Friday, July 8, 2016

Three crimes, three tragedies, maybe one problem - the War on Drugs?

America has had a bad three days after our Independence Day celebration.  

Two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were killed by police in what appeared to be criminal acts.  This was followed by a sniper killing five police officers  and wounding seven others who were guarding a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, TX. Terrible bloodshed.  Hate crimes in all likelihood in all cases.  I know we are supposed to wait for the investigations of the killings by police before we "rush to judgement", and indeed they may end up not being charged for the killings, but there is no doubt that the black community sees these as typical examples of what is racially motivated killings of young black men in their communities.

There is no excuse for any of the three killing incidents.  The sniper was the worst by far since it was a premeditated hate crime. The officer shootings were likely fueled by fear and perhaps racism. But what is going on?

My African American friends will say, at least amongst themselves, that the killings by the police is part of a very long history of racist oppression that has not stopped up until this day.

My conservative white friends will say, at least amongst themselves, that the police live in an extraordinarily dangerous world where they put their lives at risk every day.

Both are true, it seems to me.  I think there is one underlying issue, and I'm not just talking about racism.

There are parts of our cities that are war zones.  The people in the war zones are fighting life or death battles every day.  Because of our War On Drugs initiated by the Republican President, Richard Nixon, inner city blacks and browns live in the war zones of that war. Combatants get killed. Mass imprisonment is part of the war.  There is collateral damage of innocents. Maybe it's time to call off the war.

Most people who live in these drug war zones are not part of the war, they are civilians caught in the crossfire.  There are terrifying drug gangs, who are the warriors on one side of the war, and there are the police who are on the other side of this war.

Why not end the Drug War?  Some countries are trying this with some degree success, I believe - the Czech Republic, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal... I don't think there is an easy solution, it needs to be thought out and experimented with and smartly applied.  I don't have a great plan, but the way things continue to go in the inner city war zones is just not sustainable.

I would like to see some political leadership nationwide on this, and that means, to me, calling off the War on Drugs and to start dealing with drug addiction as a disease to be handled as a medical issue with assistance in rehabilitation rather than incarceration.