Source: The Cavalier Daily (University of Virginia)
Copyright: 1999 The Cavalier Daily, Inc.
Pubdate: Mon, 22 Feb 1999
Contact:  (804) 924-7290
Mail: Basement, Newcomb Hall; Charlottesville, VA 22904


I am writing this letter in response to Erin Perucci's column "Drug Use
Doesn't Deserve Aid," (Feb. 18). 

Ms. Perucci's unfortunate piece, I'm afraid, is fairly representative of
one of the most alarming aspects of contemporary American culture and
policy in its attitude toward drug use and punishment. There is little
doubt, as anti-drug activists literally point out, that drug abuse is among
the most self-destructive behaviors in which individuals can and do engage. 

Unfortunately, the response most commonly favored by politicians and
moralists, namely, the drug war, has proven to be one of the most
self-destructive activities in which the polity has itself engaged. I
shan't expound in any depth upon the legions of non-violent offenders who
crowd our prisons and bestow upon the United States the dubious honor of
boasting one of the largest prison populations (per capita) of any
industrialized nation. 

Instead allow me to focus on the absurd "logic" of the Higher Education
Act's denial of financial aid to students convicted of drug possession.
Never mind that this is a provision that, because of its very nature, can
only apply to middle- and lower-income students who need financial aid to
continue their education. Never mind that the supposed dangers of college
drug use didn't seem to impede Bill Clinton from becoming president, nor
Newt Gingrich from attaining the speakership of the House of
Representatives (the latter dismissed the significance of his drug use in
this fashion: "all it means is that I was alive and in college in the '60s.") 

Forget all that. Consider merely the following: What the anti-drug zealots
have instituted with this law is a system whereby individuals of little
economic means who already engage in a form of petty criminality are denied
the opportunity of securing for themselves the benefits of a decent
education that might help them to become productive members of society that
is every day more dependent on skilled labor for its economic well-being.
The absurdity of the proposal baffles the mind! It is the logic of a
political class hell-bent on punishment no matter the cost to society;
damned the torpedoes, full speed ahead! What any rational society should
engage itself in is the education of criminals, not the criminalization of

"If a student loses financial aid and must leave school, the government and
the school should provide rehabilitation and make sure that the student can
get on track," writes Perucci. It's a nice thought, but where's the
program? It's nowhere, because in a political culture like ours, so
furiously committed to flushing our children down the toilet like just so
many fine bags of Jamaican grass, any response to a problem that does not
entail a hearty dose of punishment is mere "midnight basketball" and thus,

David Flores
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