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David Brooks, You Are a Silly Man

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Sometimes I have a bit of trouble when I am reading the news telling the difference between what is serious and what is satire. I typically know sarcasm when I see it, but there are some moments and today, I had one. Reading David Brooks' New York Times article, Weed. Been There. Done That. was like Christmas, really. It reads like a coded message, "don't we look old and irrelevant."

Brook s begins his statement against marijuana with a vague recollection of when he was a weed-smoking teenager (I can't say stoner because he was never one of those people ). He admits, " It was fun. I have some fond memories of us all being silly together," and states his belief that "those moments of uninhibited frolic deepened our friendships." Then he goes on to classify this experience as just one of the many stupid things teenagers do and blames marijuana use for "a few embarrassing incidents" which he and his friends had dealt with. Well, I don't know about you, but I am waiting for the videos to surface.

Brooks does more, however, than just reminisce about fond memories of drug-addled silliness; he goes on to warn of the negative effects of the marijuana drug:


"...that it is addictive in about one in six teenagers; that smoking and driving is a good way to get yourself killed; that young people who smoke go on to suffer I.Q. loss and perform worse on other cognitive tests."

Haha!  Oh, you're serious... Right. There are no links or references to any evidence of any of these claims, except maybe in the film Reefer Madness . It might be the laziest anti-weed propaganda I have ever seen, actually (since Reefer Madness ). He claims to have "aged out" of smoking marijuana "like the vast majority of people who try drugs." How nice that he just knows for a fact that he has the same exact attitude toward drugs as the "vast majority of people" who have ever "tried" them (you know, whatever that means).

It is for these reason that Brooks does not advocate for the legalization of marijuana -- because he did some dumb things as a kid when he was stoned, he thinks that this perfectly natural plant, which has been at the heart of human spirituality, medicine and culture for centuries , is harmful and addictive ( Yeah, about that ), and because he became a square. Brooks feels that it is the responsibility of the government to encourage certain behaviors in its people and discourage others, stating:

"Laws profoundly mold culture, so what sort of community do we want our laws to nurture? What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage? I'd say that in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship. In those societies, government subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned."

The implication here is that people should be punished for engaging in behaviors that the government finds unsuitable (or, it seems, that Brooks himself finds to be beneath him) . That, perhaps, the overcrowding in jails and prisons due to extraneous drug charges and the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in general and young black men specifically are all justified because those people chose to associate themselves with the scourge that is marijuana. Really? Yeah, go on with your privilege, old man. And while you're at it, read this. Legalization will not "encourage lesser pleasures," as if anybody has the right to decide what "pleasures" are lesser or greater than others, it can only solve some very fundamental problems in this society which are, believe it or not, directly caused by prohibition.

I must say, though, thank you David Brooks for making me laugh today. My life is always better when I am reminded that somewhere, for some reason, there is al ways an old rich white man about to say some silly sh*t.

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A recent graduate from Flagler College, Jesse Ruth has been working as a freelance writer since April, 2013. Jesse is a GLBTQ activist who identifies as genderqueer or agender and prefers (more...)

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