Reconsidering the Elephants Cage
By: Andrew K. Boyle
Its election season, which in this writers experience means the worst of us is front page news. In 2016 this translates to all of the political air having been sucked out of the republic by both nominees for President.
In Trump v. Clinton we undoubtedly have a near perfect cartoon match up featuring two candidates who are both in reality, exactly what the other side wishes their opponent to be.
Mr. Trump is exactly the misogynistic, nationalistic, jingoistic, crony-capitalist, dishonest, exploitative, sexist, racist, thick headed, elitist, faux-egalitarian, uncaring, corrupt, awkward, bad-comb over in a tacky suite Republican the Democrats have tried so hard to create and he is obnoxiously proud of all of this.
Mrs. Clinton, herself, is exactly the two-faced, highly accomplished liar, corrupt, exploiter of all minorities, with a track record of absolute failure, propped up (literally) because of her gender, awful politician, who’s self entitlement to the Presidency is without equal and she thinks she is the beloved champion of “the people.”
Dear Plato: The Republic is in real trouble.
It is against this soul crushing national embarrassment that we the people, having no voice nationally, must attempt self government on a much more local level. Yet, we should keep in the forefront this same clown show of a presidential race to make much more clear the implications of other matters.
In the Sooner State two such attempts at self government are being made in State Questions 780 and 781. Both of which offer adjustments to state law intended to reduce the prison population and provide funding for mental health and substance abuse treatments. The incarceration rate in Oklahoma is Stalin-like in its abundance, and the mental health and substance abuse budgets are like Soviet toilet paper in their scarcity both are addressed in these questions.
SQ 780 reclassifies charges of simple drug possession from its current felony to a misdemeanor. Likewise, it raises the felony threshold for property crimes from the current $500 to $1,000. It is on this new and higher floor that SQ 781 is built. It directs the cost savings from SQ 780 into a fund which would be distributed at the county level for the provision of mental health and substance abuse services. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) is the determining body charged with identifying said savings, the distribution of which is to be proportional to each counties population.
SQ 780 is directed at issues ranked much higher nationally than our beloved Sooners: Oklahoma has the second highest incarceration rate over all, but is a clear cut #1 when considering the incarceration rate of women exclusively. The state also finds itself in the #2 position when counting the serious mental illness rate in adults; funding for mental health treatment, 44th.
Against the backdrop of the Trump v Clinton embarrassment, these questions are entirely partisan. These questions fit the Democrat agenda, keeping their potential voters out of prison and increasing funding. As such, these State Questions are highly touted by newspapers across the state. For these reasons, Republicans are wary.
If one has the courage to consider the matter further, the debate morphs slightly. Most of the support for both measures continues along the line of being quite concerned with the high prison population and surprisingly continuing growth in the state crime rate as making such measures increasingly necessary. Most of the opposition falls behind the idea that lessening the punishment of specifically drug related offenses will only add gasoline on an already hotly burning drug issue.
Overall, there seems to be limited opposition to SQ 781, with most of that being claims that the funding would be lagging and a significant burden would be immediately placed on counties.
It never ceases to amaze, that on matters of policy, the sum total of all that is wrong with our country moves the debate far away from matters of freedom and the value of the individual and into a synthetic world in which government can rule over matters of the heart.
The human experience with government has largely been defined by exploitation of the many by the few. Prisons are second only to taxes when it comes to denying mankind their inalienable rights.
Incarceration is wildly problematic because of the net effect on the individual. The ability to rob a person of physical freedom has always been far too convenient an avenue to accomplish other aims. Nothing animates a man to act like the possibility of incarceration. The road to dictatorship has always been paved by increasing the nations prisons. This is a fact that is easily lost in today’s debate.
Chief among a vast list of Republican virtues is a keen sense that government is highly problematic and that exercises of government will always bend towards denying individual rights. This used to be very much an American idea. Today it tends to be seen as a millstone to hang around the necks of libertarian-nut-jobs like me. Whenever an idea comes forth to reduce punishment for crimes, or gasp, making something like pot legal, it is assumed that the person taking such a position is a dope-smoking-free-love-hippy. While I do find unfortunate company with such persons, my concern is chiefly about freedom. It is not for drug preponderance sake, but for the preservation of freedom and virtue that I find myself at odds with the GOP elephant pack on this one.
The Republican Party here finds itself caged in all the trappings of the state. By focusing on the idea of positive government actions eliminating things like drugs from our streets, the party has lost sight of the ease at which the state ruins the individual.
The use of drugs is a matter of the heart, not of the state. In seeking substance to numb away the tensions of life, the individual abuses the liberty part and denies themselves the pursuit of happiness promise endowed them by their creator. But it is in the incarceration for such poor choices that the state creates an entire subset of people denied their birthright as Americans ironically simultaneously creating a criminal underclass who make our cities so foul and rife with a cacophony of other crimes.
Drugs are not what make the streets of Oklahoma City overflowing with crime, it is the creation of a large population of felons out of people who turned to certain substances when times got hard that populate those streets, which has made our cities far more savage. Prison as an agent of societal reform is a difficult case to make. Prison as the genesis of a lifetime criminal underclass in our cities is much easier. Compare Oklahoma’s incarceration rate and crime rate over time and it looks disturbingly like a dependent relationship.
In this time, when the GOP is headlined by a creature as noxious and as into an aggressive state as is Mr. Trump, opportunities for freedom are few. SQ 780 is one such flittering chance. It is quite easy to find ones-self of the wrong side of the law these days. Both candidates in this election are quite interested in expanding those opportunities for all. The national conversation is one of silencing opponents, of disappearing opposition. Most policy proposals are focused upon removing choices, limiting options and obligating support. Name me the area in life where freedom has been expanded at the federal level. No really, list a single occurrence.
In defiance of politics, the arc of the human heart of late has been wildly bent towards freedom. States are quickly moving to remove the trappings of incarceration from the already poor personal choice to use drugs. Groups of people are starting medical coops to free themselves from the tyranny of ObamaCare. People are skirting the regulatory state by selling products online, booking car service on Uber, bartering on FaceBook forums, booking rooms on Airbnb, the preponderance of free public wifi, alternative education modules, learning skills and trades on You-Tube, finding free custom radio on Pandora, streaming NFL games free on Twitter, and on and on ad infinitum.
In stark and the most angry defiance to the American experience, our government is now very interested in forcing culture into the mold they have and continue to design. You see this in the anger behind both Clinton and Trump. The Republican Party is no longer complicit in this tyranny, it is a creative force behind its design. In a time where Republican virtue has been Trumped, quite literally, by the convenience of the tyrannical inclinations of a nominee, Republicans should be the clarion voices in matters like SQ 780. It is unlikely that is the crux of our current disposition.
When the eyes of the nation are affixed to individuals, nationally, and are blind to the individuals locally, incarcerations will always increase. When we are not about liberty but about creating utopia incarcerations are always necessary. Both candidates are proudly promising such a world. In this pursuit of utopia, we have created individuals, who being once denied their freedom officially, return to our streets something entirely different. They become bent towards perpetually being John Locke’s “noxious-creatures,” forever at odds with society. This is how the Sooner State finds itself. A state rife with crime, much of which it created through a robust and ambitious justice system. We complain about the injustice currently on display with Herself and Herself’s email server, but fail to see the injustice in our cities. We dismiss Black Lives Matter, rightly for their radical agenda, without realizing that ambitious incarceration has legitimately brought ruin to their neighborhoods undeservingly. We could go on.
America used to be very keen on the individual and liberty, today we are quite interested in modifying behaviors of free people. Maybe man is changing the climate. Not so much in the median temperature and ocean levels, but we sure have warmed our inner cities to the point where they are now on fire quite literally. The people could really use a champion for justice. Abraham Lincoln did that once. Actually, he created the Republican Party to do that. We seem to be in a slightly different role today.
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