Monday, September 22, 2008

on the josh howard madness and all appropriate corollaries.

Josh Howard is a basketball player. Some people say he's the best player on the Dallas Mavericks team. Other people say he's the most important player on the Dallas Mavericks team.

Some people say that he's got no sense of humor and...hey, maybe he shouldn't be on any team. Simply because he's said some things that others disagree with.

For examples of what he said at different times, see this chronological timeline:

He dared to admit that people (among them, NBA players) smoked weed every once in a while. (Daring, I know, when Presidential candidates admit they've done it.)

Then he did a bad thing that almost everyone else does - he sped. (We have a guy like this in ABQ. I know he should be in trouble seems like he never is.)

And lastly, he was pretty much a dick while the Star Spangled Banner was playing. Yep. Exhibiting free speech. A pretty dastardly thing.

As always, when I'm dealing with basketball news, Joey over at Straight Bangin' has done a better job summing up most of the major points and FreeDarko is right behind him, expanding on what we already know, in addition to getting all the good stuff that we want to talk about.

Let's be clear...this is a racial thing, because the USA is a racial country. (And yes, that statement sounds ridiculous in its obviousness, but while I was tempted to say "racist country" I don't want to get that far...yet.) Basketball, in particular, is a racially-tinged hobby/pastime/sport/obsession for those people who choose to love it more than America's beloved football. To deny these facts is to deny reality.

At the beginning of this month, Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur were caught with weed at an NBA transitional camp. Except that...since then...well, it's gotten more complicated. Michael Beasley was fined well and no one's been able to really say what that something was, in all honesty. The last official word is that the men (boys?) were kicked out of camp for having women in their room, which is a violation of camp rules. Which is understandable... For 12 year olds at summer camp. This is supposed to be a camp that teaches NBA players how to deal with the rigors of NBA life? I'd say the NBA is fooling themselves if they think women, much less weed, won't be a normal part of these men's lives.

(For what it's worth, as just a quick sidenote here: Sports Night is maybe one of the best shows ever created. Aaron Sorkin is a genius, and my Mom is my hero for getting me into that show. If you ever need to prove a powerful point, a Sorkin show probably has done it in superbly dialogued form already for you. Love you, Mom.)

It's obvious that drugs are a destructive force on our society. Beyond the pale of the obvious, the people who get hooked on those drugs, the further ramifications of the drug industry and trade are well-documented and we're all familiar with the dangers of those ramifications. However, it is also my opinion that if one added up all the deaths, arrests, and monies spent on the Drug War and its various subsidiaries, one would be amazed to see how much worse things are now than they were even in Prohibition - a time that's looked back at now as shockingly violent.

So the question becomes...what to do about all this? Not how does it all tie together, because I think it's rather pathetically obvious how it does, but what is to be done? How can this be solved? It's my rather simplistic breakdown of Democrats and Republicans that leads me to a conundrum: at their most basic, I've always thought, Democrats look at something that's working, whether it's working well or not, and say, "Can it be done better?" If the answer is yes, they want to try to do so, no matter what. Republicans, on the other hand, look at something, and if it's working well enough, say, "It's working well enough. Leave it alone."

With this in mind, I say now that the Drug War, as is, is not working. Therefore, it is my position as a liberal progressive to say that we should fix this. However it can be done, we need to fix this.

However, it is also my opinion that one of the major reasons why Prohibition failed so spectacularly is that Americans are not particularly into the idea of vast, expansive changes all at once. Gradual change over a certain course of time is something that we've relatively mastered, but when we try to change things too suddenly, it just doesn't work. (There's a lot more in here about basketball, racism, Jim Crow laws, etc.) So, what can be done to avoid the reverse-Prohibition badness of just suddenly throwing a switch and legalizing all kinds of things that are currently illegal? Will studies help? Will there be distinctions between so-called lesser drugs (marijuana, obviously, but what else? Is acid a lesser drug? What about cocaine?) and the acknowledged heavier ones? (Who would argue that crack or heroin should be legalized?) What can be done to solve this problem? Because it should be universally acknowledged: the way we're approaching it now isn't working.

Our rights to free speech trump a lot of other things in this country. When that stops being true, we'll know we have to worry. But until it's not true, we have a responsibility to push a real dialogue on people who are capable of real thought at any time possible. I just think it's sad that it takes Josh Howard, a basketball player, saying something as ridiculous as, "I don't celebrate that shit. I'm black," to get people really involved in what has become readily apparent to even the most casual basketball fan over the last decade or so. The intersections of race, racism, drugs, culture and the culture of the Drug War appear to be coming to a head. Here's to hoping cooler heads prevail and we get a dialogue out of this, as opposed to reactionary-ism.

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