Guns, Drugs and Rock & Roll
Few things have been closer associated with the word controversy than guns, drugs or rock and roll have. This isn’t an opinion piece, it’s more of a case study on controversy and where it comes from. How it’s generated, by whom and for what reason as well as if it’s warranted or calculated. One where my opinion may occasionally subtly shine through. I’m really just intrigued by the subject at large, much like we as a society have always been fascinated by controversy itself.
Though born in the 1940’s, many people will tell you the prime of rock and roll was in the 60’s and 70’s. Back then the general public associated rock and roll with drug use and in fairness, it was a somewhat warranted presumption. For that reason and many others, it was a genre of music deemed controversial. Elvis Presley — the king of rock and roll himself — was considered a provocative performer back in the 1950’s, because he shook his hips and gyrated when he performed. A notion we’d consider laughable today, in an age where women make careers out of twerking on Instagram.
Cops literally locked up the lead singer of The Doors, Jim Morrison, for performing the song they had warned him not to. Granted, he did say he wanted to kill his father and fuck his mother but the thought he was arrested for performing is still pretty astounding.
Guns didn’t become truly controversial until the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. They were merely an undisputed amendment right. The beloved young President’s assassination in which a mail order rifle was allegedly used would prompt legislators to call together a congressional hearing where a potential gun control act was discussed but not passed. It wasn’t until after both Robert Kennedy’s and Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in 1968 that the gun control act was passed, banning felons, drug users and those deemed mentally incompetent or unstable from purchasing guns, as well as outlawing mail order firearm sales.
It’s been quite some time since we’ve tried to kill a President, especially successfully. No, what we do with our guns today instead is shoot up elementary schools, concerts, movie theaters and churches. We’ve traded in killing one important person for masses of every day people. Except when everyday people are murdered by the dozen in cold blood, apparently no law gets passed. Not that I’m one of those people who believe there is a definite law that would prevent mass murders. It could be a start though. More importantly my interest lies in the fact a law was proposed after President Kennedy was killed and rightfully so. It’s tragic it wasn’t actually passed until his brother and then Martin Luther King Jr. were killed five years later. However, after mass murders at Columbine High school, Sandy Hook elementary, Virginia Tech, Las Vegas and most recently a Texas church no proposed law, solution or real course of action has been so much as seriously discussed by congress.
Though drugs have always been targeted by the American government and used in the agendas of politicians, it was President Nixon declaring his infamous “war on drugs” in June of 1971 that truly made them our nation’s favorite scapegoat. Not just by plotting politicians and lawmakers but overbearing parents who listened to them more than they talked to their kids as well. These drugs and the increasingly popular rock stars who parents and politicians associated with them were the signs of a rebelling youth, a generation who was tired of being controlled and lied to by the powers that be.
The music, the message behind it and the artists who represented rock and roll struck fear in the hearts of those authorities and for the first time began to question their authority. Politicians in turn, demonized the joints smoked by rock stars everywhere as a way of not only vilifying the artists who seemed to be leading a rebelling youth but also politicize a senseless war on marijuana in the process. A war which thankfully seems to be just about over but sadly still hasn’t officially ended almost five decades and millions of victims later.
Nixon declaring a war on drugs and “temporarily” categorizing marijuana as a schedule one, the most restrictive classes of drugs would bring any scientific research on it to a screeching halt — the same research which led to marijuana being used to treat cancer patients today.
in 1972, a commission appointed by Nixon himself recommended decriminalizing both possession and distribution of marijuana in small amounts intended for personal use. Nixon completely ignored both their recommendation and report despite the fact it was unanimous.
“You want to know what this was really all about. The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”-John Ehrlichman, Top Aide for President Nixon (Source: www.drugpolicy.org)
Marijuana is still placed as a schedule one federally, despite the fact it is medically legal in many states and even for recreational use in a few. It’s widely accepted among the general American public today as we’re more educated than ever as opposed to the days when we got our so called facts about drugs from the government and those who worked for them themselves.
A War was declared on drugs as a whole by the Government in 1972 and was primarily aimed at the least harmful of all of them in marijuana. The year is now 2017 and although less and less Americans are being sent to jail for marijuana, more and more are dying from overdoses on legally prescribed prescription painkillers and opiates yet nothing of value is being done about it.
Despite the fact millions of Americans have spent a countless accumulated number of years in prison for both selling and buying marijuana, plenty of who went on to die while incarcerated — marijuana can be legally purchased at and sold by any licensed dispensary in the state of Colorado today. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both admitted to having tried pot, though Clinton infamously claims to have not inhaled.
You may not be able to purchase them through the mail today but in many states you can purchase guns at your local Wal-Mart if you’ve never been convicted of a felony or deemed clinically insane. If Wal-Mart is too far out of your way just wait until a gun show or expo comes to your town. If you’re unfamiliar with what a gun show is, well picture a flea market — except one where they only sell guns and ammo and the merchants selling them all hate Hillary Clinton with a passion. Many of them seem to have an unhealthy infatuation with the confederate flag, especially those from the north.
Rock and roll has gone on to really prosper. Politicians and white American parents have since gone on to mainly embrace it and instead aim their disdain at and blame hip hop for glamorizing selling drugs and promoting violence to our precious rebellious young. Ironically, rock and roll has gone on to fully embrace hip hop as rappers have finally started being inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame. Jay-Z was even inducted into the song writer’s hall of fame earlier this year.
It’s not controversial until they tell you it is, until they declare it so along with a war against it. Until it’s used to kill their own or lead a revolt against them. It’s not controversial if they profit from it, even if it pains another. It’s only controversial when your making money they can’t tax. Controversy is a political tool they use to control the general public’s perception in the way that either makes them the most money or costs them the least of it. Rock and roll and hip hop are not controversy, they never were, they’re just art. Whatever your stance on guns and drugs is, make sure it’s your own. Hopefully it’s also an informed one and not one handed down to you by someone with skin in the game. Decide for yourself what controversy is.