BORN IN 1925, GORE VIDAL HAS BEEN A CONTROVERSIAL ESSAYIST, NOVELIST, AND SOCIAL CRITIC FOR THE PAST FOUR DECADES. HE HAS SUCCESSFULLY WRITTEN ALL MAJOR FORMS OF LITERATURE AND IS WELL-KNOWN FOR NOVELS LIKE CITY AND THE PILLAR (1948), JULIAN (1964), MYRA BRECKENRIDGE (1968), 1876 (1976), BURR (1981), AND LINCOLN (1984). AMONG HIS OTHER WORKS ARE AT HOME:ESSAYS 1982-1988 (1988), EMPIRE (1988), Hollywood A Novel OF AMERICA IN THE 1920's (1990), LIVE FROM GOLGOTHA (1992), THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO GORE VIDAL (1993), UNITED STATES ESSAYS, 1951-1991 (1993), AND PALIMPEST (1995), A MEMOIR. THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE, "DRUGS," WAS WRITTEN IN I970, AND YET ITS CONTENT SEEMS AS RELEVANT TODAY AS WHEN HE ORIGINALLY WROTE IT. PEOPLE STILL LOOK FOR SOLUTIONS WHICHWOULD CURB THE TIDE OF DRUG ABUSE IN THE UNITED STATES AGAINST GREAT ODDS. THE RECENT DISCOVERY OF THE CIA (CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY) INVOLVEMENT IN DRUG TRAFFICKING TO INNER CITIES TO FINANCE COVERT OPERATIONS (E.G., THE IRAN/CONTRA AFFAIR) MIGHT SUGGEST THE GOVERNMENT'S LACK OF COMMITMENT TO A SINCERE "WAR ON DRUGS."
1 It is possible tostop most drug addiction in the United States within a very short time. Simply make all drugs available and sell them at cost. Label each drug with a precise description of what effect-good and bad-the drug will have on the taker. This will require heroic honesty. Don't say that marijuana is addictive or dangerous when it is neither, as millions of people know-unlike "speed," which kills mostunpleasantly, or heroin, which is addictive and difficult to kick.
2 For the record, I have tried-once-almost every drug and liked none, disproving the popular Fu Manchu theory that a single sniff of opium will enslave the mind. Nevertheless, many drugs are bad for certain people to take and they should be told why in a sensible way.
3 Along with exhortation and warning, it might be goodfor our citizens to recall (or learn for the first time) that the United States was the creation of men who believed that each man has the right to do what he wants with his own life as long as he does not interfere with his neighbor's pursuit of happiness (that his neighbor's idea of happiness is persecuting others does confuse matters a bit).
4 This is a startling notion to the currentgeneration of Americans. They reflect a system of public education which has made the Bill of Rights, literally, unacceptable to a majority of high school graduates (see the annual Purdue reports) who now form the "silent majority"-a phrase which that underestimated wit Richard Nixon took from Homer, who used it to describe the dead.
5 Now one can hear the warning rumble begin: if everyone isallowed to take drugs everyone will and the GNP will decrease, the Commies will stop us from making everyone free, and we shall end up a race of Zombies, passively murmuring "groovy" to one another. Alarming thought. Yet it seems most unlikely that any reasonably sane person will become a drug addict if he knows in advance what addiction is going to be like.
6 Is everyone reasonably sane? No.Some people will always become drug addicts just as some people will always become alcoholics, and it is just too bad. Every man, however, has the power (and should have the legal right) to kill himself if he chooses. But since most men don't, they won't be mainliners either. Nevertheless, forbidding people things they like or think they might enjoy only makes them want those things all the more.This psychological insight is, for some mysterious reason, perennially denied our governors.
7 It is a lucky thing for the American moralist that our country has always existed in a kind of time-vacuum: we have no public memory of anything that happened before last Tuesday. No one in Washington today recalls what happened during the years alcohol was forbidden to the people by a Congress...
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