Traditionalist conservatives who feared the Drug War would take a lax, hopey change turn under Obama have instead found a tougher clone of the previous administrations. In an aeon in which their president mostly fills them with dread, they should celebrate the day’s Boardwalk Empire-style prohibitionist surge.
This morning’s announcement by four California officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office that hundreds of pot shops have been ordered to close down marks the most serious attempt, to date, to eradicate the state’s medical-marijuana industry.
They told press and angry advocates that the new crackdown will initially go after “pot shops located close to schools, parks, sports fields and other places where there are a lot of children and … ‘significant commercial operations’ … [including] includes farmland where marijuana is being grown.” But from there on out, it’s free game.
The Drug Policy Alliance is furious: They just blasted a press release titled “Obama Administration’s Medical Marijuana Policies Now Worse Than Bush and Clinton Policies” — and they’re pretty spot on.
Dear Professor Mary Grabar,
I hope you’re doing well and I do ever so look forward to collaborating with you in the future here at PJM.
I would like to revisit an old debate that you and I had back in December of 2009 regarding marijuana legalization and the difference between the political Left and the Counterculture.
Almost two years after our first discussion on the subject I believe the evidence is more abundant than ever that I am correct in my revised theses that:
A) Tea Party conservatives should not support the federal government spending billions of taxpayer dollars to try and prevent people from becoming drug addicts.
B) Barack Obama and the movement he represents are most accurately understood as Marxist, not Countercultural.
Let’s work our way backwards on these two points — from the nature of our enemies on to the values that you and I share in spite of our very different cultural backgrounds. On the next pages I’m going to state my case on these matters and welcome your rebuttal to help refine the bold propositions. I’m also certain that PJM’s commenting community will no doubt have some perceptive analyses of these issues.
1. We need to start using the word MARXIST more liberally; Tea Partiers should identify the president and his minions primarily as such; and then conservatives must follow the argument to its logical conclusion regarding the apolitical nature of Counterculture. There is no conflict between identifying as politically conservative while countercultural in one’s spirituality, lifestyle, artistic tastes, sexuality, and drug habits. As more people become politically engaged over the course of the next decade — due to the effects of our chronic debt problems — it is vital that we articulate this distinction so we can maintain political power.
It’s been almost a decade that I’ve explored and researched ideology, the political world’s equivalent of theology. And after two years of full time observation at the professional level I’ve come to doubt the utility of the Left vs Right paradigm.
These are abstractions which have been so muddied and expanded that they are no longer useful. Everyone — no matter which side they sympathize with — can just fill in the blank with what the term means to them. Thus for you, “the Left” is your own mishmash of socialist politics, caricatures of dope-smoking 60s hippies who say unintelligent things, and non-Christian culture. And there’s little I can do to reason you out of that experience-driven comprehension of the supposed territory amidst the fog of our political war. Better for you and I to just set the metaphor aside in place of another.
For our opponents, ambiguity in definitions has strategic advantages. Occupy Wall Street retains its potency because it refuses to define what it wants. Thus OWS provides everyone who’s got a chip on their shoulder about how much credit card debt they have or some other grown-up stressor with a target to blame AND a break from the hard work of figuring out how to solve their own personal problems and character flaws.
Using the terms “Left” and “Right” does the same thing. We’re playing into the ideological constructions that have been defined to our enemies’ advantage. Continuing to accept these metaphors fuels the Marxist movement’s destructive, revolutionary fire.
So Mary, while in our previous dialogue I suggested that the president and his supporters should be regarded as leftist, today I revise the thesis and instead posit MARXIST is the more appropriate description. In the past I’ve argued that “the Left” was analogous with Christianity — and that various branches within the Left (Socialists, progressives, labor unionists, stealth community organizing Alinskyites, mainline Democrats) were akin to Baptists, Lutherans, and Catholics. But now the conclusion that I come to is that the broad designation “the Left” vs “the Right” is better compared to the religious characterization “monotheist” vs “polytheist.” It’s certainly there and is useful in one sense, but to accurately characterize the nature of the shifting political culture in a clear manner requires more precise, and potent language. And yes, the fact that this terminology irritates our opponents more deeply is further reason to employ it. Comfort the disturbed, disturb the comfortable.
Next: Naming names and increasing clarity…
Religions are most clearly understood when named in the context of their specific founder. (We’d all probably perceive Islam more accurately if it was still called Mohammedanism.) So too with the political faiths. The bizzaro political brother of Christianity comes into focus when its lead founder is named: Karl Marx.
1. an adherent of Karl Marx or his theories.
7. a person who believes in Jesus Christ; adherent of Christianity.
By the dictionary definitions, the designations Marxist and Christian are both simultaneously specific and broad. A Christian is anyone who embraces the teachings of Jesus Christ to one degree or another. This spans from the Evangelical who thinks we rode on triceratops backs in the Garden of Eden to the Christian mystic who just loves Jesus and regards the New Testament’s supernatural components as metaphor (me) to the casual Christian who just celebrates Christmas and tries to live by the Golden Rule to the horrors of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s Liberation theology. All are Christians because all have imprinted some aspect of Jesus Christ onto their spirit. That some may be good Christians or bad Christians or mistaken Christians or loving, Christlike Christians or embarrassing, mean Christians is inconsequential — at least in a discussion about clear use of language.
Understood in this fashion the designation Marxist can be appreciated with renewed clarity. We can see that the destructive Marxist influence spans beyond Stalinist dictators, cowardly Cuban executioners and others who openly champion socialism. This central Marxist teaching from The Communist Manifesto has penetrated Western Civilization so effectively that it is now embraced by those who do not even know its origin over 150 years ago:
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
Bourgeoisie vs Proletariat. Rich vs Poor. Boss vs Employee. Corporations vs Joe SixPack. Wall Street vs Main Street. Profits over People. Fat Cat CEOs eating caviar and lobster vs Hard Working Blue Collar Guy Unshaven Wearing Overalls. Greed vs Love. The Shock Doctrine vs the Third World. I’m Responsible for Myself vs Blame Someone Else. Creators vs Takers. Happy and Pursuing Holiness vs Frightened and Spinning Deeper into Brokenness? We are the 99%.
To establish this continuity is to drive a splinter into the political soul of the unserious Jon Stewart-worshipping, MSNBC-watching so-called progressive. To then refute the fantasy with undeniable facts people see in their every day lives is to make the emotional pain more unbearable…
Next: Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?
I lived and worked with the “working poor” for three years after I graduated from college. They had cell phones, Xboxes, and Facebook accounts. “The Poor” do not resemble characters from a cartoon version of A Christmas Carol. They weren’t starving; they were usually struggling with obesity. America’s poor live better than the well-off of a few generations ago. The wealthiest family in America became rich by providing inexpensive products to poor people — and for that sin Wal-Mart became the newest Bourgeoisie. Most of the richest people throughout history made their millions by figuring out how to create a product cheap enough so that “poor” people could afford it.
Social mobility is a fact. Most people who were living in this country in poverty 20 years ago are not still at the same level today. People are usually poor because they do not have any skills that they can effectively translate into value. Most people develop greater skills as they get older and have more life experience. Similarly, “rich people” make bad decisions, self-destruct, do not continue to update their skills to remain competitive, and can thus end up poor. But Marxists do not understand that wealth is created — and as more is created the quality of life of everyone rises naturally. To even acknowledge that is to cause the whole house of cards to collapse. And then it’s even more apparent: it’s all made up of individual cards. There is no conspiracy of “the rich” to “exploit” “the poor.” In a free market economy the destinies of all are interlinked and in perpetual flux.
But our Marxist-In-Chief has somehow managed to live almost half a century and not realize these truths. His self-sustaining, affirmative action-enabled existence has never forced him to have to grapple with people living in a free market economy in real life. There was always another Marxist teat for him to suckle — the university, a nonprofit grantmaking board, a sweetheart book deal (which Bill Ayers would help him fulfill,) ACORN, the Democratic Party — to insulate him from having to actually confront human nature.
Matthew Vadum’s Subversion, Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers (which I plan on reviewing more thoroughly soon) and Stanley Kurtz’s Radical-In-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism (which I reviewed here almost a year ago) provide the journalistic and anthropological understanding of the Marxist nature and history of the president and the movements which groomed him for power. Obama’s quest for someone to replace the black Marxist father who had abandoned him was a journey from a boyhood mentorship with communist poet/pornographer Frank Marshall Davis to the community organizing-Black Liberation theology hybrid of Wright. It was in his early ’80s transitional period (when he attended his first socialist scholar’s conference) that Obama learned a lesson plainly obvious to any Marxist with the slightest brain power: if you want to actually affect change you have to call yourself a post-ideological liberal pragmatist, dupe do-gooders into following you, and infiltrate the existing system. And that’s what our deceitful Marxist president did in the last 15 years before he would ascend to the presidency bearing the weight of the dreams of generations alive and dead.
For a long time it’s been unfashionable for conservatives to accuse their so-called liberal opponents of having anything to do with Marxism. “Redbaiting,” as it’s called, used to be the political equivalent of picking one’s nose at the dinner table. But just like Left and Right, that too is an abstraction so overused and fading in historical memory that it has come to lose its magickal sting. McCarthy? Wasn’t he one of the Beatles? Political culture doesn’t stay the same forever…
The past 3 years of the Obama administration have been entirely within the program of institutionalizing a political theology of class warfare. That is what Obama is. He is no friend of the counterculturalist who merely wants to be left alone and permitted to explore her oddball arts, spirituality, lifestyle, sex, and drugs in peace. The Frankfurt School may have made inroads within the universities and the popular culture but the strain of Marxism that sought to hijack the counterculture to attack cultural institutions came in second place. The postmodern, revised Marxism of Saul Alinsky — which advocated deception and coalition building through economic populism — anointed their man Barack Obama in the presidency.
Next: Time for Herman Cain to formally unveil a reset on GOP drug policy that will further secure 2012 victory and solidify a generation’s conservatism?
2.The federal government does not have the authority to tell its citizens which of the plants God set growing on this earth they are permitted to utilize for medicinal purposes. Regulating such matters as best benefits the community is the responsibility of state and local governments. If Alabama residents want marijuana to be illegal they can do that. If California votes for weed to be sold at Wal-Marts they can do that. And citizens can then live where they want. Problem solved. The best way for marijuana counterculturalists to proceed is to buffer transitional periods toward legalization with a decade or so of a medicinal marijuana program. The culture needs to continue to shift toward understanding drugs as tools used by responsible people to fix medical problems and raise ones’ quality of life, not party pills for recreation.
I share Michael Ledeen’s bafflement at the president’s behavior. More often than not that’s the only sensible default position.
While Ledeen scratched his head over Obama’s incoherent foreign policy, I place my palm over my face at his mysterious recent moves against California’s medicinal marijuana patients. It makes no political sense to break his 2009 pledge (he’d promised not to waste federal resources on this) and to antagonize on an issue where there’s a 80% consensus. In no way does it help Obama with any voter. But then again, who’s to say he’s even behind it?
I’ve warmed to Victor Davis Hanson’s analysis of Obama more as incompetent than malicious. The deceitful Marxist president more dislikes the mythical “rich” and thinks they they should pay “their fair share” as opposed to a genuine genocidal hatred of the bourgeoisie. Yes, we can call Obama a Marxist. But that doesn’t mean that we’re calling him Stalin or Lenin or Mao. No, those were motivated, talented, and evil Marxists. Obama is the exact opposite and thus not a genuinely serious threat: a slacker, mediocre, and dopey Marxist.
So of course that means on a whole host of issues (basically anything that doesn’t involve figuring out how the hell he’s going to get reelected in 2012) he’s going to be AWOL. His negligence can be conservatives’ gain.
As Republican presidential front-runner Herman Cain has demonstrated, now is the time for bold solutions.
The Atlantic‘s resident anti-conservative, quasi-libertarian, contrarian narcissist Conor Friedersdorf asked Herman Cain his position on this state-federal conflict over regulation of marijuana:
Is it a state matter or a federal matter? For example, if one state wants to crack down on its drug laws and have stiffer penalties, and another wants to decriminalize use or have medical marijuana, is that a state prerogative? Or should federal law be the guiding force here?
I think it is both, but the state should take the lead in most instances on those issues. There could be some circumstances where it’s better for something to be issued as a federal statute. But the best approach, that not withstanding, is for the states to put their solutions on the table. We have very a wasted resource in this country. Why not use the 50 states. Give them the power. Empower them to solve their own problems with respect to immigration and other issues. And we can learn from them.
When we empower the states we empower the various countercultures that reside within them. We allow the counterculture to be what it’s always been: culture’s laboratory generating the ideas and customs that will remain for generations.
Throughout human history it has always been in countercultures — small groups of people that retreat from the established patterns of the masses — where the great breakthroughs of Western civilization emerge. The Jews were the first counterculture and with their invention of ethical monotheism laid the foundation for a counterculture-based humanity. The Christians were another. Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates were the counterculturalists of ancient Greece. The troubador poets of the Renaissance who gave us the dream of romantic love as the basis of marriage — they were counterculturalists. Newton, Galileo, and all the great founding fathers of modern science were the often-persecuted counterculturalists of their time. The transcendentalists. The cowboys and frontier culture. The Jazz culture of the 1920s. Rock ‘n’ Roll was the counterculture of my parents’ generation but now we hear it played over the supermarket sound system when April and I go to pick up groceries at Ralphs.
And so we have American culture as it stands today: the combined evolution of all the most effective cultural experiments throughout history. We are America and that is why we are the Best. Every culture from across the planet flocks to us and we suck out the best components of their culture and adopt them into our own. Through this state of never-ending growth and change American culture remains the most dominant, vibrant, and inspirational on the planet.
Next: The counterculturalists are already integrated within the conservative movement. Hiding in plain site.
Ken Goffman’s fantastic Counterculture Through the Ages: From Abraham to Acid House lays out the universal role of counterculture throughout history pretty well. Mitch Horowitz’s Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation talks about the various Christian countercultures who found refuge in an American wilderness. We see this in both those who escaped persecution in England and faiths born in America. One example: the Mormons. It’s a counterculture that while earning the acceptance of the dominant culture (Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, and Glenn Beck?) can still illicit harsh magickal attacks from rival conservative Christian countercultures. However, that the Mormon counterculture can produce such strong, decent people is indicative of its value and success within the American experiment. This of course threatens the Baptist counterculturist Pastor Robert Jeffress. Because to acknowledge that Mormonism can heal and order broken souls with the same mystic power of his own variant of the faith is a step he cannot take. But this of course says more about Jeffress than about Baptists.
The successful components of counterculture are assimilated into the dominant culture while the failed experiments crumble into dust and TLC trash television curiosities. And right now the federal government is slowing down that process for the marijuana counterculture. Mary, you’re right to be revolted at much of the stupidity and immaturity of so-called “stoner” culture. But life is trade-offs — do not let the negatives deflect from examination of the greater positives.
The big problem with marijuana is that the primary cultural understanding is still the Boomer conception of it as a “recreational” drug. The potential for a federal government that truly understands states’ rights will accelerate the necessary cultural shift that is already happening: marijuana is a medicine. The age of getting high has concluded, the age of medicating has begun.
Would you be so uncomfortable with marijuana being sold in stores if it was primarily consumed via pills, edible products, and topical cremes for chronic pain and nausea relief? (Perhaps this will peel away the last patchouli-scented countercultural prop so we can speak of the issue in purely practical terms.) From more than a decade of California’s medicinal marijuana experimentation the important turn is coming quietly. THC and the other chemicals within cannabis are just chemicals like any other that will be poisonous to some people in some quantities while medicinal to others when used under the guidance of a trained expert or physician. But the federal government is preventing the intellectual and Capitali$t work that is necessary to fully grasp the potential treatments this chemical may provide for those living in perpetual pain.
I trust that a businessman and a proponent of limited government like Herman Cain understands this. And I think you do too. What disagreement on these issues remains?