The Right To Party

  The Right To Party

Posted by CN Staff on June 12, 2003 at 08:30:49 PT
By Neal Pollack, Brooklyn Rail 
Source: AlterNet 

A few years ago, when I was a reporter in Chicago, I did a story on a phenomenon I called "The New Prohibition." The city, for various reasons, was shutting down neighborhood bars. In poor black neighborhoods, taverns were the targets of moralistic church crusaders. In gentrifying neighborhoods, they were the bęte noire of noise-averse yuppies. What was wrong with Mayor Daley? I asked. Didn't he want Chicago to be fun anymore? 
The article garnered a bit of local attention. I appeared on an episode of a nightly public-affairs show. For once, a piece of mine actually got a few letters to the editor. And I decided to take it further. I did a local NPR radio commentary in which I called, tongue-in-cheekly, for a new political party, "The Party Party," that would campaign to make Chicago the freewheeling town I imagined it had once been. Oh, how naďve I was then, and how foolish I feel now! Those little tavern raids and precinct vote-dry initiatives were nothing, a little internecine tap-dance, compared to the assault on fun currently being waged by the federal government. Our right to party is being attacked by forces far more powerful, more sinister, and more organized than Mayor Daley's liquor-law enforcement bureaucracy. Everything fun about America is under serious threat. Let's review the evidence of the last few months. In late February, DEA and Department of Justice officials arrested 55 people and seized thousands of dollars of drug paraphernalia during "Operation Pipe Dreams." The arrests mainly targeted online bong dealers, who attorney general John Ashcroft claimed had "invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge." But also included in the arrests were employees of several head shops in Pittsburgh, where the investigation was centered. The feds even raided the California home of Tommy Chong, who in mid-May pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell drug paraphernalia. The most stunning quote from the whole affair came from acting DEA chief John Brown, who said, "People selling drug paraphernalia are in essence no different than drug dealers. They are as much a part of drug trafficking as silencers are a part of criminal homicide.'' The government is equating Tommy Chong with murderous criminals. Perhaps next they'll haul in Rodney Dangerfield and the inflatable pilot from Airplane! Something is wrong. Very wrong. In March, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware managed to sneak the RAVE act through as an attachment to a bill establishing a national warning system about child abductions. RAVE stands for, amazingly, Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy. But its main targets are concert promoters and club owners, whom the act holds to an absurd standard. According to the law, it is illegal to "manage or control any place, whether permanently or temporarily, either as an owner, lessee, agent, employee, occupant, or mortgagee, and knowingly and intentionally rent, lease, profit from, or make available for use, with or without compensation, the place for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing, distributing, or using a controlled substance." This definition was derived from a 20-year-old federal law that permitted raids on "crackhouses." The law is so broad that you could have 10 people over for dinner, put on some loud music, and you've got yourself a rave. If someone lights a joint at your "rave," and the neighbors complain about the music, and the police are in a bad mood that night, you face decades in prison. Suddenly everyone is a potential drug criminal and it's doubly dangerous if there's dancing involved. And this just in: In late May, a DEA agent in Montana threatened a venue owner with a $250,000 fine, under the RAVE Act, if she hosted a joint benefit for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Students For Sensible Drug Policy. The event was canceled. The RAVE Act has officially arrived. Keep in mind that these are Democrats pushing these laws. This War On Fun is not single-party. That said, the Republicans seem to have a serious problem with sex. The federal government's financial commitment to "abstinence education" reached a new high this year. When I say a new high, I mean $120 million. This is not the sex education we received in high school. According to federal guidelines for applying for abstinence education grants, a federally funded program must, among other things, teach "abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school age children," and that "a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity." From personal experience, I will agree with certain tenets, such as the fact that "drug use increases vulnerability to sexual advances," and I cannot argue with the fact that "sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects," but is this really something that needs to be legislated? Can you imagine being a teenager today in this context? Teen pregnancy and STDs are a problem, for certain. But is the answer really organizations like Pennsylvania's Silver Ring Thing, which, in exchange for $12 and a pledge of abstinence until marriage, offers high-school students a silver ring and a Bible? Sounds like a bad trade to me. Couldn't they at least throw a couple of condoms into the gift pack, just to make sure? Lest we think that these phenomena, which seem to be loosely linked, are just the usual mix of anti-drug nonsense and hypocritical fundamentalism, we should think again. Journalist Eric Schlosser, in his excellent new book "Reefer Madness," drops the stunning statistic that more than 20,000 Americans are in prison for marijuana-related "crimes." But the current trend in policy goes far beyond that. Under the RAVE act, you're guilty by association with marijuana smokers. Abstinence education had a foothold during Bill Clinton's America, too, but now there's an extra moral force, and lots more money, behind the preaching. When Pennsylvania Rick Santorum made his controversial remarks in April about not approving of homosexual "acts," he also said, "the idea is that the state doesn't have rights to limit individuals' wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we're seeing it in our society." What is he talking about? What consequences? As far as I'm concerned, that phrase, from a leading Republican Senator, is an official government declaration of a War On Fun. What exactly would be Rick Santorum's idea of a good party? One where nobody got drunk or high, where nobody hooked up, and where nobody danced with abandon? Why, that doesn't sound like a party. It sounds like church. I've had enough. This time, for real, I'm calling for the establishment of a Party Party, or, at the very least, for a Party Party attitude. I'm issuing a call to arms for those of us always in need of, as the great Jeff Spicoli once said, tasty waves and a cool buzz. Of course there are many issues in the world that are more pressing, and we should continue to press them. But Saturday night eventually comes even for the most politically committed. These are tense times. People want to loosen the steam valve a little bit. They want to participate in culture outside of the jurisdiction of federal "morality" educators. We don't want the government telling us how to spend our free time, sussing out and prosecuting casual drug users and harassing nightclub owners. And for heaven's sake, give the kids some condoms. Sex and drugs and live music make life great. These are the kinds of things that were outlawed in Taliban-run Afghanistan. If they can't be legal and easy in America, then I don't want to live here anymore. I want to live in a place where drugs and sex are tolerated, where the government provides a sane level of social services, where religion isn't always threatening to take over the state. Amsterdam. It always comes back to Amsterdam. Americans, we have to party. It is our right. And we have to fight for that right. Yes, you heard me. We have to show the moralizers that they cannot win. We have to fight for our right to party. Neal Pollackis -- -- the author of "The Neal Pollack Anthology Of American Literature" and "Beneath The Axis Of Evil." HarperCollins will publish his first novel, "Never Mind the Pollacks," in September. He lives in Austin, Texas.Source: AlterNetAuthor: Neal Pollack, Brooklyn RailPublished: June 12, 2003Copyright: 2003 Independent Media InstituteContact: info Website: Articles & Web Site:NORML RAVE Act Has Landed Holding a Party Is a Crime Madness: Notes From The Underground

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Comment #6 posted by rchandar on June 15, 2003 at 00:20:25 PT:
neal, it's not that simple
neal, it's not that simple--the netherlands has bloody tough immigration laws. if you're a US citizen, there are a few options: tourist (only 3 months), student (i think 1 year), or spousal (meet a dutch woman and marry her). it's damn tough; i want to get out of this country, too--before they butcher me--but as a US citizen i'll never get immigration to the netherlands.good luck. maybe, er, you're filthy rich. good article, too.             --raj chandarlapaty ABD
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Comment #5 posted by Jose Melendez on June 12, 2003 at 13:08:26 PT
from: for Your Right to Party by Beastie Boys  You wake up late for school - man you don't wanna goYou ask you mom, "Please?" - but she still says, "No!"You missed two classes - and no homeworkBut your teacher preaches class like you're some kind of jerk(chorus) You gotta fight for your right to partyYou pop caught you smoking - and he said, "No way!"That hypocrite - smokes two packs a dayMan, living at home is such a dragNow your mom threw away your best porno mag (Busted!)(repeat chorus)Don't step out of this house if that's the clothes you're gonna wearI'll kick you out of my home is you don't cut that hairYour mom busted in and said, "What's that noise?"Aw, mom you're just jealous - it's the Beastie Boys!(repeat chorus twice)
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on June 12, 2003 at 12:51:39 PT
That's enough to make my head spin. My head spins easily though! LOL! I don't believe like any party that's one of my problems. I believe that we shouldn't fight wars in other countries unless we are attacked by them and then get those who are responsible not civilians. I believe that a woman has a right to choose. I do not believe personally in abortion though. I believe that discrimination for race, religion, age, sexual preference is wrong. I believe that we must care for the poor in the United States and help countries with food and medicine if they are suffering. I'm sure I believe more then what I just said but this is what I thought of.
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Comment #3 posted by CorvallisEric on June 12, 2003 at 12:27:15 PT
Libertarians vs Liberals
Not all liberals ignore the libertarian view. Here's a good article in AlterNet (May 2002):While the Left has opposed many aspects of the Drug War, it has been reluctant to call for legalization. But Cato – which came at it from the principle of individual liberty – has been able to maintain its stance without being dismissed as wild-eyed extremists.
There's Something About Cato
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Comment #2 posted by afterburner on June 12, 2003 at 10:37:59 PT:
House Parties and Jury Nullification.
So, next NORML gathering, make it a house party. Set up a trust fund for the owner; don't stiff the landlord. If there is an illegal drug-related incident, then when the owner is charged, demand a jury trial. All juries should nullify any RAVE prosecutions under the Amber Alert Law. Mobilize and organize. We "have not yet begun to fight." -John Paul Jones.ego transcendence follows ego destruction when government of the people, by the people, and for the people is again the law of the land.
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on June 12, 2003 at 09:43:54 PT:
So, join the Libertarians, pal
We have the same ideas; HAVE had them for decades. It was Libbers who warned, all those years ago, that the Nanny State would turn vicious if her unwanted and un-asked for matronly advice was ignored. The smile vanished from her face and the gigantic rolling pin of her Repub-sired MORAL CRUSADE came out to bash anyone with a smidgen of a predilection towards cognitive liberty. Or who just plain liked to have fun.
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