Nancy Reagan is dead, and good for her! She lived 94 years. She deserves a rest. And I mean that. Regular readers know that I am not tenacious of life. Death is not a bad thing after all those years — especially when you consider how good her life was relative to the vast majority of Americans. Lives end, and I’ve often thought that heaven works as a perfect metaphor for nonexistence. Really: can you imagine dealing with eternity in any form other than nonexistence? That, to me, would be hell. But I did want to spend a little time thinking about, “Just say no!”
What I’ve always assume that the “Just say no!” campaign was all about was a response to peer pressure. Kids would say, “What am I supposed to do when someone asks me if I want to smoke a reefer.” And the answer was, “Just say no!” It’s been widely mocked as a simplistic answer to a complicated question. I would go further. Our drug problems, if you want to think of them as such, are not due to peer pressure. People don’t become junkies because they don’t want to look uncool. Indeed, research on junkies in the 1960s and 1970s, found that they were not the insecure kids, but the strong alpha kids.
But what Nancy Reagan gave to the campaign was a great symbol of the arrogant and clueless elite. And that makes her really important, because that makes her a great symbol of the Drug War enablers. Nancy Reagan could be out there trying to get the kids to “Just say no!” And that gave cover for destroying millions of lives with drug laws that were never designed to stop drug use, and only ever designed to keep despised minorities down. The same thing goes on to this day.
What did Nancy Reagan know about drug addiction? Just what she was told by others who had the same vested interest in making drug problems worse. I talk a lot around here about how Republicans approach every problem with a long list of things they will not even consider for ideological reasons. Democrats are more than willing to cut the size the government if it made things better, but Republicans will not improve the common good if it involves making the government bigger. (They will, of course, make the government bigger if it enriches the rich or grows the military and police state.) Well, that’s the way drug policy has been in the country for the last century.
We can solve the government created drug problem by telling kids, “Just say no!” Meanwhile, the sentences for those who don’t? They get longer and longer. These non-compliant people are forced into more and more oppressive drug “treatment” programs (In and out of jail!) that don’t work, because they operate from a false premise. This is why the 12 Step programs are so popular: they claim drug use is a moral failing, even while alcohol ads blanket the television screen on weekends.
But there’s something more about “Just say no!” And I think it says a lot about Nancy Reagan herself. The slogan says in no unsubtle way: don’t think for yourself; just do as we tell you. It’s an authoritarian mantra. All you poor kids, just do what the nice white woman with a million dollar wardrobe tells you. She’s your better and you should listen to her. And if you don’t, well, her husband has less pleasant ways to coerce you.
Afterword: Just Say No to Murder!
I’m pretty sure that the same people who killed Scalia killed Nancy Reagan. She was so beloved, that she was going to stop the race war that Obama is going to start any day now.