First things first: I did not mean to insult God, offend religious people, or offend supporters of Hillary Clinton with the angry title of a previous post. It was my way of saying that I do not believe in a god who punishes all for the shortcomings of some, just as I refuse to believe in the Bigot God of 9-11, who allegedly punished Americans for tolerating homosexuals. I should have said, “If Hillary were God’s punishment, then God would suck!” But even there, the language may be too over the top for some people. No offense intended.
Believe it or not, I am not knocking God!
The problem is that I do not believe that God is a bigot. But if God were a bigot, then I would be against God. I’d have to be, because that would mean he had punished good people for no crime at all. It would mean that he has sent my loved ones to Hell, and if he has done that, then I’ll be honored to go to Hell with them, just as I am honored if I was attacked by al Qaeda.
Making the wretched suffer is not compassion. It is evil. If God (or “Allah”) is evil, then I am against God. People who have put evil words into the mouth of God have failed to convince me that evil is good.
I have a serious problem with the cruelty of some of the moral conservatives. I have long objected to imprisoning people for things which are not crimes at all, such as perceived moral failings, or the crime of self medication. I am horrified that there are people who think Rush Limbaugh deserves a break because he suffered from pain, yet who are wholly unable to allow for the possibility that anyone else might deserve a similar break. If they did, then they would want to get rid of the cruel drug laws which stalk this country like a plague. Instead, they cynically distinguish between Rush Limbaugh and users of “street” drugs, as if that is any distinction at all.
Don’t get me wrong: I have already stated that Rush should not be imprisoned, and I have been criticized for it. What upsets me here is the sheer callousness of saying that only Rush should get a break — but not “street addicts.” (Maybe if some of the critics had to go stand in line day after day at a Methadone clinic they’d get a little more generous with that compassion they reserve for one of their own.)
Arthur Silber recently touched on something which needs to be addressed — and that is the idea of pain.
Before we even get to the idea of the so-called “recreational” use of drugs (ostensibly for “pleasure”), we ought to be clear about what is meant by the term “pain.”
For reasons not entirely clear (perhaps because modern medical science is better able to locate causes for it), physical pain is conventionally thought to be “real” pain, whereas mental or emotional pain is thought to be more ethereal in nature, and less “real.” This is contradicted by science, common sense, and my own personal experience.
In any event, narcotics excel at treating both physical and emotional pain. Indeed, narcotics are better at the latter than at the former, as do not act as direct pain killers; instead they deaden the emotions, and this eases physical pain by allowing the person having pain to not be troubled by it — even as he feels it.
If there is any moral distinction between these two forms of pain, I am at a loss to understand it. In fact, I am not sure the concept of morality even applies. If emotional pain is a moral failing, then why not physical? Why is a crutch or anesthetic permissible for one and not the other? There was no such distinction until the modern drug laws emerged; in Victorian times, many doctors refused to give their patients anesthesia for fear of ruining their character, but no one would have suggested this become a crime.
Pleasure can be the relief from pain — either physical or emotional. Few things are more evil than inflicting pain on someone for trying to escape it. Drug laws do precisely that. To quibble over whether a user was “recreational” makes as much sense as arguing whether an alcoholic began as a “social” drinker or a solitary one.
Religion eases pain too. Communists criminalized religion. Why, Marx himself even called it “the opiate of the masses.”
Some people need opiates as much as others need religion. While it is true that opiates are more tangible than religion, if endorphins are released by the latter, if people are made to feel better by the power of prayer, who is to say that religion is not as effective as opium? Why is comparing religion to opium perceived, ipso facto, as an attack on religion?
By bringing this up, I am in no way attacking religion. In fact, I am arguing that Marx was a cruel man by proposing to take away something that gives pleasure and relieves pain.
It is not even necessary to address the question of God’s existence here.
These are matters of human conscience.
Let us return to the issue of “guilt.” I use that term reservedly, because I don’t think guilt has much to do with the relief of pain or the seeking of pleasure. Once someone is addicted to a drug, the reasons why he started using it are no longer relevant. It makes no sense to argue over whether or not the “fix” he gets from stopping withdrawal symptoms is pleasurable or merely relief from pain. Does anyone care? Relief from pain is pleasure!
Many of the people who defend Rush have been talking about Terri Schiavo. This woman is clearly suffering, and is in a bad way by any standard. Would it matter at all if someone like her were in a vegetative coma because of a drug overdose? If so, why? And, further, would it matter whether that drug overdose resulted from “street” drugs or factory-made drugs like OxyContin? Is the morality of her condition to be determined by whether she first used drugs for pleasure, whether she first used them for relief from pain, or whether she used them as a coping mechanism?
Only if pleasure is evil can these considerations possibly be relevant. Clearly, if one takes pleasure in evil acts, then that pleasure is evil, while if one takes pleasure in good acts, then that pleasure is good. Thus, enjoyment of killing makes a murderer’s pleasure evil, while enjoyment of healing makes a doctor’s pleasure good.
To enjoy the effect of a harmful substance is certainly not a good thing for the person who harms himself. But many people derive enjoyment from the effects of substances like tobacco, alcohol, food — all of which can be harmful. Whether they derive enjoyment from using them is not as important as whether they might ultimately cause harm. If they do, then their use is a health issue. But the fact that they were enjoyed is largely irrelevant. If an alcohol user develops alcoholism or cirrhosis, do we then look to whether he derived pleasure from drinking? Assuming alcohol is evil, is there any difference in relative evil between a “recreational,” one-drink-a-day user and an alcoholic?
Why, then, does whether or not Rush Limbaugh “enjoyed” his drugs take on national urgency? Logically, it would seem that a recreational user of addictive drugs would be someone not addicted. Is he more evil than another user who is addicted? If the initial exposure to a drug occurs in a medical setting, why is the subsequent use or addiction less “evil” than if it occurred in a schoolyard or in a city park, or at home?
I am really trying here, and I find myself unable to make sense of the alleged evil.
Is it possible that some people just want Rush to be a “good” drug user, while keeping the fiction that other users are “bad?” Should a review be done on a case by case basis of all drug prisoners, to determine which ones began their addiction as a result of medical use?
Surely, we don’t want to put people in prison unless they are “bad”….