I've been lucky. I'm white. I was smart enough to get scholarships, a degree, a good union job, a great wife, great kids... Even though I'm retired on disability now, I have a safety net holding me up. I do a little work running websites for people. So while I was sitting here this morning drinking my organic Kona coffee, I finally read this terrific interview of David Simon by Bill Moyers.
Great way to start the day: a healthy dose of cynicism with my coffee and now I'll have that slightly pissed off quality for the rest of the day as I read story after story that oozes from the ether confirming every doubt I have that the oligarchy can make the trains run on time, much less find something constructive for the "excess people" to do in this country.
Bill Moyers: I was struck by something that you said. You were wrestling with this one big existential question. You talked about drug addicts who would come out of detox and then try to steel-jaw themselves through their neighborhood. And then they’d come face-to-face with the question—which is…?David Simon: “What am I doing here?” You know, a guy coming out of addiction at thirty, thirty-five, because it often takes to that age, he often got into addiction with a string of problems, some of which were interpersonal and personal, and some of which were systemic. These really are the excess people in America. Our economy doesn’t need them—we don’t need 10 or 15 percent of our population. And certainly the ones who are undereducated, who have been ill-served by the inner-city school system, who have been unprepared for the technocracy of the modern economy, we pretend to need them. We pretend to educate the kids. We pretend that we’re actually including them in the American ideal, but we’re not. And they’re not foolish. They get it. They understand that the only viable economic base in their neighborhoods is this multibillion-dollar drug trade.
Bill Moyers: After all these years do you have the answer?David Simon: Oh, I would decriminalize drugs in a heartbeat. I would put all the interdiction money, all the incarceration money, all the enforcement money, all of the pretrial, all the prep, all of that cash, I would hurl it as fast as I could into drug treatment and job training and jobs programs. I would rather turn these neighborhoods inward with jobs programs. Even if it was the urban equivalent of FDR’s CCC—the Civilian Conservation Corps—if it was New Deal–type logic, it would be doing less damage than creating a war syndrome. The drug war is war on the underclass now. That’s all it is. It has no other meaning.
I've been writing a lot about race lately, and Simon touches on race in the interview, pointing out that the people most affected by the drug war are black, brown, and poor. But the more I watch politics in this country, and the more I see polls that show that nearly half of Republicans in Mississippi would ban mixed race marriages, the more I realize that a huge part of the problem is racism. It's what drives the birther shit, it's what drives the Ayn Randian let-the-parasites-die mentality, and it's what drives the drug war.
This is why I like to read Dennis G. at Balloon Juice. His essays on the
Republican Confederate Party consistently point out that the real desire of modern conservatives is to steal the labor of the underclass, especially the minority underclass. They are mostly chicken-hawk racists these days, afraid to come right out and say what they know a large portion of the Republican base is thinking, but it's all there, right under the skin. No matter how debunked The Bell Curve has been, they still believe it, and they will keep right on doing whatever it takes to keep their boot on the neck of the excess people in this world.