L. Neil Smith's
Number 241, October 5, 2003

Feast or Famine

I forgive you, Rush
by Anthony Gregory

Exclusive to TLE

It's tough times for Rush Limbaugh. The conservative talk legend has a couple of scandals on his hands. First he shoots his mouth off about so-called reverse discrimination in the NFL, picking the terrible example of quarterback Donovan McNabb, who, contrary to Rush's assertions, is a damn good player who has deserved all the credit he has ever received for his athleticism. And now Rush is being investigated for illegally purchasing OxyContin, a highly powerful prescription opiate, to which, if the allegations are true, he has developed a nasty addiction.

Hmm. A lot of people will surely be harshly critical of you in the next few days, Rush. But I have this to say:

I forgive you, Rush.

I know your life is probably very stressful. I know that no one can understand exactly what it is like to be you. Sometimes life becomes so difficult and busy that temptation draws you in, and you cannot help but succumb to the pangs of chemical dependence.

It must be terrible having the media joyfully exploiting this sad, personal aspect of your life. How dare they pry into your personal life? Though this might be a problem - a sickness - for you, it makes it even worse for the public to gawk at you, as if you're some sort of diseased freak. Why can't they leave you alone?

It doesn't even mean anything to me that the drug you're accused of doing is in every significant way the same, chemically, as heroin, and in the doses you're accused of using, as strong as heroin as well. Assuming you really are guilty as charged, your opiate addiction might be really hard on you, or you may, like some people, manage your life well in spite of it. You've been very successful. Perhaps you can balance your addiction with the rest of your life, and remain a productive, responsible member of society. At any rate, this is really your business.

On the other hand, maybe you're innocent. Isn't it terrible that people will jump to conclusions about someone's drug use? Since when have people been guilty until proven innocent - in America? Maybe the allegations are completely false. Hopefully, if this is the case, you'll be completely exonerated. I still pity you for the suffering you and your reputation will have to endure before the verdict is in.

Whether you're innocent or guilty of opiate addiction, let's hope the country learns a lesson from this. It's cruel to treat people like outcasts or criminals simply because they've been found to do drugs - whether they break some silly laws or not. If a person is an addict, we shouldn't chastise him, and needless to say we shouldn't torment him further; his addiction is punishment enough. And if a person can balance his use and still be a productive member of society, we should at least have the decency to respect his privacy. And we shouldn't jump to conclusions, penalizing people before all their facts are in.

What you are accused of, after all, cannot be properly called a crime. I've seen no indication that you've done anything that the government should punish you for.

I wish I could do something to help, but if you're found guilty of illegal oxycontin possession - as serious an offense under the law as possession of cocaine - you might lose your job and even face criminal penalties. But let's hope you don't have to go to prison.

It would be draconian to put a nonviolent drug addict in prison, where they keep the violent criminals. But at least there will be other people in there who might be able to relate to you.

About one million of the Americans locked up in the United States criminal justice system are there for no other reason than possessing drugs, or for illegally distributing them - kind of like what your former housekeeper claims she did for you.

Yes, Mr. Limbaugh. One million Americans. Many are in there for drugs that are much less addictive and dangerous than OxyContin. These Americans understand the situation you're in better than any of the journalists that are criticizing you right now. And if you're completely innocent, there are completely innocent people in prison who know what that's like, too. The Drug War has done a massive amount of damage to American justice, lowering the standard of evidence and encouraging guilty people to testify against innocent people in exchange for reduced sentences. The end result has been uncountable Americans behind bars for drug "crimes" they didn't commit.

These people understand, Mr. Limbaugh, that your celebrity may not even save you. It didn't save Tommy Chong.

A judge sentenced Tommy Chong to nine months in jail for selling water pipes. Isn't that absurd, Mr. Limbaugh, that our government would spend thousands of dollars to jail a harmless man like Chong for three quarters of a year, simply for selling glass - just because of the way it was shaped? Assault often lands people less time in jail. That's almost as absurd as jailing people for growing and selling and ingesting certain plants, isn't it, Mr. Limbaugh?

I forgive you, Mr. Limbaugh. And I hope when this fiasco is over you join those of us who have been screaming for years that the War on Drugs has become an intolerable threat to the Bill of Rights, common decency, and the American way of life. We would love to have you on the front lines of this crucial effort to end this unspeakably insane policy, which harasses and locks up peaceful and innocent people, which has destroyed privacy and Constitutional liberty, and which is steadily turning America into a police state and a nation of tattle-tellers.

But even if you do not join the drug reform movement, I'm sure you won't keep defending the Drug War. If you did that then you'd be as big of a hypocrite as anyone has ever called you. Isn't that right, Mr. Limbaugh?

Anthony Gregory is a libertarian activist and writer who lives in Berkeley. For more information and articles, visit his webpage at AnthonyGregory.com/


The State vs. The People
by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman

Is America becoming a police state? Friends of liberty need to know.

Some say the U.S. is already a police state. Others watch the news for signs that their country is about to cross an indefinable line. Since September 11, 2001, the question has become more urgent. When do roving wiretaps, random checkpoints, mysterious "detentions," and military tribunals cross over from being emergency measures to being the tools of a government permanently and irrevocably out of control?

The State vs. the People examines these crucial issues. But first, it answers this fundamental question: "What is a police state?"

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