I’m newly obsessed with Toronto Mayor Chris Farley, who admitted this week in a bizarre press conference that yes, he’s done crack, but only while in a drunken stupor. Yesterday morning, I tweeted this:
If I was doing jail time in Toronto right now for crack, I’d be thinking: What, I’m here, and he gets to be mayor?
That evening, I was waiting at my bus stop, where I do some of my best thinking, and started taking that thought a little further. Our last three presidents – Obama, Bush and Clinton – each confessed to some kind of drug use as young men, although I can’t quite recall if Clinton ever got past the “I didn’t inhale” threshold. But the intent was clearly there. So here we have the three most-recent leaders of the War on Drugs involved in illicit drug use, never having done jail time, going on to high office. As always, that pun was intended.
According to numbers released by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, at the end of 2011 there were 197,050 people in federal prisons, 94,600 of them for drug crimes. Another 1,341,804 were incarcerated by the states, 225,242 for drug offenses. In addition, 992,830 people in this country were on probation for drug use. That means they’d have a tough time finding a good job, buying a house and integrating into society in general.
The hypocrisy here is kind of astonishing.
After Tuesday’s elections in Rochester, we had a new mayor, Lovely Warren. One of the first things she said she’d like to do it take members of the government on a bus tour of the city. That’s not an actual policy idea, just something that could open a few eyes. But only if Warren is the proper tour director. Our leaders need to see the city not from some chartered, comfortable bus, where they can peer out the windows at the poor. They need to ride my No. 1 bus up and down Lake Avenue each day, to and from work, for a week or two. They need to overhear the conversations that I hear. Like the guy who was talking about how he checked himself into rehab because “I don’t want the only daddy my kids to know is dead-eyed daddy.” Our leaders need to see my bus crowded with people who have no hope of ever attaining a life of dignity.
Because there’s a war on the poor.
And because some guys get all of the breaks.