Monthly Archives: June 2012

A Thoughtless Nation

The typical American citizen is willfully ignorant. Content to believe anything and everything the media feeds them they blindly live their daily lives uninterested in challenging the principal majority. Unaware that the accepted “norm” is carefully fabricated and disseminated to the public by a minority with personal hidden agendas. In all fairness, the media is normally merely the vessel of this misinformation, even when the correspondents accept it themselves. In fact, ensuring the purveyors of these untruths believe what they pass along actually endorses the general public’s ability to accept these lies as the unquestionable truth. A perfect example of our nation’s incapacity to recognize propaganda is the ignorant criminalization of marijuana.

Hemp has been used in the creation of woven fabrics for thousands of years and has been traced back to as early as the Chou dynasty (1122-249 B.C.). The first laws passed in America pertaining to marijuana were actually designed to enforce the mandatory growth of hemp in the early 1600’s. George Washington grew hemp at Mount Vernon as his primary harvest. Cannabis was a critical crop and even grown by the government to supply essential rope and related supplies during World War II. The term “canvas” is directly related to “cannabis” due to hemp’s practical use of being woven into this strong and inexpensive material. Literally, cannapaceus means “made from hemp”.

Racism and prejudice were notorious original sources of campaigns to outlaw the recreational use of marijuana. Initially directed toward Mexicans consuming the drug‐farmers were employing them as cheap labor‐the same ignorance fueled misguided attempts to criminalize the plant by blaming black jazz musicians and their “devil music” for the decline of cultural decency.

Political and financial influences to outlaw marijuana seem obvious but many of the indisputable details have been conveniently overlooked. In 1933 Alcohol Prohibition ended, thus reducing funding for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (later to become the DEA ‐ Drug Enforcement Administration). The director of the FBN, Harry Anslinger, actively campaigned for Marijuana Prohibition vomiting outrageous and unfounded lies about the effects and consequences of smoking marijuana.

Anslinger represented the epitome of propaganda based on racism, prejudice and ignorance propelled by both politics and financial greed. His testimony before Congress in 1937 reflected his strong abhorrence of cannabis users and he has been repeatedly reported as uttering controversial quotes, for example: “Marijuana is the most violence causing drug in the history of mankind. Most marijuana smokers are Negros, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes.”

William Hearst was extremely helpful in perpetuating Anslinger’s cause. He, however, had ulterior motives of his own. While he shared a hatred for Mexicans and other minorities, his racism was rooted in his personal finances. He had invested heavily in the timber industry to support his newspaper chain and had lost 800,000 acres of timberland to Pancho Villa, a Mexican Revolutionary general. Hemp would also threaten to further his losses based upon his timber investments. Most of all, publishing scandalous stories about the dangers of marijuana sold newspapers.

Anslinger and Hearst were instrumental in the 1937 bill signed by President Roosevelt that damned cannabis illegal at the federal level. As a result, the hemp industry, in its entirety, was doomed to its ultimate destruction.

It’s easy to draw a logical conclusion to a conspiracy among existing leaders of industry of the day that would be threatened by the widespread use of hemp. Namely, the chemical company Dupont, who actively supported the prohibition campaign, was motivated by removing competition to its patented nylon products. In addition, pharmaceutical companies could not control home-grown remedies to common ailments nor were they prepared to standardize or identify cannabis dosages.

What does all this have to do with modern ignorance? Everything. Some of today’s major concerns are the national deficit, the rising unemployment rate and irresponsible government spending. Why not combat unemployment, cut wasteful spending and contribute to paying off the deficit in one fell swoop? Consider the positive implications of legalizing and regulating marijuana. No longer would we spend excessive amounts of taxpayer money to arrest, prosecute, detain and incarcerate non-violent marijuana users. Instead, by regulating and taxing the sale of marijuana cigarettes, dealers, distributors and growers of black-market varieties of the drug (which are of unknown strength and purity‐lacing cannabis with incredibly dangerous drugs is common practice) would be out of business. The jobs created by this new industry would be substantial and the government would finally profit from the production, preparation and sale of recreational marijuana versus their current practice of spending countless millions of wasted funds to fight a losing war on a substance much less dangerous than alcohol. The later has been deemed acceptable by our culture as a legal drug despite the proven dangers on our society and the daily death-toll attributed to alcohol consumption but, in contrast, it is easily regulated, difficult to refine and the government has already lost that war once.

Furthermore, the countless products available which could be produced from the hemp plant would flood the market with alternatives to their present counterparts; thus stimulating the economy and forcing new levels of competition: driving down the price of fabrics, building materials, food products and the many uses of paper and other similarly produced goods. It is even conceivable that this practice would curb our planets existing deforestation issues.

The medicinal value of marijuana has been addressed to a limited extent in recent years. While more willing to accept its use as a medicine, there are still many critics that crusade to ban even this helpful application of the drug. These advocates often have their own specific agendas unrelated to the actual issue in question: religious leaders standing on “moral values”, political figures seeking increased public acceptance or reelection, and industry monopolies protecting their financial interests. Once again, an example of the dominate minority representing the ignorant majority. Most of these factions preach the dangers of “the devils weed” while few understand even the minutest details of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC‐the active chemical in cannabis). The fact of the matter is, the consumption of red-meat is more likely to cause cancer than smoking marijuana and there has never been a documented case of an overdose attributed to the usage of marijuana. The same cannot be said of cocaine, heroin or even alcohol. A cannabis smoker can fear an increased appetite or escalated fatigue far before the outrageous claim by the 1936 movie Reefer Madness of losing one’s mind and being uncontrollably influenced to become an axe-murderer. Even frequently noted research linking long-term use of marijuana and short-term memory loss are inconclusive as several similarly conducted experiments and studies have resulted in widely varied outcomes. Basically, the medicinal value of cannabis far outweighs its commonly alleged dangers.

Despite all of these facts, the popular opinion of the average American is insistently to keep marijuana banned, that legalization efforts are solely pursued by “pot-heads” and the drug is more dangerous than alcohol. Few of those with these opinions could eloquently or intelligently argue their reasoning without quoting uneducated myths and former perpetuated deceits of anti-marijuana propaganda. Some common lines of thought have been, “Alcohol is legal, thus it is safe if used responsibly” and “Marijuana is illegal, so it must be dangerous no matter what the practice”.

Scarce would be the defender of a substance that has been so demonized in American society; however, the truth remains that marijuana has only been illegal in the United States for approximately eighty years out of our nation’s two-hundred plus (not to mention the thousands of years the plant has been in use preceding our nations birth and it’s widespread acceptance around the world). As for why, it seems blatantly obvious that the prohibition of marijuana is due to the typical American citizen’s complete failure to think for themselves, shrewdly question authority or rebel insightfully against popular opinion. Is it possible to allow ourselves to benefit from this relatively harmless plant? Will we confront our government and demand they cease the needless spending and wasted funds fighting a senseless war on a fictional enemy? Can we agree, instead, to battle unemployment, create jobs and heal our sick? The answer lies in one last, definitive question: do we have the audacity to think for ourselves?

© Daniel E. Barndt ~2012

Original Post (with pictures!) @ BarndtHouse

[i] An archaeological and historical account of cannabis in China by Hui-Lin Li – Economic Botany, 1974
[ii] The History of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 by David F. Musto, M.D. – Archives of General Psychiatry, 1972

[iii] The Forbidden Fruit and the Tree of Knowledge: An Inquiry Into the Legal History of American Marijuana Prohibition by Richard J. Bonnie & Charles H. Whitebread, II, 1970

[iv] Unsubstantiated statement of H. J. Anslinger, Commissioner of Narcotics, 1937 Marihuana Tax Act hearings

[v] Biography of  William Randolph Hearst by Jon C. Hopwood
[vi] Snatching The Patient’s Pot by Edward W. Miller, MD – Coastal Post, 2005

Tim Burton ‐ Creativity Incarnate

There are few that will ever probe so deeply, see so clearly, touch so profoundly the souls of a people than the genius that is Tim Burton! Where to begin? The Nightmare Before Christmas? Perhaps, there are many films that could be deemed his tour de force; however, that may be the film that introduced me to “Tim Burton the filmmaker”. I remember it well. Not the plot, specifically, nor the characters (although who could ever forget Jack and Sally?) but the wonderful darkness‐both beautiful and hauntingly sad, that welcomed me into its warm embrace. Suddenly grasping how a simple children’s story could be innocent yet passionate, chilling but harmless, forbidding and comforting: that was the decadent brilliance that drew me in and has never let me go!

Studying at the California Institute of the Arts led to his working on projects for Disney who awarded him a fellowship, circa 1980. This fortuitous apprenticeship allowed Burton to work as an animator on films such as The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron. Interestingly enough, it could be assumed that this very conventional, mainstream, conservative animation style helped push him toward that murky corner of his vibrant mind that allowed us the privilege of such masterpieces as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and Sweeney Todd. Ironically, Disney then fired him in 1984 after making a short film called Frankenweenie (the story of a boy trying to revive his dog which was hit by a car), deeming it too dark for general audiences and a waste of company funds. Ah, but were it not for that darkness; never would he have shown so bright!

It would be easy to say Tim was always creative. He enjoyed fine art as a boy and making stop motion films. Be it painting, drawing or just enjoying movies, he continually surrounded himself with creative outlets. It’s no surprise that Edgar Allen Poe was a favorite author and that horror and science fiction were at the top of his genres of choice. He greatly respected Vincent Price, an immense influence in his life with whom he had the honor of working with on several occasions.

No one stands out in Burton’s life like his colleague, his friend, the godfather of his children: Johnny Depp. Cast as Edward Scissorhands (1990) the two continued to build a life-long friendship that would span what could be seen as Tim’s greatest works to date including the wonderful and marvelous twists on childhood favorites such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice In Wonderland! Obviously, Helena Bonham Carter‐a creative soul in her own right‐also played, and indeed still plays, a crucial part in shaping his films. Helena has a boundless gift of portraying strong characters no matter who she depicts (she may be best recognized as Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter series but I’ll never forget her as Marla Singer in Fight Club! A movie so gorgeously dark and twisted it could have sprung straight out of a Tim Burton dream). Bonham Carter worked wonders as the sweet, lithe voice of Emily in Corpse Bride, the fascinating Mrs. Lovett in Sweeny Todd and the infamous Red Queen in Alice In Wonderland as well as numerous other great Burton films.

Before I started reading about his childhood I knew little of Tim’s personal history; truly, I believe I have but scratched the surface. Regardless, I feel we share some basic traits that I never knew existed and those similarities endear me to a man I already respected. He was an introvert and focused on his art even at a young age, as did I. Spending many days alone, yet content to be so, I enjoyed drawing, painting, sculpting and writing poetry. I frequently attempted to challenge societies perception of what was considered normal, explore unfamiliar territories and confront uncomfortable topics such as death and anguish; perhaps to push back at communal boundaries I felt surrounded me, possibly due to mere teen angst or conceivably to laugh and find humor in that which frightened me most: mortality itself. I don’t claim to know why Burton focuses on such topics, only that I respect how he creates virtue from agony, pleasure from revulsion and beauty from violence. With the incontrovertible success of his ability to twist such stories as Alice In Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory into elegant, sinister works of art, it’s not hard to believe that I am far from alone in my appreciation of that wonderful capacity.

Whichever film may have first broken through the light to reveal the shadow of such glory, whatever magnificent nightmares gave birth to such beautiful gore‐whether it began in a California backyard of the 1970’s or a cynical Disney studio a decade and a half later‐of this I am certain: Tim Burton is the personification of creativity and he has only just begun!

© Daniel E. Barndt ~2012

Original Post (with pictures!) @ BarndtHouse