June 07, 2003
From Ranting to RAVEing
....Our Watered Down Freedom
The RAVE Act is more than just another unconstitutional drug law. It is an attack on free speech, on private property, and on freedom of association. I don't take it as personally as I might have ten years ago, and I will try to explain.
Funny how seemingly unrelated life experiences can tie themselves together as you age.
(Okay, so now I get to tell you a little bit about myself, at the risk of appearing a trifle silly and foolish. Otherwise, it's just "a rant without a rave.")
Life had always had its ups and downs, but by age 30, I had settled down into a fairly comfortable law practice where I could set my own hours, with work which was quite tolerable. I had a whole bunch of friends who were wilder than I was, and I always enjoyed encouraging them, because it warded off my own neurotic inability to really relax and have fun. At heart, I am kind of uptight and miserable, and a shrink would most likely say that because I have suffered from clinical depression all my life, I am unable to appreciate what I never had. Fuck them all; my deal was, I just liked giving other people the space to have fun and be themselves, and in that way I could derive vicarious pleasure from making them happy. That always struck me as better than making other people miserable. Once it became a habit, I enjoyed finding depressed people and cheering them up simply to make myself happy.
Would Ayn Rand approve of such "altruism?" I am not sure it was altruism, but for the sake of argument let me concede that it was, and plead guilty to the dreadful sin of altruism.
What I had not counted on was that fucking AIDS virus. It killed twenty of my friends, each irreplaceable, but the first, an ex, was the worst. He developed all your usual opportunistic infections -- one right after the other -- in 1985, and then died in '86. I could not handle it. Practicing law went from being a fun legal exercise into horrid and pointless drudgery. I mean, who cares about straining your brain to help Trucking Company A screw Trucking Company B when the people you love are dying? I wanted to help, I wanted to stop the disease, but I couldn't. The law became an annoyance.
Once it became clear that I was to lose the people I had carefully chosen in order to thwart a life of loneliness, I grew restive and rebellious. What should have been "normal" depression became a desire to do something to level the scales, balance the karma…
Next thing, an opportunity for a night club presented itself. ...
I knew that I shouldn't start a nightclub, but start a nightclub I did. It was incredibly cool -- a surreal, ghoulishly classical design. I built it myself and simply enjoyed being in the place -- particularly when it was closed and no one was in there. Then, it seemed, the ghosts could dance and frolic, and have fun.
The place was packed, and became famous locally. We helped give birth to the local gothic scene, and won the 1993 San Francisco Bay Guardian Best of the Bay Award (for "Best Place to Go Dancing In Black").
Unfortunately, local fame and large crowds did not translate into an ability to pay the $10,000 a month rent. We were always behind with everything and after a three year struggle (with partners dying of AIDS and the IRS about to padlock the place), Thunder Bay breathed its last.
If you really want to hate government, I suggest going into the nightclub business. As an attorney, I considered myself better equipped than most to fend off the bureaucracy, However, the average person would go crazy running a business for three years in the red, with endless bureaucratic hassles including the Health Department, Fire Department, Alcoholic Beverage Control, underage drinkers with ID capable of fooling the CIA, violent rap shows turning into full scale riots, egotistical rock stars, community activists hurling accusations of discrimination, and Federal, State, and local taxing authorities. (All the owner's fault, of course, for being the owner. Such is life.)
So why am I writing about this now? Why relive such a horror after almost ten years?
This fascistic RAVE Act, that's why. I think I must have suffered some form of post traumatic stress when I read about Biden and company's attack on freedom, because I thought, "My God, what if they'd passed this back in 1991?"
My biggest problem as a club owner was that the kids drank water. I was in the business of selling alcohol. Water is free in the bathroom, and cheap as hell in refillable plastic bottles. Imagine how I hated them for drinking water -- ungrateful little brats! I needed to pay my goddamned rent!
Well guess what! Now I could be arrested for selling them water.
(Latin "aqua" -- another substance much in demand in classical times.)
I am absolutely not kidding. Congressional findings state explicitly the intent of the federal government to criminalize water:
"congressional findings" that, according to the Washington Post, declare bottled water, chill rooms and glowsticks to be drug paraphernalia. It also retains the crackhouse law sentencing guidelines: Party organizers whose patrons get busted with drugs can face fines in the millions and up to 20 years in federal prison.
If you think I am making this up, read the story yourself.
While you're at it, by all means read Glenn Reynolds and Dave Kopel's excellent analysis in the far-left, pro-drug National Review Online.
Twenty years for a water crime. Is this supposed to be a free country? Where do they get off, passing such fascist drivel?
As reported by Don Watkins via Arthur Silber and Glenn Reynolds (who deserve great credit for getting the story out as well as activating my Post Traumatic Sress), it is not merely water they want to make a felony: it is FREE SPEECH. That's right; they are using this disgraceful law to stop political benefits the government does not like.
As Don Watkins noted:
In my worst dreams I would never have imagined that the RAVE act would have been used to block speech. I shouldn't have been so naive.
Boy is he right! When water and little glow sticks are made felonies, it is naive not to expect as a logical sequel the criminalization of speech.
But wait. The dead lawyer inside me wants to play Devil's Advocate here.
"Had the founders wanted to protect the right of the citizens to keep and drink water, or to have small plastic sticks which glow in the dark, they would have added an amendment to that effect."
(That's what they say about Drug Laws.)
So why is it that when they wanted to give the federal government power to prohibit alcohol, they had to pass the Eighteenth Amendment?
Glenn Reynolds is right when he says:
I blame Joe Biden -- for sneaking through this abomination -- and Ashcroft's Justice Department, for applying it this way.
End the Culture War now. Restore Classical Values.
(I am getting old. I never thought I would see the day when I would have to advocate such a thing.)
posted by Eric on 06.07.03 at 10:33 PM
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