Re: Just Say Yes

Maggie Jaffe (
Wed, 1 May 1996 14:02:50 -0400

Dear Sixties People:

Andi writes: I have been increasingly bothered by the number of
inquiries to the list by students all of whom seem to want to talk about
the drugs we all took. The image students are getting is worrisome. I
thought I was the only person getting irritated at the overwhelming focus
on drugs that appear in the requests we have seen here. The fact that our
serious struggles are not what's getting the focus is terrible. . . .

If I may speak for the young people on the list, they came of age when drug
use was almost pathologically taboo. Think of Nancy and Ronald Reagan's
"Just Say No" domestic anti-drug policy and the "war on drugs" abroad. In
fact, the war on drugs replaced the war on the communism to a considerable
extent. For this reason, General Maxwell D. Thurman, who planned the
Panama Invasion, summed up the U.S.'s foreign policy this way: "the Latin
American drug war is the only war we've got" (Gibson *Warrior Dreams* 291).

Unlike Andi, I'm surprised that there is *not* more focus on drugs on this
list, since so many people sincerely believed that drugs were the catalyst
for personal change. But what do we mean by drugs? heroin? grass? hash?
Certainly, mainstream culture perceived drug use as a statement against the
Vietnam War. Even Oliver Stone's *Platoon* presents dope-smokers as
anti-war and communal, rather than competitive. The juicers are
militaristic, racist and crudely sexist. And this reductive dichotomy
between heads and juicers mirrors the representations of the good-bad
sergeants, Elias and Barnes. In reality, heads might sip a cold brew,
while juicers might toke "dew."

In its typical chop logic, the military not only equated marijuana use with
"peaceniks" but with crazed "baby killers" as well. In an attempt to
demonize marijuana use, the Criminal Investigation Division (C.I.D.) of the
Army interrogated the soldiers of Charlie Company about the use of the drug
before and during the My Lai Massacre: "The C.I.D. interviewed more than
seventy-five witnesses by November 26,
1969. Many of them recalled being asked about the use of marijuana in
Charlie Company; that question seemed of special interest to the
investigators. The GIs all acknowledged that many members of the company
smoked or otherwise made use of marijuana, which is plentiful
in South Vietnam, but none believed it was in any way a significant factor
in what happened at My Lai 4" (Seymour Hersh *My Lai Massacre *121).

In Ronald Siegel's *Intoxication: Life in Pursuit of Artificial Paradise*,
Siegel, a well-known pharmacologist, maintains that "throughout our entire
history as a species, intoxication functioned like the basic drives of
hunger, thirst or sex, sometimes overshadowing all other activities in
life. *Intoxication is the fourth drive" *(10). Siegel is no blissed-out
hippie. He cites humans' capacity to abuse drugs when given the chance,
for profit or euphoria. According to *Intoxication*, humans watched
animals chew coca leaves to neutralize some of the symptoms of altitude
sickness in the oxygen-depleted region of the altiplano in Peru and
Bolivia. Unlike animals, humans had the wherewithal to take the relatively
benign leaves and process them into deadly crack cocaine. His book
grudgingly admits that intoxication is an overwhelming urge, but if we
accepted instead of repressed that, it might be possible to maintain some
self-control. But why do we as a culture find mild euphoria so

Interestingly, from the beginning of America's history, drug use versus
alcohol was a source of conflict, since Euro-American suppression of Indian
"smoke" had its genesis in one of the first "encounters" between Europeans
and Taino Indians (named the "gentlest of people" by Columbus). During
Columbus's war party in 1503, his "lieutenant," Nicolas de Ovando, and his
men, were feted by Anacaona, the Queen of Hispaniola (which is the
present-day island of Haiti and the Dominican Republic). There, the
soldiers might have witnessed the ceremonial imbibing of *cohoba*, a
powerful hallucinogenic herb. Historians do not say whether the
Conquistadors "inhaled"-they most likely preferred their own conventional
table wine-but history does record that the village was ransacked for gold,
almost all Tainos were burned alive, including Anacaona's brother, and she
herself was hanged for sedition.

Finally, in the movie *Sex, Drugs & Democracy* the chief of police of
Amsterdam believes that hash and grass use, which is decriminalized there,
is actually a "wall" against more addictive drugs. He also feels that
heroin should be decriminalized as well. His way of thinking is that
people will abuse restricted substances more.

Sorry for this long rambling discourse. I'll end now. I'm going to get
high. No, it might interfere with my anti-depressant-no highs, no lows,
just an overwhelming urge to work.