Beyond The Pale

Pat Robertson’s, Rhetoric, Social Justice

Several days ago—my first draft read “yesterday afternoon,” but life sometimes gets busy—while reading the New York Times online, I stumbled upon an article about Pat Robertson’s claim that he believed that the use of Marijuana should be legalized. His point, as an Evangelical, was not that the use of Marijuana was good, that it should be endorsed, or that he had any desire to use it, only that he thought it should be legalized. After reading the article, with which I wholly agreed, I posted a link to it on Facebook and promptly forgot about it.

As I’m currently deployed to Afghanistan, I live on an almost inverted time scale to most of the people who read my feed and make comments, so when I went to bed that night, there were no responses to the post, not that I expected any. As I mentioned, the link didn’t bear enough weight in my mind to keep me thinking about it, as the claims it made seemed fairly obvious. When I woke up the following morning and went to check my email before calling my wife, I was surprised to see that I had received twenty new emails in the intervening eight or ten hours. Several years ago, this would have been common, but of late I’ve been much less active on the internet, and I’ve received very few emails from people other than my wife. I couldn’t help but wonder what had brought in all the traffic. As soon as I opened up the first email, I realized that, without really intending to, I’d done what I have such a habit of doing and started a fight about whether Pot use should or should not be legal.

Most discussions of decriminalization for Marijuana tend to go in one of two directions, which are really the same direction. Either people want it to be legalized because its use isn’t damaging and alcohol, which causes much worse behavior than Marijuana ever could, is legal, or they want it to be illegal because it’s destructive, wrecks homes and lives, makes you lazy, and contributes to other kinds of criminality. Both of these pictures are clearly oversimplifications of what their backers really believe, and I’m not trying to build up a couple of straw man arguments to knock down, but keeping these rough sketches in mind is useful.

The argument that happened on my Facebook page while I was sleeping had basically taken the same course that most arguments about Pot tend to take, and while I wasn’t surprised, I was disappointed because the reason that I so heartily agree with what Pat Robertson was saying is that he didn’t make the arguments that we usually hear. Instead, Robertson approached the issue from the perspective of social justice.

Robertson basically argued that we incarcerate people for a crime with only one real victim, themselves. Sure, because of the current state of affairs, there is a whole black market on the product, and any black market produces crime, but that black market is not a natural outgrowth of the availability of the product, but of it’s prohibition. Just as a huge black market grew out of the prohibition of alcohol in the United States and was wiped out by it’s later re-legalization, so the crime producing prohibition of Pot produces much crime that would be wiped out were the product legalized, regulated, and taxed.

That’s not to say that the use of Pot should be condoned, any more than the use of alcohol should be condoned. There is plenty of room for disagreement on this. My denomination states in it’s position papers that it considers alcohol to be a tool of Satan, used for destroying lives and causing addiction. My parents completely agree with this statement, and I can’t fault them for the position. I believe that high fructose corn syrup is a tool of Satan, used for destroying lives and causing addiction. My parents drink a lot of Dr. Pepper and use fake Syrup on their pancakes. I try not to judge them for this. I drink a fair amount of Guinness and the occasional tumbler of Ol’ Number 7. I hope that they do me the same courtesy. I don’t argue that high fructose corn syrup should be illegal. I’m never heard my parents argue that alcohol should be.

Just as I don’t advocate the consumption of fake sugar, and my parents don’t condone the consumption of alcohol, Pat Robertson doesn’t condone the consumption of THC. His argument, and it’s a good one, is that it is unjust to throw someone in prison, damage their families, reduce their lifetime earning potential, and force them into association with real criminals for doing something unhealthy.

Our prisons are over crowded, and they are crowded with people who have no business being there in the first place. If we believe that Pot use is wrong and dangerous, destructive and addictive, then we need to do something about it, but incarcerating them isn’t the thing that needs done. There are other ways to go about this. When a person gets addicted to alcohol, we try to enroll them in AA. When they eat too much Mc. Donald’s, we send them to Jenny Craig.

Christians are mandated to care for the poor, not to oppress them. To deprive a community of it’s young men, by far the largest portion of drug related incarcerations, fits that bill. Utilitarians want to reduce human suffering. Prohibition and the resulting crime and imprisonment increase the quotient of human suffering beyond the gains of reduced consumption. Liberals want the oppressed to be humanized, removed from the margins, empowered. Conservatives claim to want to preserve liberty and reduce government spending. Libertarians want the government to have less power. And so on. There are incentives for every party to advocate this change, and yet very few voices do—not as a result of the real situation, but as a result of the blinding rhetoric we have chosen to use to talk about it.

March 23, 2012 Posted by | Censorship, Christianity, Church | 8 Comments


One of my great goals during this deployment was to get back into the blogosphere. Nearly two months into the deployment, and not having yet written an entry, it’s time to get started if I want to make anything happen along those lines. For once, I have a couple of good reasons for not having started back up writing, such as lack of internet access and new emphasis on OPSEC along with some violations within the unit’s wife community that has caused enough backlash to make me want to steer clear of anything that could cause hiccups, at least until my promotion goes through two months ago. Yes, apparently we can time travel in the military, but I’ll discuss that in a later post once everything has been resolved.
Part of the issue is that I have been legitimately busy. Last year, anything that I didn’t do was the result of being lazy. This year, at least so far, because of where I’m currently located, I’m able to spend a lot of time setting up training and making contacts that will help me as the deployment continues, and I’ve been taking advantage of those opportunities because I don’t know when I’ll find myself sitting in a mud hut somewhere in the middle of a minefield with no hope of leaving there until October. Maurice Lednicky used to say, “The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized during the lifetime of the opportunity,” and while I didn’t agree with much that he said, it’s certainly true that the work that I can do now, if I don’t get it done within the next several weeks, will never happen at all.
So yeah, I’m busy. But everyone I know besides Aria is always busy. That’s part of the modern condition. Primitives had all the free time they wanted and no food; we have all the food we want and no time to enjoy it. But we always make time for the things that we find important. People who don’t have time for their family, but have time for a fantasy football league are probably saying more about their priorities than they are about their schedule. And I’m sure that Poor Scribbler, Linden Mueller, and All the Blessed Things all have just as hectic of lives as I do.
But what have I been prioritizing? Well, even though it hasn’t been making it into the ever so important blogosphere, I’ve been writing pretty much constantly. I’m on volume four of those big black journals that my meatspace friends see me carrying around all the time, and I’ve noticed a significant increase of production since about a month before Aria showed up, though that’s been tapering back just a little bit lately because I don’t like to write in that journal in the rain. I’m also learning to play the guitar. I didn’t think that would have much bearing on the amount of free time in my day because back when I used to play the piano as a kid, practicing for so much as thirty minutes was literally the LONGEST time in history. Agonizing pain in the brain resulted from a single scale. I figured that if I forced myself into fifteen minutes per day of guitar practice, I’d be doing better than I had any real reason to expect, and I’d still progress, however slowly. Instead it turns out that unless I have something going on that forces me to quit, if I pick up my guitar, I’m probably not going to put it down for forty-five minutes to an hour. Who’d have thought it?
Finally, I’ve been putting in a fair amount of time into two kinds of reading. First, I’ve been catching up on the novel reading that a year long attack of “need to game” caused me to miss. I’ve cut video games almost completely out of my life, but that space filled up immediately with everything from The Forever War, to Anne of Green Gables, to A Hero of our Time, all excellent books, by the way. The second kind of reading is Spanish. I’ve been working as hard as I can to get my Spanish back up to where it should be because I know that this Seventh Group, you-live-in-Afghanistan, thing is going to end eventually, and then I’ll still be expected to hold proficiency in my language. It turns out it’s a good thing I’ve been doing this, but I’ll have to explain why in my next post.
So this post isn’t really for readers. It’s for me. It’s my way of telling myself to get to work on the things that are being forgotten, and to keep at it on the things that I’ve been doing well on.

February 28, 2012 Posted by | Army, Censorship, Uncategorized | | 4 Comments

On Filtering

I haven’t posted on here in quite some time, not because I’ve not wanted to, but because I’ve not been able to access the site due to the stringent rules set up by the Army’s deployed Websense server. Those of you who keep up with me on Facebook might have noticed more than a little ire regarding this issue in some of my posts.

And now I can post.

I just wanted to make a couple of comments about liberty and why there is some possibility that maybe some of the madness going on in our country will eventually have a positive effect. If websense had been run by some kind of rational human being, and it had not filtered out almost every web site on the internet, I would have been content to work under its restrictions. I would have obeyed the rules. However, the system’s overzealous nature has worked against it. Where it could have only blocked those sites that are most problematic to the austere bandwidth issues that we have out here, aka, Youtube and other streaming sites, and left access to such low bandwidth sites as Io9 and WordPress, it blocked everything that I wanted access to. I could have put up with no access to Youtube, as the restriction makes sense. But because the restrictions were over the top, ridiculous, I went out and found a way to get around them. And now, not only can I post to my WordPress account, but I can also go to Youtube. Thus, the overzealous nature of the system administrators works directly against their goals.

Maybe our increasingly meddlesome government should consider this trait of human nature as it progresses with it’s plans. The Tea party movement, of which I’m NOT a part, isn’t necessarily the result of some cranks getting a hold of the American imagination. It’s the natural bucking against what many Americans see as a progressively dangerous government. Perhaps they should try taking a looser grip on the reigns.

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Army, Censorship | 2 Comments