Leave Robert Downey, Jr. Alone!

by Jim Ostrowski

In the future, people will view our age’s “war on drugs” to be as evil and stupid as we now view the war on witches which occurred 400 years ago in early modern Europe.  Recent casualties of the “drug war” include Robert Downey, Jr., Darryl Strawberry, and several Baptist missionaries in Peru.  It hardly needs stating that machine-gunning a baby to death is wrong, so let’s consider the sad case of actor Robert Downey, Jr.  He has been nabbed again for drugs.  A few months back, the actor was in his hotel room by himself.  He was using a drug different from the ones approved of by the drug warriors.  That is, his drug of choice was not alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, prescription painkillers or Ritalin.  He was not stealing or damaging property that did not belong to him.  He was not using violence against a man, woman or child.  He was not recklessly driving an automobile.  So there he is, pursuing happiness in a way we would not, but taking from no man his life, liberty, or property, and what happens?  The police barge in, arrest him and take him to jail.  A judge can put him behind bars for years where he can join tens of thousands of other non-violent drug offenders.

For what?  Because the majority of Americans morally disapprove of his behavior.  Which brings us back to the subject of witches.  Why were they burned at the stake?  Because they allegedly engaged in behavior the majority of citizens of that time believed was morally reprehensible and destructive to society.  We no longer believe that “practicing witchcraft” justifies being burned at the stake, and, in time, we will come to see that the ingestion of chemicals we disapprove of does not justify using violence against people.  The shame is that so many people will suffer before the inevitable day comes when the drug warriors come to their senses. 

The pathway out of the drug warriors’ predicament is humility.  There is an extreme moral arrogance involved with the notion that you are so wise that you are able to determine what is good for other people, then, somehow, force your notion of the good down people’s throats at gunpoint.  The truth is, you are not that wise and only hubris makes you think you are.  If you are like 99.99 percent of us, you have all you can handle just keeping yourself on an even keel.  Speaking of which, did you know you have an addiction to exercising power over others?  Don’t feel bad.  Pushing the other guy around is mankind’s oldest vice.  Perhaps his second oldest vice is convincing himself that it is good for the other guy to push him around.  With the war on drugs, you can push the other guy around and feel like a hero all at the same time.  You have a legal and moral license to be a bully.

If you think that day will never come when the drug war takes its place in the historical hall of shame alongside all the other mindlessly violent episodes of mass hysteria in human history, you are “in denial”.  The war on witches, primarily administered by the same crew that presides over the “war on drugs”—government judges--and designed in part to stamp out the witches’ use and provision of mind-altering drugs, is now universally decried as a species of barbarism.  History is strewn with examples of people who systematically committed acts of violence and brutality against their fellow man, with the sanction of the law, and while absolutely convinced of the rightness of their cause.  In the twentieth century alone, over 100 million people were murdered by governments in the name of one moral crusade or another, later discredited, but too late for the victims.  History has not judged these executioners well and the pitiless verdict of history will judge you as well, but not well.

May 31, 2001


James Ostrowski is an attorney practicing at 984 Ellicott Square, Buffalo, New York 14203; (716) 854-1440; FAX 853-1303. See his website at www.jimostrowski.com.

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