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Joe Biden: Dancing With the Sausage maker

By       Message John Grant     Permalink
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Biden pushed for mandatory minimum sentences and the creation of a cabinet-level "drug czar." It was sometimes rocky going, but in the end he got what he wanted. However, the "landmark" 1984 crime bill was such a grotesquely slapped-together knockwurst that it contained a significant amount of rotten meat. One example was a forfeiture scheme that allowed law enforcement agencies across the nation to benefit financially by seizing the property of "accused" drug criminals. Gest cites "a string of horror stories" of agents padding their institutional coffers by confiscating the homes and cars of people who were eventually acquitted of the crime charged. None of this confiscated wealth was ever returned. It was 16 years before this egregious section was altered.

Until I read Gest, I did not realize how deeply Joe Biden was invested in the drug war when I asked him what he thought of de-criminalizing drugs. Now it makes sense why he answered the way he did. I was a nobody and my question was a direct threat to what he was selling and what he'd made his name doing. I had to be swatted like a fly.

The psychoanalyst writer James Hillman writes that "The craving for new ideas and for intellectual skills to deal with the constraining effects of unthought ideas is a deep hunger in the American soul." (You may have to read that over a couple more times.) What Hillman seems to be suggesting is that for someone like Senator Biden, a powerful man deeply invested in the militarization and criminalization of the nation's drug problem, the idea of de-criminalizing drugs and how that might actually be a step toward sanity is, in his case, a willfully unthought idea possibly constraining us from positive change. The good doctor might question whether someone like Senator Biden secretly hungers to develop the skills to engage with such an idea. But I don't have a license to pursue that kind of question.

One thing is certain, Hillman is the antithesis of a post-9/11 sausage-maker. He sees the obsession with security, force and control as "inertia of the spirit, a passivity that feels no vocation and shies from imaginative vision, adventurous thinking and intellectual clarification. That we imagine ourselves today as a nation of victims attests to a vacuum in the spirit of the nation. These are symptoms of the soul in search of clarity." (From Kinds of Power: A Guide to Its Intelligent Uses by James Hillman.)

Mark Twain understood the corruption endemic to our legislative bodies, and he accordingly recognized that making laws is not always a pretty business. But that doesn't mean our laws have to be nasty-smelling things forged out of corrupt back-room deals designed to bamboozle tax payers. The only reason the current struggles are so vile is that there is so much secrecy and dishonesty focused on sustaining an American imperial militarism around the world. This militarism, as happens in all cases of declining empire, eats resources that might maintain the nation's crumbling infrastructure, provide for the social needs of American citizens and the general welfare of the homeland. It's that simple.

Clarity should be possible. And if there's a lack of clarity, no one is more to blame than those citizens who hold the likes of likable ol' Joe Biden up on a pedestal.

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I'm a 68-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old kid. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and (more...)

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