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I apologize. There are so many things I could apologize for, from the way the US biotech corporation Monsanto has contaminated your corn to the way Arizona and Alabama are persecuting your citizens, but right now I’d like to apologize for the drug war, the 10,000 waking nightmares that make the news and the rest that don’t.
You’ve heard the stories about the five severed heads rolled onto the floor of a Michoacan nightclub in 2006, the 300 bodies dissolved in acid by a servant of one drug lord, the forty-nine mutilated bodies found in plastic bags by the side of the road in Monterrey in May, the nine bodies found hanging from an overpass in Nuevo Laredo just last month, the Zeta Cartel’s videotaped beheadings just two weeks ago, the carnage that has taken tens of thousands of Mexican lives in the last decade and has terrorized a whole nation. I’ve read them and so many more. I am sorry 50,000 times over.
The drug war is fueled by many things, and maybe the worst drug of all is money, to which so many are so addicted that they can never get enough. It’s a drug for which they will kill, destroying communities and ecologies, even societies, whether for the sake of making drones, Wall Street profits, or massive heroin sales. Then there are the actual drugs, to which so many others turn for numbness.
There is variety in the range of drugs. I know that marijuana mostly just makes you like patio furniture, while heroin renders you ethereally indifferent and a little reptilian, and cocaine pumps you up with your own imaginary fabulousness before throwing you down into your own trashiness. And then there’s meth, which seems to have the same general effect as rabies, except that the victims crave it desperately.
Whatever their differences, these drugs, when used consistently, constantly, destructively, are all anesthesia from pain. The Mexican drug cartels crave money, but they make that money from the way Yankees across the border crave numbness. They sell unfeeling. We buy it. We spend tens of billions of dollars a year doing so, and by some estimates about a third to a half of that money goes back to Mexico.
The Price of Numbness
We want not to feel what’s happening to us, and then we do stuff that makes worse things happen—to us and others. We pay for it, too, in a million ways, from outright drug-overdose deaths (which now exceed traffic fatalities, and of which the United States has the highest rate of any nation except tiny Iceland, amounting to more than 37,000 deaths here in 2009 alone) to the violence of drug-dealing on the street, the violence of people on some of those drugs, and the violence inflicted on children who are neglected, abandoned, and abused because of them—and that’s just for starters. The stuff people do for money when they’re desperate for drugs generates more violence and more crazy greed for the money to buy the next round. And drug use is connected to the spread of HIV and various strains of hepatitis.
Then there’s our futile “war on drugs” that has created so much pain of its own. It’s done so by locking up mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and children for insanely long prison sentences and offering no treatment. It does so by costing so much it’s warping the economies of states that have huge numbers of nonviolent offenders in prison and not enough money for education or healthcare. It does so by branding as felons and pariahs those who have done time in the drug-war prison complex. It was always aimed most directly at African-Americans, and the toll it’s taken would require a week of telling.