Saturday, July 17, 2010

R.I.P. Mexico

Evidently, I’m going to be attending a lot of funerals.   Normally, I wouldn’t be caught dead at a funeral.  Years ago, I swore I would never attend anyone’s funeral unless he came to mine first.

But the sheer number of recently dead is absolutely staggering, I can’t ignore them all.  You see, 20,000 friends of mine have died in the last year, and probably that many will die this year, too.  I’m talking about Mexico, of course.  Over 20,000 people have died in the drug war in Mexico during the last year, and no one is discussing an armistice.  This is going to be a long war.

I’m not the governor of Alaska, but from my house I can see another country.  Okay, I have to stand on my roof, and it’s Mexico, not Russia.   I wish it was Russia, because I have always loved Mexico.  I’ve traveled in Mexico for over 40 years; by train, bus, and car.  I’ve worked there and taught courses about the country.  I’ve eaten the food, drunk the water, among other things, and taken advantage of a few other assorted pleasures.  And in every case, Mexico’s peoples have given me far more kindness than I deserved.  This is a beautiful country with amazing people.

It has always been amazing to me that so few of my students know anything about Mexico’s history.  Everyone can name several battles of the American Civil War, but how many can name even one battle from the Mexican Revolution?  This revolution was just a hundred years ago, there were at least a million casualties out of a much smaller country, and a lot of the battles happened right on the US border.  You can see the site of one of them from my roof.

Now, it looks like Mexico is going to have to go through that level of violence again.  And this time, most of the guilt belongs north of the border.  Mexico is suffering and dying from violence because America will not simply recognize the stupidity of our drug laws.

Our drug laws make criminals rich, undermine the legal system of our neighbors, swamp American courts, jail a larger percentage of our citizens than any other country, and put an incredible economic strain on our public finances.  I am at a loss to find anything positive resulting from our drug laws.  Somehow, we as a nation have convinced ourselves that our laws are preventing people from using drugs.  Maybe this is because our government keeps telling us that we are making major progress in the war on drugs.  Stop and think about this, do you really believe there are fewer people using drugs today than 30 years ago?

Several years ago, my son, not What’s-His-Name, but the The-Other-One, told me that within blocks of our home, he would have no trouble purchasing any form of drug or alcohol that he might want, with one exception.  He even knew where to get a Cuban cigar.  What he couldn’t get was a pack of cigarettes.  Now that’s the kind of progress that completely justifies the billions of dollars we have spent on the “War On Drugs” during the last 39 years.

This idiotic phrase, “The War on Drugs,” came out of the Nixon Administration.  That alone should give you a clue about how well the program is really working.  I have no idea why, long after we have rejected almost everything else Richard Nixon stood for, we have continued this idiotic war.  While our government still claims we are winning this war, it should be painfully obvious that if we had fought World War II as effectively as we are fighting drugs, this blog would be written in Japanese.

I’m tired of paying way too much money to fight drugs.  Some estimates say we have now spent more fighting drugs than we spent fighting Viet Nam.  But it’s not just the taxes; fighting drugs costs a lot of money that we can’t really notice.  How much extra is my home owner’s policy because I have to insure against someone crawling in my window to steal my TV so he can buy drugs?  How much extra is my car insurance?  How much extra cost is built into the price of everything I buy to cover some part of a policy that cannot conceivably work?

And forever more, why are we making criminals rich?  Illegal drugs are expensive drugs.  This is why we hear of cocaine cartels and marijuana cartels but no one has ever read a story about French wine cartels.  This is why my son can buy a Cuban cigar and I can’t find a decent bottle of Beaujolais. 

Remember Al Capone?  He got rich because we made alcohol illegal.  As he often said, “I am just a businessman, giving people what they want.” 

Making drugs illegal does not make them disappear, if we can’t keep drugs out of federal prisons, how could we keep them out of Los Angeles?  If drugs have to be in our society, do we really want criminals to profit from them?  Does our government have some secret economic stimulus program for gangs?

Let’s ignore all of this.  Let’s ignore that the government doesn’t have any business telling us what we should do with our own bodies.   Let’s ignore that there are more drugs around today than before we started this silly policy.  Let’s ignore that we jail so many of our own citizens that China has lectured us about civil rights in the United Nations.  Let’s ignore rich criminals and an ever larger police force.  I’ll give you another reason to think about changing the rules of this war; Mexico is losing its war on drugs and my friends are dying.

If we have problems with the present government in Mexico, think what it will be like when the drug cartels take over in Mexico.


  1. OK, so I got caught up with your blog. I'm glad I did, because I really like this most recent one. Better living through chemistry.--Ken

  2. I think that we should make drugs legal, then tax the hell out of them.

  3. They did that in Washington and Colorado. Pot legalization has increased the trade in black market hash oil, more fires and explosion from home labs blowing up and illegal growers avoiding taxes that were supposed to give the state treasuries such a boost. Colorado just spent 4 million bucks on a campaign against stoned driving because of the increase in the cost of testing stoned drivers (there's no breathalyzer for cannabis). And the local competition has reduced the profit margin for Mexican pot. Did the Mexican pot farmers stop growing pot. Yes it did. Now, apparently, Mexican Farmers are switching from pot to opium poppies - heroin being more compact and they can make it cheaper than importing from Afghanistan. So, "Hooray!" We've made heroin less expensive and taking care of addicts more costly. Doing away with drug laws doesn't make the drug trade go away. It simply becomes more horrific and the human toll more ghastly.

    About the only thing you can do to take down the cartels is send in Seal Teams, Delta Force, Rangers, snipers and Marines and follow up with some major foreign aid to help Mexican farmers find a new cash crop. So long as there are evil people allowed to operate freely, we're going to be losing your friends right and left, Mark. Take away the drug trade and the cartels are simply going to find another high profit trade, like smuggling Al Quaeda operatives over the border or something fun like that.