Well, I've just turned this in. I figure it will be published around the New Year, so that's what I wrote it for. It's the 97th column I've done for Skunk since its inception. Very cool. I love having my column. So here it is:
DRUG WAR FOLLIES97
Well, we’re about ready for a new year, aren’t we? What do we want? Peace, Pot, Prosperity, Health, Climate Change Fix, End of Hunger, End of Hatred, you know, the usual cool shit.
By Peter Gorman
Happy New Year! And thank god it’s here. Man, those of us in the lower 48 were raked over the coals by that freaking election! If it had gone on another week we might have seen mass suicides just to get away from it all.
But that’s behind us, thank goodness. Now we just have four more years of same old, same old. Or we get lucky and everything comes out beautifully! Maybe if we all smoke a bowl, hold hands and sing Kumbaya we’ll get it done. Yeah. Keep dreaming. This is the real world and it sucks. People get hurt by other people tens of thousands of times a day. People kill each other for no freaking reason ten thousands of times a day. Greedy people keep food from hungry people millions of times a day. People enslave people over large parts of the world. People bully people in all walks of life. Man makes climate change and we are not together on how to get it fixed—with some people still not believing in it and probably half the world’s population never having heard of it. And people still go to jail for smoking freaking marijuana!
None of that is likely to change, but we’re allowed to dream it when the New Year comes rolling in. We’re allowed to imagine what it would be like if the new year really brought a clean slate with it and we could start building the real world most of us would like to inhabit, instead of the world we’ve somehow fashioned in a reckless way. Hell, we invented nuclear weapons! Nuclear weapons? What if those same scientists were working on something positive and not a weapons-system? They’d have probably come up with something equally spectacular but something that came without the temptation to melt people.
So I’m dreaming a little bit. I’m dreaming that sick people find healing; that those close to crossing over find peace; I’m dreaming that those with broken hearts get their hearts filled again with love. I’m dreaming that every person about to shoot or machete, or knife another person suddenly realizes that they don’t have to do it and then lay down their weapons. I’m dreaming that stressed out moms and dads stop taking it out on their kids or dogs. I’m dreaming that we all realize how much food we throw away and then find a way to get that food to people who are hungry. I’m dreaming of decent people coming together and realizing that we could change it all in large parts of the world in just half-an-hour if we could agree that everyone has worth. That bad kids weren’t born that way, they were shaped by pain or fear. That having more than your neighbor doesn’t make you better or win you any prizes. That bullying people only makes the bully small in the long run. That thieves don’t really need to steal, they just need to ask for help.
I’m dreaming that law enforcement, all over the world, comes to recognize that its job is to help people, not just enforce laws. I’m dreaming that we quickly realized that solar power can work almost everywhere and help put the brakes on climate change. I’m dreaming of people loving everyone the way they want to be loved.
I guess I’m really dreaming about John Lennon’s Imagine.
The problem is that nearly everything negative starts with fear. Not fight or flight, those are important impulses. When a tree is about to fall on you it’s a good instinct to move before you die. No, I’m talking about the kernel of fear that we all seem to have. That fear—fear of not being big enough, strong enough, fast enough, good looking enough, worthy enough, successful enough—does not like to be exposed. The fear itself has a fear of being recognized and so it covers up. It covers itself in resentment, in anger, in aggressiveness. It masks itself in pride and arrogance. It shrouds itself in the lie of being better than other people.
And it’s that resentment, that anger, that aggressiveness, that pride, that arrogance, that lie of being better than other people that allows us humans to do the horrible and wretched things we do to one another. It allows us to have wars, allows us to justify incarcerating more than 2.4 million people in the U.S. alone without hardly a thought that what many of those people need is love and respect and learning their own self-worth—something that doesn’t happen in our prisons today. Those negative embodiments of fear allow the people in power to make laws to put pot smokers in jail or to take away their homes and children—they only do it because they’re afraid of the pot smokers. But why? If they could see themselves for one minute as they truly are, they would realize that they’re not afraid of the pot smokers, they’re afraid of their own value and are covering that fear up by creating a class of people worth even less than they are—at least politically.
We, as a race, cannot continue to be divided and ever hope to reach our potential. When we spend half of our lives proving we are better than the next guy, we’re losing all that time to making this world a better place. Somehow, something must occur that makes all of humanity take pause for a minute. Something that gives us a few seconds to hit a reset button on our hearts, accept that we have the fear, and then exuberantly let it go.
Yes! I’m afraid that I’ve never been as fat as I am and I’m fat because I drink wine and I drink wine because I’m afraid to admit I’m getting old. But why on earth am I afraid of getting old? That comes with the price of admission, if you’re lucky enough to make it to old age. But there’s that fear that you are no longer strong enough when you’re old—and I know about that fear. Maybe I’m afraid that I cannot fend for my family any longer, or that my grown children no longer need me. SO WHAT? I have friends and the people I protected will protect me should I need it. Better yet, in the world I’m dreaming about, I don’t need protection because other people will not become predators in order to hide their fear of being inadequate.
So it’s a new year, and we’re all allowed to dream. And I’m dreaming that the fear in each and every one of us gets somehow remolded into hopefulness, into the ability to accept who we are with joy and to spread that joy around until it touches everyone and those machines of destruction can be beaten into plough shares.
And if that happened, it wouldn’t mean that everyone is happy every moment. Stubbing your toe or breaking your arm is still going to hurt. But it might mean that as a race we begin to recognize one another as fully equal partners and can begin to eliminate hatred and greed and resentment and replace them with respect, love, and understanding. That would certainly put us on the road to working together and seeing what the real potential of the human race might be if that happened.
Hey, I know I’m dreaming. But I like this dream.
It would all be funny if people weren’t dying and the prisons weren’t full.