So I went to the Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-16) town hall event this evening at the Veterans Memorial Hall in Rockford, Illinois and I was not impressed. There were eight speakers, the aforementioned Congressman, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-17), mayor Larry Morrissey of Rockford, FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Steve Jensen, Rockford Chief of Police Daniel O’Shea, Deputy Chief at Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office Mark Karner, and Executive Director of Transform Rockford Mike Schablaske, and a representative from the local DEA office whose name I cannot remember. In the audience were several members of the Rockford city council, a few county board members, several candidates for local office (including me of course) and a few movers and shakers in and around the region.
Each of the people on stage was given the chance to speak. Some spoke for a couple minutes, a couple spoke for nearly ten minutes, and the only one to say anything even remotely close speaking on what truly ails our community was Mr. Schablaske. Even then, his was a brief mention about single mom’s and dad’s having to work two or three jobs and as a result can hardly be home to watch their children. There was one good moment from Mr. Jensen if I recall correctly where he touched on how he believes small time criminals of the younger persuasion should not be arrested, but instead be brought before the parents with offers of finding outreach programs for the child meant to lead these younger people away from future criminal problems. I agree.
Every single speaker touched on all the well known propaganda used against drugs the last several decades. From everything that had to do with how drugs are destroying our communities. How drugs are gateways to crime. Drugs are poison. How petty crime to pay for the next “high” leads to more violent crimes. I do wholly agree that drugs are a problem and many are poison (more on that in a minute) but drugs by themselves are not the cause of our societal problems! That would be a very weak economy, a minimum wage that doesn’t allow for a livable wage, high unemployment, laws which attack the symptoms but practically ignore the disease, and a lack of funding for intervention and rehabilitation.
I am of the personal belief that if only the natural from the Earth drugs (cocaine, marijuana, and mushrooms) had been legal this whole time all those poisonous drugs (meth, LSD, crack) would never have existed in the first place. If drugs were legal once again, those poisonous drugs would slowly lose their luster with users once natural drugs were legalized. Seems to me drugs are only illegal for two main reasons: 1) certain people like using the power of government to force their personal moral codes upon the rest of us and 2) pharmaceutical companies prefer it this way. Locally speaking, Winnebago county can decide to decriminalize marijuana, cocaine, and mushrooms if it wanted to. We already have medical marijuana, which is a step in the right direction, but we can do better.
Anyways, back to the town hall. At one point Mr Jensen and the DEA rep talked about how gangs are and how the mafia used to be a major problem. To be sure they aren’t wrong. The problem I had was their lack of history on how the mafia then and gangs today had/have become so powerful. Like drugs today which has lead to an increase in the strength and scope of gangs and cartels, alcohol once upon a time was illegal during Prohibition, a failed experiment that led directly to the rise of the mafia. One would think at least one of these speakers would have mentioned the possibility of the decriminalization of drugs? Because once Prohibition was ended, the mafia lost lots of power and went in other illegal directions, like loan sharking and gambling. But that’s another possible blog post. I think its easy to conclude the decriminalization, if not outright ending of the wasteful “war on drugs” needs to come to a screeching halt! Legalize, tax, and regulate the natural drugs of the Earth. Let people enjoy the freedom to choose to take or not take drugs without fear of arrest and simply tag to drugs use the same restrictions as we do drinking alcohol. Not only will this expand people’s freedom, but will allow the police aim their sights on being the protectors of society instead of its watchdog. Of course demilitarizing our police departments would be necessary.
Several written questions from the audience, including one from me were submitted. Of the approximately thirty questions submitted, six were read out loud. Not surprisingly, none of them dealt with the systemic problems we face where criminal justice and drugs are concerned. They were questions which only served to assume its the breakdown of the family unit and things about religious or faith based groups having a broader say. Not one of them even hinted to how a job could help end a lot of crime. How commuting prison sentences for non-violent offenders and cleansing these people’s records will help those people get on with their lives. How Colorado and Washington got it right with the legalization of marijuana and how both states have more revenue than they know what to do with. Among so much that could have been talked about but wasn’t.
My question, as you may have guessed asked about the possibility of decriminalizing drugs, pardoning the sentences of non-violent “offenders”, and doing something to stem the rise of for-profit private prisons. My question was never read aloud. Ah well, I tried. Right toward the very end (this event started at 5:30 and ended at 7pm) someone in the audience finally had had enough. No, it was not me. Although I wish it had been. But I digress … so this person finally mentioned how the unemployment rate for the black community in Rockford is near 60% and how could it be that none of the speakers tried to tie in that reality to the current rise in crime? But before the guy finished speaking his piece, Adam Kinzinger, our oh so courageous Congressman decided to notice the clock was a minute past 7pm and the event was brought to a close with that young man’s comment and question completely ignored. Shocking I know.
We have a lot of work ahead of us folks …