"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant." ~ John Stuart Mill
Christian Compassion That Kills
To hear a lot of Christians tell it, the re-election of George W. Bush constituted a 'mandate' for Christian values and compassionate conservatism.
Meanwhile, out in the real world, Mr. Dana May of Aurora, Colorado ' where this essay originates ' surely has much to say about our president's Christian values and compassion. I have never met Mr. May, but I recently read of him in the Denver Rocky Mountain News. He suffers from reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a disease so painful that it drives some people to suicide. He likens the pain he feels to having his 'feet . . . in a deep fryer.' He had spent seven years trying numerous remedies, including synthetic marijuana, but none of them worked. As a last resort, he tried medical marijuana. Upon his physician's advice, he obtained permission from the State of Colorado to grow and use marijuana to alleviate his pain. It worked.
When a few dozen DEA agents raided his house and tore up his modest marijuana 'garden', Mr. May presented his state-issued permission card. However, in the words of one of the raiding agents: 'We're DEA. We do not follow Colorado's constitution.'
For six months, Mr. May again suffered excruciating pain because the feds denied him access to his medicine. In the face of a lawsuit, the feds relented. He now grows at an undisclosed location, but still lives in fear of another Gestapo-like raid.
Meanwhile, out in the real world, Angel Raich of Oakland, California surely has much to say about our president's Christian values and compassion. If you think you have issues, consider those facing Mrs. Raich:
'I suffer from several conditions that cause severe, chronic pain, including fibromyalgia, endometriosis, scoliosis, uterine fibroid tumors and rotator cuff syndrome. I am also battling an inoperable brain tumor, seizures, and life-threatening wasting syndrome, accompanied by near-constant nausea, as well as several other diseases.
'This complex mosaic of interlocking medical problems has been a huge challenge for my doctors. Complicating my treatment has been the fact that I have severe chemical sensitivities and am violently allergic to almost all of the pharmaceutical drugs that are modern medicine's first, second, and third lines of defense against most of my illnesses.'
Mrs. Raich states that she owes her survival and her ability to lead a relatively normal life to medical marijuana, and to the caregivers who supply her. She is currently suing our Christian Attorney General (Ashcroft v. Raich) for violating her rights under the Commerce Clause as well as the Fifth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments. The Supreme Court heard the case on November 29.
Meanwhile, out in the real world, Peter McWilliams surely has much to say about our president's Christian values and compassion. Actually, he doesn't. Mr. McWilliams died as a result of America's insane federal drug policies during the administration of Bill 'I feel your pain' Clinton.
Mr. McWilliams was a best selling author who was winning his battle against AIDS and cancer with the help of medical marijuana. His prescription drug regimen had the side effect of extreme nausea. This nausea caused him to vomit up his medications before they had time to work. Medical marijuana, made legal by California voters in 1996, helped him keep down his medications as well as food in general.
The feds didn't care about any of this. When McWilliams' case went to trial, a federal judge ruled that he could neither discuss (a) that what he did was legal in California nor (b) the benefits of medical marijuana. In other words, he could not defend himself. While awaiting sentencing, Mr. McWilliams was verboten from using medical marijuana to alleviate his excruciating nausea. He died in a pool of his own vomit.
Many Christians view Bill Clinton as the president from the bowels of hell. While they talk endlessly ' and in oh so morally superior tones -- about Bubba's dalliances with an intern, they are curiously silent about the Drug War-related atrocities that occurred on his ' and Attorney General Jackboot Janet's ' watch.
The zeal with which so many Christians promote the Drug War is proof positive that they can be just as politically correct as secular liberals. They do not care about the real world implications of their pet policies. America has a drug crisis and the Only Solution is zero tolerance. The Constitution and the rights it guarantees be damned! Drug War uber alles! If innocent people die, this is collateral damage. These are broken eggs prerequisite to the omelet of a drug-free America.
Don't think for a minute ' Mr. and Mrs. Bush Groupie ' that you could not wind up like Dana May, Angel Raich or Peter McWilliams. In the event that you were so unfortunate, would you still be oh so piously opposed to marijuana use under any circumstances?
In February 2000, an old back injury ' incurred in a 1990 car accident ' flared up on me. For a total of about 12 months between 2000 and 2002, my back muscles were as tight as a tourniquet. I was barely able to walk and severely limited in my ability to earn a living. In the end, a very fine back doctor was able to restore my back to almost full health.
During that time, the idea of obtaining that hooch for medicinal purposes crossed my mind. During 2000, it would have gotten me in quite a bit of trouble. I was still in the Naval Reserve, where they take a very dim view of the devil's lettuce. (Late that year, they would retire me medically.)
It makes me wonder just what I was defending all those years. Four times I swore an oath to 'support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.'
This Constitution forbids a Drug War. Article 1, Section 8 of this Constitution spells out the 18 things Uncle Sam can do. Interfering in the medical marketplace and waging a Drug War are not among these defined powers. The Ninth Amendment protects our rights to do all kinds of things, even if others find them objectionable. (Attention Christians: this Ninth Amendment that protects your right to home school your kids!) The Tenth Amendment forbids Uncle Sam from engaging in any activity not authorized elsewhere in the Constitution. Hence, Uncle Sam is forbidden from interfering in state policies regarding marijuana.
We hear no end about how our troops are 'fighting for our freedom' in Iraq and other places. It reminds me of Muhammad Ali's remark that 'No Vietnamese ever called me n*****.' Likewise, Saddam Hussein is not violating our medical freedom. It is not Saddam Hussein who would rather see you die an excruciating death than be cured by marijuana. It is America's own DOJ and DEA as well as our Great Compassionate Conservative Christian president and his groupies in churches across America.
It is ironic that Mr. Bush's party fielded a US Senate candidate from Colorado this year who is chairman of a company that manufactures a drug that kills people. (For those of you from the deep side of the river, I am talking about Pete Coors.) In true, hypocritical Republican fashion, Coors opposed medical marijuana.
There are two other issues that we need to examine. Specifically, in Colorado ' home of Mr. May ' and California ' home of Mrs. Raich and Mr. McWilliams ' medical marijuana is only legal with a physician's permission.
First, the right to medicate yourself as you see fit is a right given by God. Free people need not ask permission to arm themselves, keep what they earn, home school their children, medicate themselves with politically incorrect plants or exercise any of their other God-given rights. It is not for you, me, your doctor or the powers that be in Sacramento or Denver to 'permit' people to exercise these rights. These rights are antecedent to the US Constitution. Indeed, America's true constitution exists not on paper, but in what we the people are made of and how willing we the people are to resist tyrants.
Second, if you are a Christian, what would your pastor and the folks at your church do if you were in the same dilemma as Dana May, Angel Raich or Peter McWilliams? Matthew 25:43-45 reads: "I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "
Would the folks at your church heed this Scripture and come to your aid ' financial, legal, medical or spiritual ' or are they so busy cheerleading for Bush Almighty that they would dismiss you as just another scofflaw? When they come for the medical marijuana patients, would those who purport to be your Christian brothers and sisters say nothing because they are not medical marijuana patients?
'Compassionate conservatism' is merely a code phrase for a socialist police state, the grip of which will only grow tighter in the next four years. Bush groupies sure talk a good game about their Christian reverence for life. However, as long as they are unwilling to cast off their prohibitionist orthodoxies, admit their error and stop backing policies that cause innocent people to suffer needlessly and even to die, they have no claim of moral superiority.