If you are convicted under today’s laws of selling even a minor amount of crack to someone you will likely end up in prison. If your charge is a federal charge, or you are somehow tied to anyone being prosecuted under conspiracy laws you can be doing a very-lengthy prison sentence on your first arrest. Gone are the days of slaps on the wrists and easy probation, today America is serious about enforcing its drug laws.
This has resulted in over two-million people in America’s prisons and over six million people under supervision. The majority of these people will be serving time on drug charges. Beginning in the administration of Bush the Elder America declared a Zero Tolerance policy on drugs. America has made a moral judgment, with a national consensus, that drug dealers are to be combated and that the trade of drugs is on the lines of the trade of human flesh and should be combated. After all dealers sell things that are harmful, they get people hooked, they sometimes sell to kids and there is a cycle of violence, neglect and anti-social behavior that surrounds the product.
There are hundreds of bars and thousands of drinking establishments and night clubs open in every city. They operate with the license of the government, are pillars of the community where they are open and are known as respectable places. For anyone familiar with urban politics in America you will no doubt know that much of urban politicking is done in drinking establishments. These places are also community gathering places; all the way from the gritty neighborhood bar to the bourgeois night club, wine bar or lounge.
These dealers of intoxicants get a free pass from society. They are not asked why they sell a product that is harmful. Citizens do not campaign against them for selling a gateway drug, there premises are not raided and no one questions the behavior of the patrons when they go home.
But everything that can be said about the drug-dealer, the crackhouse and heroin-den can be said about the bar. A harmful product is being sold, it has an ill-effect on a lot of its users, it contributes to crime and violence and it is a gateway drug. The petty drug-dealer is hauled off to prison for years, and I have seen it with my own eyes, and the bar owner get accolades from the press and local government and often times is a part of the power structure.
I thought about this last night as I saw a man I see almost every night. He is a nice guy and lives in an upscale-suburb and has a very good job. However, every night after work he goes to two different bars and drinks for several hours until closing time and then catches a cab home. This poor guy can barely walk when he leaves the bar and has to be helped into the cab. He is supposed to be friends with these people at the bar but what kind of friend helps you slowly commit suicide? How are they any better than someone selling crack? Can they claim the moral high-ground because they have the sanction of the state?
Another issue is drinking and driving. I can tell you as a cab driver I am always very cautious driving in Friday and Saturday nights because there is just so much drunk driving. If the police and political leadership were serious about drunk driving there would be breathalyzer tests outside of every major nightclub and driving check going around smaller clubs. In some of these areas 90% of the people have to be driving drunk I swear and no one cares as long as they are spending money; that is until they kill someone with their driving. Because there are scant few designated drivers, taxis are the best safety mechanism, and often times police are very hostile towards police but friendly to the drunks (and I don’t even want to talk about how many drunk cops I see driving around). Just some food for thought.
I am seeing a lot of crazy stuff btw. The other night I was waiting for a drunk Chinese guy who couldn’t speak English to get in my cab and he was taking all day. In the meantime I was looking at a fairly attractive twenty-something black woman walking towards my car and she was dressed very nice until I saw below her waist; all she had on below the waist was her panties! This was in downtown St. Louis; not the ho strolls on Cherokee, Cass or the Stock Yards, and to be honest I was shocked. Within seconds a guy picked her up and the drunk was in my car so that was that. From low class to so-called high class some of my passengers have been telling me that one of the so-called high class joints here that is frequented by a lot of the younger city-elite is known for being a hang-out for coke heads. Go figure; I thought they would have enough buzz from all the damn coffee they drink.