But in this instance, it is the “war” on crime itself that is most to blame. More than any other nation in the world, we turn to the state-sanctioned compulsion of the criminal justice system to “solve” social problems, including mental illness, drug addiction, poverty, homelessness, and lack of opportunity. Our “first responders” are too often the police, bearing handcuffs and guns rather than public assistance or life support. We arrest and incarcerate our fellow citizens at the highest per capita rate in the world. And those targeted are disproportionately black and Hispanic men living in poverty-stricken inner-city neighborhoods. We can’t seem to find the resources to invest in those neighborhoods to support adequate schools, job training programs, after-care for children let out of school before their parents come home, or economic development. But we are more than willing to pay enormous sums for more police to patrol the neighborhoods and prisons to house inmates taken from these communities. Our prisons in turn are ruled by violence and the threat thereof, from both guards and fellow inmates.
Cole goes on to conclude: "As Americans we have been far too complacent in the face of state-sanctioned violence. As long as the guns are pointed at others, we turn our heads and look away. But until we begin to demand alternatives to state violence, the killing will not cease."
It's a point that others have made before. Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine connected the manufacture of nuclear missiles in Columbine and Clinton's bombings of Kosovo and Sudan to the mindset of people who shoot up schools or malls. Noam Chomsky has been saying for years that the best way for the US to end terrorism is to stop participating in it against others.
So read Cole's piece and meditate on it, then go read:
I thought I knew a lot about the history of our drug prohibition. But here are more valuable pieces to the puzzle beyond the Reefer Madness, chemical-company funded and racist Chamber of Commerce shenanigans which resulted in marijuana criminalization in the US. And the book is entertaining as hell on top of being contrarian and smart.