I should begin by noting that I have never, ever taken an illicit drug in my life. Nor do I plan to.
I’ve been reading about the death of Maria Santos Gorrostieta, the 26 year-old former mayor of Tiquicheo, Mexico (smack dab in the middle of cartel country). I remembered hearing about her taking over as mayor a few years ago. She was only 21 years old at the time and a staunch opponent of the cartels. I worried for
Gorrostieta was assailed and abducted on Novermber 17th as she was driving through town with her daughter. Three days later, her burned and mutilated body was found in a field by farm workers. It’s tragic. There’s no debating that these cartels are motherfuckers; as evil as evil gets in this world.
It made reading about how she told her abductors she’d go willingly if they let her daughter go as heartbreaking as it was moving.
Granted, Gorrostieta wasn’t your average cookie. I mean, the cartels’ power is based entirely on butchery (and the constant threat of it). Their severity and vindictiveness are all they have in lieu of legitimacy. Their imperative is slaughter; to torture and kill any would-be heroes that dare to stand up to them. Their survival depends on it. In that light, along with some of her statements and actions, it’s fair to say Mrs. Gorrostieta had a bit of a martyr complex. She played a role in creating a sort of inevitability to her death and likely would have done the same for another cause if the drug war didn’t exist. So even though standing up to the cartels seems kinda suicidal to me, I don’t know that there is a better word than courage to describe it.
But no matter how premeditated or deliberate her heroism might have been, she is inarguably one of the good guys–a bonafide hero.
The problem here–the only problem here–the cause of her death and many, many more is this stupid, violent, exploitative, wasteful, obtuse, impossible, unwinnable, unjustifiable, mind-numbingly counter-productive War on Drugs. It boils my blood. 50, 000 people have been killed by the cartels in the last 6 years alone. The last 6 years. At the cost of $15 billion per year–roughly $500 per second, millions of people have been jailed for drug-related crimes, losing their lives and their futures–the very same activities our last 3 presidents engaged in. They were just lucky enough to not get caught. Thousands of people are killed in street violence over territories and transportation. Dozens of countries are have had their economies and citizenries decimated fighting murderous cartels.
All of this just to prevent people from getting high. (Sure, there’s a downside to illegal drugs; there’s a downside to legal drugs, whether it’s alcohol, over-the-counter, or prescription.)
And drugs remain as easy to buy as candy bars.
It’s goofy. And comically inconsistent. We don’t see anything so wrong with getting drunk. We allow people the right to give themselves cancer from smoking cigarettes, and diabetes from eating junk food. But for some reason getting high is an intolerable evil.
It doesn’t make sense.
There are myriad secondary factors: Private military contractors like Blackwater (er…the Academi, or whatever they’re calling themselves these days to cover up the shame of slaughtering innocent people), profit enormously from “advising” Latin American countries on how to fight America’s War on Drugs. Private prisons lobby state legislatures with barrels of cash for stricter drug enforcement laws to boost their bottom line. The cost of recovery and treatment places additionall burden on our already overburdened healthcare system.
These things are awful and true, but they’re resultant rather than causative of the war on drugs. They go away when the war on drugs goes away.
For whatever reasons, we’ve decided that getting high is somehow immoral or unholy and the peripheral crimes associated with drugs are an unforgivable blight on our society. It’s pure nonsense; outmoded and outdated thinking based on the very faulty assumption that the drug war is WORTH all this death. ALL this pain. ALL this cost.
We have never revisited this conclusion.
For a modernized country, America is notoriously susceptible to group-think and ideology. We follow our political affiliations the same way we follow our sports teams; thick or thin, good or bad. Even against our own best interests. We’re loathe to let go of our beliefs, regardless of the evidence.
Case in point: the absolute epitome of failure known as America’s War on Drugs.
Can anything s lead us to question the validity of this war? Is there a death toll that’s too high? Enough sacrificial Maria Santos Gorrostietas to spur us to action? A number prisons built and filled to bursting that would make us take note? Or will we keep accepting our current, blood-drenched policies no matter the cost? What will it take before we begin asking ourselves if it’s worth it?
Because it’s not worth it. Not even close. It’s all unimaginable cost with no reward whatsoever for the simple fact that after everything is said and done, illegal drugs are readily available for whoever wants them.
At their worst, drugs can be pretty bad–some much worse than alcohol and tobacco. But even then, drugs are but a mild annoyance in comparison to the hell-spawned inferno of this war of insanity.
The argument against the war on drugs can be won, decisively, if only we’d pull our heads out of the sands of convention and make the case (it’s a policy for crooks and idiots) and challenge those defending it. It only requires the will to do so.
Maria Gorrostieta showed me that.