On behalf of political poet Abbie Hoffman reported arrested with friends and a group of Government men over three pounds of cocaine, I wish to share my thoughts:
First I bear witness to his special experience in the honorable cause of Peace Protest in the face of violent denial of human civil rights to citizens in America and out of it, especially during course of Indochinese War activity foisted on this nation by Government. Abbie Hoffman has already been jailed many times for seeking, with peaceful fire and good humored street theatre and astonishing public drama, redress of grievances for the bad luck of the Vietnam War.
Reviled and insulted at first for articulating a now commonly held opinion of that war, he defended himself and others against defeated Government accusations of conspiracy, illegal speech, gesture, and public assembly in urging the War end. In this situation he became a hero in a nation engulfed with moral catastrophe, and no man of any generation in right mind can be but grateful for Abbie Hoffman’s inventive national communication of the War’s madness and folly. I remain gratetul for his righteous indignation over the Vietnam War, the moral power of his deeply felt resistance to the injustice of it, and his demonstration of free Imagination against mass complacency at the mass murder in which we were all involved.
Abbie Hoffman was one of the first souls in the nation to make consciousness sensitive to the Eichmann-like nature of our public War-guilt. Thus any legal case in which he is involved is a matter of deep political consideration, requiring special attention, straight heart judgment, and exquisite moral care that public resentment against him as god-fool of Conscience not crush him in present legal difficulty.
We are now in midst of national scandal of Government misbehavior called Watergate. High politicians preaching law and order were themselves habitually breaking Bill-of-Rights laws in the interests of the creation of some sort of police state. Patriotism was as usual the refuge of these scoundrels, who wrapped themselves in the language of the flag, in order to trash the Constitution. This is an age-old pattern. Unauthorized wiretapping, spying, use of agents-provocateurs and double agents, spooks, burglaries, police set-ups, official perjury, in-government conspiracy to deprive citizens of protection against excess government snooping and illegal infra-war activity, domestic surveillance of political enemies — this pattern of Watergate crooked-heartedness was precisely the government pattern denounced prophetically by Abbie Hoffman.
Some of these same Watergate actors defamed and prosecuted Abbie Hoffman precisely for his vocal and theatrical resistance to their war machine. He too wrapped himself in the flag, threw free money off the balconies of the stock market, wrote forbidden words on his brow, woke the young to national disaster, and practiced exorcism of a black magic operating in the highest reaches of respectable government — illusory statistics, lying, public deception, conspiracy mania even assassination in Vietnam, Operation Phoenix, confessed in public before Congress. Constriction by Government on his own liberty, such as wiretapping, has I believe been proven in court in the course of numerous trials by which the government tried to knock Abbie Hoffman and his peace friends out of action against War and growth of police state.
So I bear witness that Abbie Hoffman is not an ordinary citizen, member of a silent majority of Citizens compliant with 1984-style Bureaucracy and acquiescent to remote-control war. Hoffman is a patriot who has fought the Good Fight to waken his fellow Americans to the corruption of their own traditional ideals. Like Tom Paine, he is a classic example of philosophic and poetic dramatist of public Ideals, a pamphleteer and book man, seeking liberty for his country and sanity on its government. His just causes were questions illegal war and police stale, not touched deeply by the courts, till late — they were touched deeply by Abbie Hoffman.
Thus his social position as a leader or theorist of new survival society credits him with deliberation and reason. His present involvement with agents of Drug Bureaucracy over cocaine sale may be questionable, but so may be their involvement with Abbie Hoffman.
In time of communal Apathy synchronous with Abbie Hoffman’s recent disillusioned withdrawal to private life (after crises of his public efforts to confound Government police bureaucracy and war led him to be attacked left and right), Hoffman is now to be congratulated on an arrest which by its very surprise, its simultaneous whimsicality and seriousness, re-unites many of his fellow workers once again to resist the steamroller of police state Power crushing another live citizen’s body.
Hoffman’s arrest for cocaine dealing does not bear toward resolution of the real “hard drug” problem in America, in any way shape or form.
Government’s visioned sentence of life for Abbie Hoffman resolves no whit the real tormenting drug problem in America, but only adds more pain and hysteria to the scene.
What is the actual “hard drug” mess in America? Politicians, police, drug bureaucrats, and criminal syndicates run wild over the public, and over sick junkies, against professional medical-scientific advisement — greed and money is their addiction and violence and hypocrisy their works.
The real drug problem in America is that government narcotics bureaucracies and organized crime have had a status quo working relationship for decades. This arrangement denies legitimate opiate addicts reasonable access to their specific medicines. The black market for opiates consequently created serves to increase the number of addicts, not decrease it, serves only to increase the social disorientation of addiction, not cure it, serves to discredit helpless sick citizens, not minister to them. This arrangement increases the pain of addiction.
This arrangement profits only Narcotics Control Agencies and Organized Crime Networks. Both depend on continued criminalization of addicts to maintain their complementary parasitic existences. Both groups have grown with the growth of the black market they have created. In this situation the medically sick junkie is a victim, treated like a Jew under Hitler driven mad in the streets to seek relief from unendurable pain and social degradation imposed on him by police bureaucracy and organized crime.
This moral and political running sore, uncured by self-righteous anger at heroin addicts, further infected with hysteria by current draconian law, is opened afresh in an operation in which agents of the drug bureaucracy reveal themselves dramatically buying pounds of old Bohemian cocaine from Abbie Hoffman and friends. Cocaine in my experience is a drug neither hard nor soft, offering too short a flash for common use, too expensive for psychological habit generally, traditionally the sport of self-indulgent millionaires more recently gaga rock stars.
The seriousness of punishment promised by vengeful prosecutors — one of whom characterized Abbie Hoffman’s hapless dabbling in cocaine as “insidious and treacherous as homicide” — opens up the great Drug Question — not so much of Hoffman’s legal or moral guilt, which notion is considerable whimsical in fact. His arrest raises the publicly suppressed Drug Question: how can we endure longer the total insanity sadism incoherence and incomprehensibility of past and fresh present narcotics law politics? Hoffman’s arrest, by its own built-in heaviness of consequence, raises challenge to the entire fabric of law that confuses foolish sensational cocaine or serious philosophic psychedelics as “hard drugs”, with the strong-habit-forming opiates and over-plentiful brain-cooking amphetamines. How dare Government bureaucracy impose penalties on use and sale of hard drugs for the last half-century without providing (as do other countries successfully) reasonably satisfactory easily accessible medical services for the majority of addicts who now outnumber and for 150,000 reasons don’t fit into recent but limited scope of monolithic police-bureaucracy-supervised methadone maintenance services?
Beyond this colossal infliction of pain on heroin-addicted citizens, present law perpetuates discomforting sanctions against marijuana use, contrary to the best counsel of reason and science codified into innumerable public reports, and contrary to vast community experience. By what unconstitutional proscription of liberty and pursuit of happiness must the Drug Bureaucracy maintain its heavy criminal penalties for securing gardening and distributing sociable noncommercial quantities of help weed? What state violence is used to suppress herbal cigarette smokes? The soft drug situation remains undefined except by official presumption and violence, confused and complicated by law and crime where it might be simply free of law and crime but regulated as in other societies by common sense of situation.
This ken on Abbie Hoffman’s arrest doesn’t propose encouragement of cocaine spread — it does propose shock dismay and mental rejection of the idea that life imprisonment for cocaine sale (with no eligibility for parole for 15 to 25 years, depending on pronouncement of the judge) to police is a sane response to the fact of cocaine and its elitist use in USA. Mandatory life for cocaine is neurotic, irrational, a hysterical swipe at people’s souls, a Polyphemus body crusher punishment, a killer idea — it is not sober social response to cocaine usage and special problems, it is no help to old ladies in the street mugged by ignorant junkies conditioned to depravation violence and pain with police bureaucracy and mafia fattening on the illegality of addiction.
Life in Jail for anti-War Hero Abbie Hoffman and friends is National Folly. Threat of life behind bars for Hoffman over cocaine sale is not an image of Law and Order, it is an image of bureaucratic dictatorship and confusion, it is misrule and chaos, National Folly.
I pray with body speech and mind OM AH HUM for courts and government and public to recognize the strange delicacy and historical charm of the situation in which they are placed together with peace poet Abbie Hoffman. ❖
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 18, 2020