I'll say. "The old man and the junkie. What about em?" In
some places, the war on drugs isn't a policy question.

It's an old man and a junkie out in front of the Dunkin'

And it's starting to get dark.
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