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Gretchen Burns Bergman

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The Silent But Deadly War on Drugs

Posted: 09/04/2012 8:37 am

The War on Drugs, which began the year that my first son was born, has wreaked havoc on our families for over 40 years, because it isn't really a war against drugs. It is a war against our own people, and it has stealthily eaten away at the fabric of our lives for decades.

These punitive and discriminatory drug war strategies have resulted in mass arrest and incarceration and fueled unspeakable violence. One in 100 American adults are behind bars, and drugs are now cheaper, more potent and more available than ever before.

The drug war not only destroys the lives and liberties of people in the United States, but it
has ignited violence and corruption in our neighboring Latin American countries as well. In Mexico, over 60,000 have died from drug war violence in the past few years.

Because of the war on drugs, fathers are absent from many neighborhoods and mothers are behind bars in shocking numbers, as well. While dollars spent on education are dwindling and our school systems are crumbling, who is taking care of those children when they get home?

Mothers cry out to end the destruction for the sake of our children, but no one listens. Their voices drown in a sea of apathy.

Ex-cops, who understand the value of the title "peace keepers," speak out to stop the violence and senseless punitive incarceration, but they are rejected as traitors to the prison industrial complex.

Concerned citizens who value human dignity and a system of justice for all speak out, however they are muted by war mongers who, despite facts and studies to the contrary, insist that to be soft on drug crime is to promote drug use.

Families from Mexico and the Caravan for Peace With Justice and Dignity rally on our soil at this very moment to bring an end to the war that is killing their people, but they are ignored, as if their plight isn't a shared interest.

Parents who have lost children to accidental overdoses that could have been prevented through compassionate harm reduction policies such as Good Samaritan laws hold vigils to bring awareness to the alarming rise in overdose deaths (now estimated at 100 deaths per day in the U.S.), but people turn their backs due to fear, stigma and shame.

Why is no one listening?

We have had several American presidents who have admitted to smoking marijuana in their youth. These very same leaders of the free world could have lost everything, including housing, employment and student loans if they had been arrested for illegal drug consumption. They could have been incarcerated for years, with a felony on their record -- as my son was, for marijuana possession.

2.3 million people are incarcerated in the United States today, an extremely large percentage for non-violent drug possession charges. We spend billions of dollars on the war on drugs while communities are collapsing because of unemployment, yet neither Republicans nor Democrats will even discuss the failed punitive prohibitionist policies of the drug war.

In the current political climate, so many of our women's rights are being threatened, including our right to choose and to make decisions about our own bodies. Citizens' rights are challenged, including voting and having a say in our own government.

Where is the alarm? Where is the outcry? Why are we, as my friend stated, more concerned about what the Kardashians wear and what they had for breakfast than about their own fellow citizens bringing awareness to the epidemic of drug overdoses going on all around them?

It's more than a dumbing down of America. It is a numbing out due to a sense of powerlessness. It is said that addiction is a disease of denial. But the denial of the horrendous damage done to our own citizens by the war on drugs is truly social pathology.

It's time to wake up, end the silence, and shout out: No More Drug War! for the sake of our children and future generations.

Gretchen Burns Bergman is Co-Founder & Executive Director of A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing), and lead organizer of PATH's national Moms United to End the War on Drugs campaign.

This post is part of the HuffPost Shadow Conventions 2012, a series spotlighting three issues that are not being discussed at the national GOP and Democratic conventions: The Drug War, Poverty in America, and Money in Politics.

HuffPost Live will be taking a comprehensive look at America's failed war on drugs August 28th and September 4th from 12-4 pm ET and 6-10 pm ET. Click here to check it out -- and join the conversation.

 
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