Believe it or not, back in 1969, Nixon did something right.
He didn't just launch the fiasco of the ‘War on Drugs,’ he started a treatment-in-lieu-of-prison option for those who were caught using drugs [though not those who sold them]. And he gave the treatment programs wide latitude to develop their own approaches to the ‘problem’.
The fact that he probably added the treatment option because, for the first time, lots of middle-class kids were running into the drug culture doesn’t change the fact that the funding of the treatment option did a lot of good. How much good depended, of course, on the effectiveness of the respective programs.
In 1972, I voluntarily entered one such program called Renaissance West [Rennis]. It was a ‘year-long’ program [people could graduate successfully anywhere from 6 to 18 months after entering—as assessed by the individual, the staff and the ‘family members’ within the program]. And the focus was not on drug use.
Instead, it concentrated on the fact that the lives of clients involved in the live-in, commune-like program were out of control and they had engaged in a form of self-medication in order to make their lives tolerable.
In-depth therapy was practiced and, in fact, the entire program, from house cleaning to meals to the development of personal support systems to the group therapy sessions themselves were used to address the issue of building more effective lives for ourselves.
A learning center was included and clients who wished to do so could pursue any courses of study they chose. I picked classes on astrology, creative writing and psychology. A student from the University of Missouri at Kansas City taught several pupils in the writing course and a professor taught the psychology class in which I was the only student.
After I graduated from Rennis, I wanted to go back to college. I had flunked out twice before and when I applied, UMKC refused me entry. I solicited letters of recommendation from the directors of the program and that psychology professor who had been teaching me for the last several months. In fact, I wrote the letters and they signed them. Based on those letters, I was accepted on probation.
I was the first graduate from Rennis to enter college and I felt the full weight resting on my shoulders. If I didn’t succeed it would reflect badly on the program and on the people who had helped me get in. I HAD to do well.
During the course of our history, if a White president did a bad job, he was judged as an individual. The next person we elected was also a White Male—because that’s just what we did.
But, things are different now. For the first time, we have departed from our standard operating procedure. We have elected a type of person who is ‘different’ from our norm. [No, he’s not really different, but he is perceived as different—and that’s what matters.]
Odds are, we wouldn’t have done this if Bush/Cheney had been even remotely competent. They weren’t and, as a result, the people of this country, collectively, made history.
And Obama is in exactly the same position I was in in 1973 when I walked into my first class at UMKC. If I did well, I opened the door for other clients of Renaissance West. If I did poorly, I slammed that door in their faces. It was that simple.
Obama is what? 48 years old? I was only 25 and I recognized the fact people who I might never meet but who might attempt to follow me from Rennis to college could be adversely affected by my actions.
Doesn’t Obama realize the plain reality that, if he keeps flip-flopping, reneging on his promises, alienating the people who elected him, screwing up generally, he will close the door of the Oval Office to any person who follows him who is not a White Male?
OK. Maybe it's not so bad.
I know I'm flip-flopping myself—in fact, I'm starting to experience whiplash.
Today I saw a clip of Obama's press release during which he said he will fight the publishing of the torture photos. I hadn't, before, heard the argument that releasing them might hamper future investigations of the torture and the people who instigated it as well as those who carried it out.
OK, then. That's an argument I can understand and believe in. If they might drive the whistle blowers back into the closet—keep the pics close to your vest. So long as the reason for withholding them isn't to keep the torture as secret as it still can be kept, I'm OK with that.
I just wish he had thought this argument through before he made the initial announcement that he would release them. If he keeps doing these switch-backs he'll do neither the nation nor himself any good.