Re: Drugs R Us

Maggie Jaffe (
Sat, 25 May 1996 12:55:04 -0400

Dear Sixties People:

Eide argues that "The people I know who were into psychedelics [during the
1960s] are either dead, in prison, in mental institutions, or have
renounced their use. It is one thing for a mature, secure Watts or Leary
to take them and describe the effects. Or, for Tart to experiment w/them.
But, to make it a 'life-style' among 20 and 30 years olds is absolute

But Eide presents drug abuse as a universal truth; nevertheless, this
argument is culturally biased. For example, the Huichol Indians in central
Mexico, as well as the Native American Church in the US, imbibe peyote
sacrementally, as a path to greater insight, without detrimental effects.
Steve Pavlik, who teaches American Indian Studies on the Navajo
Reservation, insists that for "perhaps ten thousand years Native Americans
have known and used peyote, eating or drinking it for medicinal purposes
and as a sacrament in religious ceremonies" (30). Furthermore, most "users
report experiencing 'a warm and pleasant euphoria, an agreeable point of
view, relaxation, colorful visual distortions, and a sense of
timelessness'" ("The U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Peyote in Employment
Division v. Smith: A Case Study in Suppression of Native American Religious
Freedom." *Wicazo Sa Review* fall 1992: 30-39).

Is peyote as dangerous as the Supreme Court and DEA claim? Not even the US
courts can agree on this. In 1990 Justice Scalia of the US Supreme Court
upheld Oregon's decision to ban peyote by the Native American Church
(founded by "peyotists" in Oklahoma, 1918). * Employment Division vs.
Smith and Employment Division vs. Black* is a case in point. Both Alfred
Smith and Galen Black were fired from their jobs at the Council on Alcohol
and Drug Abuse Prevention Treatment when word got around that they imbibed
peyote in a religious ceremony. When both men filed for unemployment
compensation in Oregon, their request was denied on the grounds that they
had "broken the law." Similarly, marijuana-based churches like the
Aquarian Brotherhood, Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, and Rastafarians have
also sued for the right to use "herb" in their ceremonies. The US Circuit
of Appeals of the District of Columbia has denied their request as well.
Yet in one of his more "liberal" modes, President Clinton signed the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993) which overturned the Supreme
Court's decision on the illegality of peyote.

True, western culture seems to "worship" death and self destruction, and
the 60s decade was no exception (I'm being reductive here, I know). Which
is way Tim Page, a combat photographer who witnessed the devastation of the
Vietnam War, can say: "Jesus, take the glamour out of war? How the hell
can you do that? You can't take the glamour out of a tank burning or a
helicopter blowing up. It's like trying to take the glamour out of sex.
War is good for you. War has always been glamorous."

Excessive drug use is one of many abuses in US culture, so that choosing
obliteration over insight is encouraged at the same time that is penalized.