Big Doins’ in Juarez

Why We Ought to Think, but Won’t

September 28, 2010

by Fred Reed

Things change. They change. I arrived in Mexico some seven years ago amid dire warnings from all and sundry that I would instantly die of foul disease, trampling by burros, and splashing sanguinary crime. All of this I regarded as nonsense, because it was. The State Department issued travel warnings and similar alarums, but State would regard Massachusetts as hazardous. There was little to fear. Expats traveled at will and walked the streets without concern.

Things change. While crime is hardly epidemic where we live, and in most places mostly involves narcos killing narcos, and takes place mostly away from the agringada regions rife with Americans, these days there is more of it. Before, you could walk home from a watering hole after midnight without worry. Now, no. There’s not a lot of worry, but more than before.

The local people remain as decent as always, small towns tending to be law-abiding everywhere on the planet. The problem is the growing reach of the drug cartels, causing a weakening of the fabric of law. When one variety of violent crime gets out of control, every other kind more easily flourishes.

If Mexico were not next to the world’s most ravening drug market, it would be a corrupt, but functioning and reasonably successful upper Third-World country. If this were not so, Mexico would not have the huge number of American who have come here to retire. But the country cannot withstand a drug business that, by a common figure, brings the traffickers forty billion dollars a year. The money means that the cartels can buy heavier armament than can the government, as well as buy heavier officials on either side of the border. (It is an American conceit that corruption exists only in other countries. Tell me another story, Grandpa.)

It is getting out of hand. The killing of policemen, judges, and mayors is now common. Journalists die in droves. After the murder of another of its reporters, El Diario, the major paper of Ciudad Juarez, published the following editorial, addressed to the drug lords:

“We bring to your attention that we are communicators, not mind-readers. Therefore, as workers in information, we want you to explain to us what you want of us, what you want us to publish or stop publioshing, what we must do for our security.”

“These days, you are the de-facto authority in the city, because the legally instituted authorities have been able to do nothing to keep our co-workers from continuing to fall, although we have repeatedly asked this of you. Consequently, facing this undeniable fact, we direct ourselves to you, because the last thing we want is that you shoot to death another of our colleagues.”

This is astonishing. It is worse. A blue whale singing Aida would be merely astonishing, but here we have the editors of the major newspaper of a substantial city stating candidly, with perfect clarity, that the narcotraficantes, not the national government, exercise sovreignty over the city. The federal government understandably denounced the editorial. No capital wants to be told that it does not control its territory. But this is exactly what the paper said.

Why is this happening? The root of the chain of causation is plain enough: that Americans want drugs, want them intensely, at almost any price — but the federal government doesn’t want Americans to have drugs. Lots of gringos want dope: We are not talking of a few ghetto-blasted crack-heads and William Burroughs types sticking needles in their arms in rat-infested alleys. These don’t have forty billion dollars. The users are college students, high-school kids, Ivy League profs, pricey lawyers, Congressmen, bus drivers, cosmetologists, and American presidents (though they don’t inhale). All God’s chillun wants drugs. Or at least enough of them do to make fortunes for those who sell the stuff.

Let’s admit it: Americans are drug-mad. Legal, illegal, smokable, injectable, edible—hit don’t matter. They would inject plaster of paris if nothing better were available. When I was in Washington, at least half—at the very least, half—of the single women I knew for whom the clock ticked were on lithium, Depacote, Prozac, Xanax, Zoloft, all the gobbled M&Ms of the quietly unhappy. Shrinks regularly prescribed drugs for high-school girls miserable over divorce and uncertainty. Boys were forced to take Ritalin. My parents generation survived on Miltown and Equanil. In the Sixties, hippies took drugs. Now it’s everybody. We have democratized chemistry.

But Mother Washington doesn’t want Americans to have drugs. Nor does it want to imprison half of Yale for “droppin,’ poppin,’ and tokin’,” as we once said. In effect the feds protect the consumption (through low penalties and slight likelihood of being caught) while penalizing the sale, thus keeping prices high.

The War on Drugs is of course a farce, having accomplished less than nothing over a half-century. Somewhere the other day I saw a story saying that consumption in the US has just risen by seven percent. This is not surprising since, as a society decays, the escape market prospers. And, despite excited hype about having killed this or that drug lord, there is no hope, no hope at all, of eliminating a business that lets impoverished third-worlders drive BMWs.

None of this would matter if it weren’t causing copious bloodshed in countries like Mexico, and threatening the anarchy that is often called “destabilization.” Absent this creeping hecatomb clotting in the streets, everyone would be happy. The narcos would get their money, consumers their drugs, officials their bribes, and DEA types their salaries. All good. But the bloodshed exists.

Intelligent Mexicans of sound mind, to the extent that humans can approximate the condition, worry that all hell may break loose. Not “will,” but “may.” There is a sense here, as there is in the United States, that something is wrong, and that something will hapen. Mexico cannot defeat the traficantes. These are bad, bad boys, willing to ambush police convoys, kill federal judges, and rule towns. By comparison the Italian Mafia was a basket of puppies.

The US had better think about what it wants on its borders. As long as drugs are illegal, they will flow and the gringos will buy and the narcos will roll in dough. Nothing will stop or impede this. American colonels with steely gaze and firm handshakes and the comprehension of flatworms have told me that the Merida Initiative will rid Mexico of corruption, and then the Federales will clean house on the narcos. Is there an adult in the house?

I understand that Americans have no interest in Mexico other than to give jobs to illegals and then complain that they have them. And of course to buy drugs and then complain that Mexicans sell them. But a bit of attention, even of realism, might have its virtues. Afghanistan is somewhere else. Mexico isn’t.

© Copyright 2010 Fred Reed

9 Responses to Big Doins’ in Juarez

  1. Cheri says:

    Very thoughtful article to this point: ” As long as drugs are illegal, they will flow and the gringos will buy and the narcos will roll in dough. Nothing will stop or impede this.” You don’t address it, but the suggestion is that if drugs were legal all the bad stuff would go away. Hogwash. I am not defending current policy, but I know there is no tooth fairy. The consequence of “legalizing” drugs will be as costly and would be “democratizing” the suffering.
    People and families that would have been considered “decent” generations passed no longer are. They participate in debauchery with gusto, Paris Hilton, The Kennedy’s and the Bushes. This quest for diversion, escape and illicit pleasures is the CAUSE, not the line that is drawn in people’s best interest and protection. It IS the function of Governments, to support a societal structure supporting the healthful and future/life sustaining endeavors. The current trend of mitigating the consequences for individual misdeeds is ruining this country. You don’t encourage lawfulness, by reducing laws. That is absurd. Believable and quietly hoped for by drug user JUSTIFYING their behavior or that on a loved one. The current belief that the individual is “sick” is BS. They are sick now because of drug use. While it is their choice to squander their life, when they can’t eat from failure to work, too bad. When their children are uneducated, too bad. I did what I was supposed to do. I am tired of carry self indulgent louts. I would wipe out drug cartel’s, and put even misdemeanor marijuana offender’s in drug work camps! If they carried more than their weight for a while, they would get it. LACK of proportional consequence and easy money is what drives the drug trade, not common sense denouncement.

    • dumpdc says:

      Dear Cheri-

      Remember Prohibition? America tried banning alcohol for 13 years and the experiment failed miserably. The Drug War is no different. Alcohol and drugs both alter human consciousness. Some like their consciousness altered. Those who abuse these substances suffer the consequences, even death. I agree with you that people desire drugs, although I don’t agree that their desires are all founded in debauchery, diversion, escape or illicit pleasure. I desire the drug alcohol occasionally in the form of Wild Turkey on the rocks, but only for relaxation. It is NOT the function of government to interfere in the individual choices of its citizens. And you’re right…government mitigating people’s misdeeds is bankrupting the nation.

      Legalizing “drugs”…whatever that means…is simply an acknowledgment of the realities of individual freedom and the free market. Individuals should have an unimpeded right to ingest whatever substance they choose to ingest, but with that liberty comes the consequence of responsibility for the outcomes. If any individual ingests any drug, and does not cause harm to any other person, where is the moral, legal or ethical breech? Now, if that individual harms another person, there should be a remedy for the victim. But the drug-taker is not a victim. And, if he harms himself, society should not be forced to pay for his medical care. Ingesting any substance should be the right of any adult. Drug laws only create an illegal demand, and all the horror that comes with supplying that demand. Drug cartels would evaporate if drugs were produced legally. Think about it. How many booze cartels are there today? NONE. Try to be more charitable toward your fellow man, Cheri, and provide him with MORE freedom, not more prison time.

  2. Beautifully said, Russell, and right all down the line. It is not possible to “win” wars against abstractions. Every attempt in the last century has demonstrated that it is not possible to stop drinking or smoking (whatever) short of killing all caught doing the banned activity. It is not possible to make war on poverty or illiteracy. The more government activity and tax money are involved the worse the incidence of each of those became, and increasing intrusion into the behavior of individuals has other deleterious effects. For example, in 1955 the black illegitimacy rate was 25% and that of whites, 5%. There weren’t any figures for Hispanics because there weren’t that many of them. Today the illegitimacy among white babies is 25% and blacks are running over 80% bastards, that being the technical term for the children of unwed mothers. “Why” in large part is because the government chose to support far more lavishly than they would have us believe the unwed mothers and their offspring…starting at the most irrational point in most lives. Tired of school? Mother on your case all the time? Get pregnant, and Uncle Sugar will provide you with an apartment, food, utilities, medical care, and cash money, wahoo. Kids bored with the dumbed down increasingly regimented schools? No problem, label ’em “ADD,” drug them with Ritalin, and give the school a nice bonus for each child thus stigmatized. So what if ever study ever done shows NO lasting benefit from Project Head Start, keep shoveling money at it because it feels good to spend money and pretend something is being accomplished.

    Sorry, Cheri, but you are wrong: it is NOT the function of government to decide which activities are healthful and life-sustaining, far less to wrest money from citizens to pay for their idiotic ideas. A major reason children are less fit is that they are no longer allowed the sort of recess which involves any sort of physical activity. Run? Goodness, they might fall down. Play Red Rover? Horrors! Antisocial behavior and violence.

    One question should cross the minds of all of us: just when WILL we have enough laws?

  3. Cheri says:

    Ah, then we would have a “Brave New World”.

  4. Cheri says:

    DumpDC and Linda,

    OK,so I have read more of your site and have a better understanding of where you are coming from. As Linda knows, I live in CA. CA suffers more from the use of drugs than from the “trafficking”-excluding wasted government resources in my opinion. If you are establishing something new, with a relatively responsible populace, I can live with your argument. I do view the “legalization” of marijuana in CA as a death nail. A more drugged populace escaping reality more often sans repercussions is not going to wake up and effectively resist government oppression. If they are getting what they want, why fight? Even if they had the will. That view and lack of time was the purpose of the” Brave New World” comment, better living through chemistry…oh, was I typing something?
    We do have too many convoluted laws. The problem with realism, is the standard is adjusted based on outcome. Look at CA public school-They dropped standards bit by bit to allow poor performing students to experience “good grades” hoping it would motivate them and elevate their self esteem. After years of plummeting results, CA has finely started to implement higher standards in some public (charter) schools. Most people don’t break a law because it is there, those that do will no matter how few you have. With the absence of morals (Societal standards of behavior) law becomes the BOTTOM line. How many times have you heard someone reply to your advice of “you shouldn’t do that” with “there’s no law against it.”

    The price of freedom is constant alertness and willingness to fight back.


    • dumpdc says:

      The Drug War is not a moral issue. Prohibition was not a moral issue. It is an individual liberty issue, and that issue includes freedom and responsibility. Every individual should be free to ingest whatever substance they choose, and be 100% responsible for any and all consequences. Government wants to control and subjugate, and that is what the Drug War does.


  5. Cheri says:

    How is “100% responsible for any and all consequences” remediated?


    • dumpdc says:

      Cheri- 100% responsible is when a person is required to make full restitution when he causes injury or damages to another. 100% responsible is when a person does not receive medical care unless he pays for it himself…that is, unless some charity chooses to provide that medical care. That means that society allows people to make choices that could result in their own death without interfering in their choices. So, the drug addict should be allowed to live or die by his own choice.

      • Poor Cheri. The dear girl needs to get some history on her side. In this case, history is not Cheri’s friend. Problem is history tells us that prohibition has not, does not and will not work.

        From Wikipedia: “While Prohibition was successful in reducing the amount of liquor consumed, it tended to destroy society by other means, as it stimulated the proliferation of rampant underground, organized and widespread criminal activity.” OOPS!!

        Think about it, on January 15, 1920 a neighborhood bar owner selling a drink to a customer was performing a legal act. On January 16th, that same bar owner serving another drink to the same customer was guilty of violating Federal (and probably State) law. Government, in their infinite stupidity magically created criminals, out of thin air. The drug laws are exactly the same.

        In 1932, wealthy industrialist John D. Rockefeller stated in a letter:

        “When Prohibition was introduced, I hoped that it would be widely supported by public opinion and the day would soon come when the evil effects of alcohol would be recognized. I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe that this has not been the result. Instead, drinking has generally increased; the speakeasy has replaced the saloon; a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared; many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition; respect for the law has been greatly lessened; and crime has increased to a level never seen before.”

        Sound familiar? Old John D. had it right, and it applies directly to the current prohibition on drugs in general and marijuana in particular. The truth hurts, don’t it!

        I’m 59 years old. I occasionally enjoy a touch of the noble herb, but never before or at work. That’s just dumb. I don’t have it every day, or every week, or every month, or even every year. I treat alcohol the same way. Most of the folks that I know who use marijuana are just like me. By her standards I (we) should be locked up and have the key thrown away. Why? Do I sound like a criminal, act like a criminal, or talk like a criminal? The government says I am. By what right do they make that determination? By what right do YOU make that determination. Why am I considered a criminal for relaxing at the end of a hard day, in the privacy of my own home, with a joint instead of a drink? Think about the power that gives to all levels of government. Think about the rape of our liberty that the current drug laws foster.

        One of the greatest freedoms we have as individuals is the freedom to make decisions for ourselves, even if it means those decisions lead to failure.

        Cheri has a lot of learning to do if she ever hopes to be free.

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