Friday, November 13, 2009

The Pig Mural

I have an op-ed piece in my local paper today (here is the original news article). My essay is about hate speech rather than drug policy, but there is one small connection that I would like to point out. The drug legalization debate is a polarizing issue. It is often framed in terms of "us" versus "them" (err... even though "I" am technically one of "them"). We often have strong feelings about the issue and sometimes we let our emotions get the best of us. However, no matter how passionate we may feel about this issue, we should never promote hatred in the pursuit of drug policy reform.

What do you think?


  1. I agree, that's a good point not considered often enough by either side in the drug policy debate.

  2. You're right... this happens on both sides of the debate, not just on the pro-reform side.

  3. One thing I learned early on and see, day to day, is when in a debate, the side that reverts to "name calling" has just lost the debate. We reformers have a multitude of facts that almost make us bullet-proof in discussions. Use them instead of slurs. We have to remember that many today have grown up hearing nothing but Reefer Madness. They know nothing else. This is why one-on-one or group discussions are necessary.

    I gave a discussion to an American Legion group and one person was livid. I explained how cannabis can control PTSD, of which I am a holder of said disorder. When the person kept harping, I took my cellphone and handed it to them and said simply, "Here, call the police and tell them to come and get me." You can guess what their next action was. Nothing. When I asked why they didn't stand up to their belief system, they said "We know you. We're not going to have you thrown in jail." Then, I asked, "Would it matter if you DIDN'T know me?" THAT'S when the "a-ha" moment arrived.

    "They" are NOT your enemy. They just don't have enough correct, factual information and that's where we come into the picture.


  4. EZ, "Here, call the police and tell them to come and get me."
    I laughed my butt off over this line.

  5. We often have strong feelings about the issue and sometimes we let our emotions get the best of us. However, no matter how passionate we may feel about this issue, we should never promote hatred in the pursuit of drug policy reform. What do you think?

    Maybe I am being overly picky, and certainly many things I've written I've gone back and polished a bit, so please don't take this the wrong way, but I would modify one word in your first sentence. I would make it to be ~ we should not let our anger get the best of us. (Or other negative emotions.) I say that because we have a wide range of emotions and frankly the world would be a better place if some people let their better emotions get the best of them. :-)

    Also, to paint with a broad brush, I am against mean-spirited behavior in general, it should not be used as any means to any ends. But I do try to have an "innocent until proven guilty" attitude, in that I do not know people's motivations until they tell me or someone else does (which I then take as hearsay). So it's not clear what the artists' background or motives are. I am surprised it seems no effort was put in to locating the artist and hearing his/her story. But the upshot is this is a temporary installment and likely will be just another hidden layer of paint on the wall at some point.

    Like so many things, what we are shown is only a small portion of the whole scene, this is often where problems creep in, lack of seeing the context. In the photo on the original article it can be see that a pig is also used to characterize another person. One thing I'll add about some artists, is they seem to always be interested in stirring up ill feelings and unsettling controversy; I tend to sympathize less with these people, those who mainly seem interested in picking fights or starting fights, I greatly dislike that.

    One thing that comes to mind is the historical association behind calling cops pigs. I am not familiar with how this came to be. But I can say that many groups who have been the focus of insults have defanged the taunts by adopting the words themselves and using them playfully and showing those taunting them their insults are now useless, this takes away 99% of their power. To an extent this is what many Jews did with the yellow crosses they were forced to wear by the Nazis, now many of them wear them as a sign of pride of overcoming. Similarly many people were insulted and derided as "nerds," but the nerds were clever (surprise! :-) and took that away from the taunters and now say "I am a 'nerd.'" People told Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and the rest of the band they'd go over like a "Lead Zeppelin." So guess what they named their group? Led Zeppelin!

    The same thing goes for "The Big Bang" theory. That term was originally used by a man mocking the formative theory on how matter/the universe began. But it's become the defacto label many use to describe the theory and the fact it started as an insult is mostly lost to history.

    Certainly I am not advocating name calling, insulting others, or other non-golden rule behaviors, I am always against bullies. No matter what clothing or speech they use. There are many bullies in pulpits, thugs with Bibles. But this does not make me want to stick up for them, the only thing worth sticking up for is God; all of us are flawed in one way or another, trying to mature and be better.

  6. I have a post at my website where I point out how the U.N. has gone past all reason in an effort to force people to be nice. They have adopted a resolution to encourage nations to enact laws making it illegal to insult religions. Besides the fact it attempts to eviscerate our Constitution's First Amendment, it is absurd to think that someone could say, "you've offend my religious sensibilities with that comment. I am now calling the police to have you arrested and thrown in jail."

    I guess part of my overriding notion is what we need is "respect for each other" instead of trying to focus narrowly on "respect for the law," namely because "each other" is so much more broad and easy to understand. And also, so many of our laws are badly broken, go against our Founding Documents, and seem to have been written by lobbyists or people on the take from lobbyists.

    From what I've read and the anecdotes I've heard, if you can "eat" the "hate speech" that others throw out, i.e. not going into a rage yourself, but perhaps doing what EZ did, or saying simply "thank you for your perspective on this matter," usually the person who "looses it" — calling names, using "hate speech," parroting some absurd stereotype, etc… — often goes home and it hits him at some point that he got carried away and said unfair things.

    I know for a fact that many cops are not liked by many people. When I wear my LEAP shirt with the huge badge on the front, I am often subject to many serious scowls and disapproving stares. I'd say well over 99% of the people who only see the front of the shirt treat me that way, I am not a cop, but I am taking some abuse for y'all. :-) I also have this going against me, I am not afraid to say I believe in God or that Jesus is the Messiah. So this means I am treated by many as though I was a thuggish TV preacher beating people over the head, or an idiot who can't engage in critical thinking since I'm so obviously dumb for believing in fairy tales.

    I can talk with a person who insults me, but the first thing I try to do is ask questions to figure out if he is just being mean-spirited or if he does have some sincerity beneath his anger, like a thorn of ignorance I can assist in removing. Those who taunt just to taunt, aka bullies, I tend to walk away from, avoid, or ignore. But if the person can handle questions or has the intelligence to let me talk once in a while to hear what I have to say, maybe I can help.

  7. One final comment.

    At the Reform conference I was going to one of the evening meetings at the Hyatt. I was in an elevator with 5 or 6 other people. I recognized a woman who moderated a panel at one of the sessions I attended. Since I liked it and thought she did a good job I told her so. In a few moments the door opened and she and her friend exited.

    One of the guys in the elevator told me, "I would have told her I hated her presentation." I asked, "Why?" He replied, "I just like f*!#king with people." Needless to say I was less than impressed, but I didn't lecture him, I just said, "I like to tell the truth" and left it at that.

    So some "artists" are mean just to be mean, and I'd say that some people carry what I call "passed down hatred" or are too busy carrying around and focusing on their negative emotions from a particular incident. I guess to bring the topic back to drugs and drug policy, although I am experientially naive with MDMA, from what I can tell, this drug in the right setting with the right people could really help them get beyond the stumbling blocks in their lives (minds) that keep them from getting past their perceived need to stay so hung up on being angry, as though that would solve the root issue.

    And related to that comment is the fact I can't wait to read the executive summary of the Transform drug policy foundation report "After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation."

  8. CAP - good point about focusing on "anger" getting the best of us instead of a range of emotions.

    Here is the full mural if you're interested.

  9. I am most appreciative for what Mr. Bratzer left OUT of his op-ed... a call for any government response to this. Prohibition is as harmful when enacted against free speech as it is against drugs. Good on him for his restraint!


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