Pubdate: Tue, 05 Oct 1999
Source: Cape Cod Times (MA)
Copyright: 1999 Cape Cod Times.
Contact:  319 Main St., Hyannis, MA 02601
Fax: (508) 771-3292
Author: Sean Gonsalves
Note: Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and syndicated
Cited: The November Coalition


I recently received a copy of a letter that was sent to the former
first lady, Barbara Bush.

The letter was written by six mothers whose children are in jail
because of the "war on drugs" - a "war" avidly supported by Mrs.
Bush's son, George W., who is running for president. All six mothers
are members of the November Coalition, which is based in Colville,

What follows is the full-text of the letter. You may find it as
interesting and moving as I did.

"Dear Mrs. Bush,

"In recent weeks, your son, Texas Governor George W. Bush, has faced
questions regarding his youthful drug use. Recently, you responded to
the media onslaught regarding the matter, saying that possible illicit
drug use by your son or any other candidate for political office in
their youth is largely 'irrelevant.' You asked the media to stop
'trashing' candidates.

"We are mothers too, and we understand your maternal instinct to
defend your son. We agree that a person should not have their
integrity questioned, nor their future put in jeopardy, simply because
of a youthful indiscretion involving an illicit substance. Young
people, we all know, are prone to disregard risks to their health and
safety. This is especially true when a young person is already abusing
a drug like alcohol, as your son has bravely acknowledged doing in his
own youth.

"Despite our sympathy for your position, we respectfully believe that
Governor Bush's implied past drug use, and his views about it, are
extremely relevant for evaluating his sense of fairness and justice.
This is a different question from whether his drug use, if any, is by
itself a disqualification from being president. We, too, do not think
it is a disqualification.

"You see, our boys also committed 'youthful indiscretions.' But in
their cases, the prosecutors and courts called them 'felonies.' They
are each serving sentences of a decade or more (some far more) for
their poor choices. But those bad choices didn't have to ruin their
lives, or the lives of their families. Most young people mature,
including those who act foolishly and self-destructively by using
drugs. Most go on to become productive citizens - just like your son.

"Today, there are nearly 500,000 men and women serving time in
America's prisons and jails for drug law offenses - overwhelmingly
low-level, nonviolent offenses. Incarcerating these men and women
costs taxpayers more than $10 billion annually. Most of these
prisoners are poor, and increasingly non-white.

"Last year, more than 700,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana
possession alone. These young people cannot apply for any job without
disclosing their own 'youthful indiscretions,' because their
indiscretions became criminal records that are permanent. Many can
never vote again, much less dream of running for public office.

"Youthful drug use, an issue that you and your son both claim is
'irrelevant' to the governor's personal history, has been made
permanently relevant to us by the drug polices of the federal
government and the 50 states, including Texas. Our sons will have no
second chances.

"Mrs. Bush, we suggest it is time that you have a mother-to-son talk
with George Jr. Every mother wants her children to succeed and be
healthy and happy. As mothers, we teach our children that equal
protection under the law insures them that they can not be unfairly
held back by accidents of birth, race, disability, class, gender, etc.
Equal opportunity applies to all kids, even those who make youthful

"Please tell your son that not every child in America grew up with the
many advantages that he has enjoyed. Share with him the reality that
without the advantages of position and class - access to excellent
attorneys, adequate educational and employment opportunities, etc. -
hundreds of thousands of young men and former young men sit in our
nation's prisons; many in Texas, many for nonviolent crimes. The
essence of these crimes is that they were young and reckless, that
they lacked faith in themselves or in their economic

"Please remind him that hundreds of thousands of mothers, wives and
children cry themselves to sleep at night, hoping and praying to live
long enough to see their loved ones free. Please ask your son to
promise you that if he becomes president, he will think long and hard
about the injustices of our nation's longest war - the 'war on drugs.'

"We know in our hearts that you are profoundly proud of your children,
Mrs. Bush. Perhaps you can convince George W. that if he becomes
president he should give loving mothers, just like you, another chance
to rekindle pride and hope in their children.


"Mothers of Drug War Prisoners: Marianne Bassett, Mattapoisett, Mass.;
Susan Bobby, Valparaiso, Ind.; Diane Muscoreil, Wilson, N.Y.; Virginia
Traylor, Duncanville, Texas; Nancy Wall, Merrit Island, Fla.; Carol A.
Walt, Vista, Calif."
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