Before I get to the nitty gritty, a few updates for you:
I recently wrote about the Senate’s inability to extend unemployment benefits for the millions of jobless Americans whose regular benefits had expired, or were getting ready to expire. I’m glad to announce that the Senate narrowly averted disaster by finally passing the benefits extension, no thanks to flailing Republicans. Rioting averted, for now.
Several weeks ago I wrote that Congress was considering legislation to reduce the outrageous penalties for crack cocaine possession & distribution. That bill finally passed its last hurdle in the Senate last week and was signed into law by President Obama this past Wednesday. That means that whites, who mostly go to jail for plain old powder, and blacks, predominant sellers & users of cocaine in crack form, will spend almost the same amount of time in jail for what is really the same drug.
But just to prove that they’re still mostly idiots, the same Senate that woke up to the disparity between crack & powder cocaine sentencing passed a bill that would increase penalties for pot brownies. Inspired by a fake story that made its rounds throughout the internet & beyond that meth labs were pumping out candy-flavored drugs with which to entice our kids, senators took action. But while the danger of the mythical Strawberry Quik is over exaggerated, the law, as written, would double the penalty for selling pot brownies, too. Too bad for all you stoners who eat your weed to protect your lungs instead of smoking it.
With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about Mexico. In 2006, Mexican president Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown on the drug cartels that were using his country as a superhighway to transport cocaine, heroine & marijuana into the United States. How’s that going? Well, if you pay attention to the news you’ve likely heard about the rampant violence that has been plaguing Mexico since then, violence so bad that American spring breakers have had to find alternate places to get fucked up. But how bad is it really?
Really fucking bad.
On the same day that Obama was signing the historic legislation to create more balance in our own drug policy, the Mexican government announced that the last four years of Calderon’s crackdown have resulted in 28,000 deaths. That would equate to half the population in Ellicott City, Maryland, a cozy little suburb of Baltimore. That’s a lot of fucking people. Dead.
Do you care? Sure you do—about as much as you care about how the animals whose meat you eat get treated & about as much as you care about the 4 million plus people killed so far in the Congo while the companies that make your laptops & cell phones buy the minerals they need to power them from rebel & government forces alike, forces that use the money to perpetually fund the fighting—not to mention the abused workers who are forced to work the mines.
In Mexico, the fighting has gotten so bad that President Calderon is finally giving in to those that say that the only way out is to legalize. The idea is that by legalizing marijuana in Mexico you undercut the biggest profit maker for the drug cartels. Cutting into their profits cuts into their ability to manufacture cocaine & heroin and buy weapons. This isn’t much different from one of the goals of legalizing marijuana in California—flood the market with cheap, high-grade Cali cannabis, and who would want to buy that cheap, seedy Mexican shit?
Meanwhile, what can YOU do to stem the violence? Probably nothing, unless you’re one of the millions of Americans who use cocaine recreationally. I’ve never used the stuff—a commitment I made as a child because of the destructive effect of hard drugs on my family. But I have a few friends who do use it. Some of them are so conscientious that they won’t eat meat for ethical reasons, or will only eat meat from free-range, grass fed animals. Some of my coke-sniffing buddies even hold on to their cellies for as long as they can before they upgrade so as to reduce their impact on the environment, or because of the conflict in the Congo. But I wonder how many of these conscientious cokehead compatriots would be willing to boycott the stuff until the violence subsides.
Yeah, you addicts out there have an excuse: you need your fix. But the rest of you have none, other than you don’t give a fuck about all the folx dying so you can keep snorting your happy powder. The same goes for you, god forbid, recreational heroin users. And do you potheads out there know where you’re weed comes from? Talk about a reason to buy American.
Or you can do what you’ve been doing, keep looking the other way while people die so that you can keep using your chemically-induced escape from your petty problems. And hey, if what’s happening to our southern next door neighbors starts to really bother you, you can always just take even more drugs.
Fernando Quijano III is the former President of the Maryland Writers Association, Baltimore Chapter. His work has been featured in Welter, Smile Hon, You’re in Baltimore & the poetry anthology, Life in Me Like Grass on Fire. An excerpt from his unpublished novel, Forever, Lilith was included in the Apprentice House anthology Freshly Squeezed. He has been featured at the Baltimore Book Festival, Stoop Storytelling, & The Signal on WYPR, Baltimore's local NPR station. In his spare time, Fernando volunteers to lead workshops for Writing Outside the Fence, a program for the ex-offender community, as well as at the Brock Bridge Correctional Facility. Fernando was recently awarded a B grant for his writing by the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund.