On Monday, Eclectic Society kicked off their political documentary film series with American Drug War: The Last White Hope.
In the film, writer cum director Kevin Booth examines the amalgam of government-backed greed, fear-mongering, and codified racism that characterizes America’s “War on Drugs.” Drawing from an, ahem, eclectic array of subjects (among them former CIA operatives, LAPD narcotics officers, and Freeway Ricky Ross, the crack kingpin who supplied the multiplatinum rap star’s stage name) and his own personal experiences, Booth probes the implications of the synthetic narcotic ‘epidemics’ upon urban communities, prison industries, and federal coffers. While Booth is highly critical (with good reason!) of the government’s role in the drug trade and its persecution of nonviolent offenders, his diatribe against the ills of the establishment feels slightly redundant as I watch the minute hand trickle by. True, the film contains an important message, but one walks away with the sense that the tale could have been told in half of the documentary’s 120 minutes.
I think few can argue that the federal government is not in the habit of surreptitiously starting problems and then loudly endeavoring to solve them (usually with little success). Where in the world is Osama bin Laden these days, after all? Our government’s “War on Drugs” is as potent an example as any of the depth of corruption that has permeated official policy. The findings of the Kerry Committee back in 1989 made crystal-clear the extent of the CIA’s involvement funneling drugs onto American streets. Furthermore, under current law, possession of five grams of crack cocaine guarantees at least a five-year prison sentence. It takes five HUNDRED grams of the powder variety to trigger the same mandatory minimum term. The racial implications of this disparity in sentencing are profound—African-Americans in this country are imprisoned at six times the rate of their white counterparts. I hardly think Americans have the right to slap “Land of the Free” across the bumpers of our gas-guzzling SUVs when we lead the world in incarcerations.
Eclectic Society Presents: Watch & Discuss resumes Monday, November 9th at 7 p.m. with Rosita.