Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Message

Source: Los Angeles Daily News
May 7, 2011

Author: Julia Negron
Note: Julia Negron of North Hills is director of the Los Angeles regional chapter of A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing) and a co-founder of Moms United to end the War on Drugs.


IMAGINE a world without the scourge of our current punitive drug policies. Imagine a world where we mothers no longer wait teary eyed in prison visiting lines, where our daughters live to gift us with happy grandchildren.

Imagine our sons getting in trouble with drugs and getting saved because they are worth saving. Imagine borders where tourists bask in the sun without fear, and drug cartels' gunshots are replaced with lilting music. Imagine passionately wanting a better future for our children and grandchildren so that all humanity is treated with dignity and kindness. Imagine that billions in funding is funneled into education. Imagine that we stop fighting a war with ourselves.

It may seem odd for a mother to make a case for decriminalizing illegal drugs. But I can give you a grandmother's/drug counselor's/prison visiting mom's take on how we have turned on our own - how the "War on Drugs" has generated more victims than successes.

We turned on our own when we stopped helping people who need help; when we attacked the most marginalized of us; when we lost our compassion for the suffering; and when we handed over the treatment of our sick kids to men with badges, not stethoscopes.

It happened when we stood silently while criminalizing a whole class of people. When we made smuggling and killing profitable. And, we pay for this by cutting education and programs that lift people out of poverty and vulnerability, guaranteeing that nothing changes.

In real -time there is little available to help the afflicted, so we lock them up out of sight and out of mind. In my world that means "prison churning." My own son developed drug dependence early-on and has now given years to a corrections system that can not "correct" him.

His chances to make a better life for his children dim with each prison term. My life is better than my mother's, but my grandkid'sgrandkids' lives will not be better than mine. The cost of the failed War on Drugs is more than just the $40 billion we waste each year.

Think of the families torn apart by harsh prison sentences. How could we let this hopelessness happen to half a million children with a parent in prison!

As a nation we've spent billions year after year for 40 years trying to incarcerate our way out of a health issue. Gun boats and border patrols have been unsuccessful in keeping drugs out of this country, with the result that it just made them more costly. Harsh prison terms have handed us back a hollow-eyed generation of anti-social unemployable felons.

We've been encouraged to let our kids "hit bottom," and we've dutifully kicked our kids to the curb. Consequently we've buried a generation of overdosed kids who could not get it right, could not get past the stigma, could not find help, feared jail and found no rational agent of change. We tried to "just say no to drugs" yet today things are worse than ever.

Imagine that there are no more excuses and that there are solutions.

I am no different than you. Our tax dollars paid more than $250,000 to incarcerate my non-violent drug offender son in California prisons so far.

This waste must change. We can do this together. We have a way; we can start by reclassifying personal possession of small amounts of illegal drugs as misdemeanors. We can give our kids a chance to not be labeled a felon for life.

The group Moms United to End the War on Drugs has a simple mission: end the waste of the War on Drugs; end the failed policies; end the mass incarceration, the overdose deaths, and the border violence. Start by getting into action and join us in our solutions. Join us in protest on the 40th anniversary of this most damaging war - June 17 - and "just say NO" to the War on Drugs.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Of Patti and Pot

Photo: Daigo Oliva, Wikipedia Commons
Patti Smith has added to her prodigious accomplishments a National Book Award for her #1 New York Times bestselling book Just Kids, about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe.
The two artists met when he bought a Persian necklace from the bookshop where she worked, which she said reminded her of a Catholic scapular. He told her he had been an altar boy and loved to swing the frankinsense censor.

Robert took a seminal LSD trip on the same day, May 30, 1967, that Patti also dedicated her life to art, in front of a statue of Joan of Arc. He was on acid the day they hooked up, but was still shocked when he found she was smoking pot, as Smith relates in her remarkable book:

"Patti, no!" Robert gasped. "You're smoking pot!" I looked up sheepishly. Busted.

I had seen
The Harder They Come, and was stirred by the music...I found irresistible the Rastafarian connection to Solomon and Sheba, and the Abyssinia of Rimbaud, and somewhere along the line I decided to try their sacred herb....

With Robert, I was not transported into the Abyssinian plain, but into the valley of uncontrollable laughter. I told him that pot was supposed to be for writing poetry, not fooling around. But all we did was laugh....

I never thought of pot as a social drug. I liked to use it to work, to think, and eventually for improvising with [musicians] Lenny Kaye and Richard Sohl as the three of us would gather under a frankincense tree dreaming of Haile Selassie.

Smith’s is not a tale of overindulgence in drugs. It is instead one of a dedicated artist who witnessed some of the excesses of drug use, and experimented herself only deliberately and thoughtfully (or, once, accidentally). She saved her marijuana smoking for the creative process, at one point agreeing to go to an esoteric bookstore with Robert and a friend only if they didn’t smoke pot first, since that would make them time warp there.

Later, she wrote,

I immersed myself in a new course of study. I was drawn to the Middle East: the mosques, the prayer rugs, and the Koran of Muhammad. I read Nerval’s Women of Cairo, and the stories of Bowles, Mrabet, Albert Cossery, and Isabelle Eberhardt. Since hashish permeated the atmosphere of these stories I had it in my mind to partake of it. Under its influence I listened to the Pipe of Pan at Joujouka; Brian Jones produced the album in 1968. I was happy to write to the music he loved. From the baying dogs to the ecstatic horns, it was time for the soundtrack of my nights.

After her hashish experience, she tripped with Robert and saw a “demon version of the city.” She rescued Robert from a bad trip and had one herself when she was dosed unknowingly. At Robert's suggestion, she took MDA before shooting a collaborative film.

Smith married Fred Sonic Smith of the band MC5, whose manager John Sinclair became a cause celeb when he was given a 10-year sentence for two marijuana joints in 1969. Her song "The People Have the Power" has become a protest anthem worldwide, and she regularly appears at antiwar rallies and political benefits. "Horses," her landmark debut album, has been named one of the top 100 albums of all time by Rolling Stone.

UPDATE 10/10/2016 - Today has been declared Patti Smith Day in Boston. Smith has a new book out, M Train. In December, she’ll perform at the Pathway to Paris concert, which will coincide with the U.N. climate change conference. Pathway to Paris was co-founded by her daughter, Jesse Paris Smith.