Right Once in A While
A Jubilation from the Fringe on a recent court decision
If you close your eyes and throw a dozen darts at the dartboard, you’re likely to get a couple that land pretty close. That’s how American Justice is, blind, and maybe not too smart. Once in awhile the justice system works. This time it worked when the Second District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles decided that someone who uses cannabis medically is not necessarily incapable of parenting their child.
In a rational world, this is a no brainer and wouldn’t even come up in conversation. But we don’t live in a rational world, we live in a society sculpted from mean spirited religious fundamentalists and the surplus sons of European aristocracy, so it’s like we’re drunk all the time, and we’re mean drunks.
The term “procrustean” refers to Procrustes, who, in Greek mythology, was a demigod and blacksmith who would invite strangers to stay the night and then laying them on a bed, would stretch or lop off as much of the strangers as necessary to make them fit the bed perfectly. It refers to a rigid, compartmentalized way of evaluating people, chopping the off or stretching them out to make them fit.
Bureaucrats function best that way, fitting humans into boxes on forms, concocting definitions which each person must fit, even if they have to be trimmed off.
“Drug use” is a term which moves literally hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats toward retirement. As a result, it is a very rigid Procrustean bed indeed. In the case heard by the Second District Court of Los Angeles a father was found to be a fit parent in spite of the fact that he had a medical marijuana prescription. The child welfare bureaucrats in Los Angeles County took the stance, powered by federal funding, that simply having a doctor’s recommendation for ganja means the prescription holder is a drug abuser. Since the feds haven’t made med-can legal, Prop 215 literally makes one a card carrying pothead in the eyes of the feds. A startling lack of proper representation.
Originally, the law was intended to remove children from homes where severe neglect existed. Many times, people severely addicted to alcohol, prescription meds, methamphetamine or other potent mindbenders make poor parents. Initially, the intention was to identify and treat parents who were too strung out to keep their kids fed, housed, and safe from the creepy boyfriend. Then funding was found, programs were started, and the bureaucratic pressure was on label and induct families based on drug use alone, assuming that drug use must mean child neglect.
It isn’t hard to find the rationale: drugs are bad for people and blah blah blah, assumption on definition, definition on assumption, mounting a bureaucratic argument for cutting the parent off, or stretching them out, depending on the availability of funding for stretching or snipping.
One rationale brought up by LA CWS is that the parent might smoke de ganja and drive de car. Marijuana smoking is not more highly correlated with automobile accidents than eating while driving; will CWS snatch a kid if you’re pulled over and have half a donut and a cup of coffee? Read the labels of the prescription and over the counter medications you take; if they say “may cause drowsiness” and you drive, you are violating the law. Shall we believe that no one at LA CWS eats while they drive, or uses allergy medications legally obtained? If there are, shall we fire them and take their kids? There is a selectivity to the bureaucracy, what it sees and what it ignores. It doesn’t see reality, it just see what it looks for.
We certainly do have a drug problem in the U.S.; we are one of the most over-prescribed nations in the industrial world. We have an illicit drug problem, too, one exacerbated to horrifying extremes by a militarized approach to drug addiction.
The pretext by which the government invades our family is slender at best. It makes the assumption that the child will be better off after intervention; the actual evidence for that is very weak. From that weak premise careers are made, definitions and regulations are constructed, hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats go home to warm houses and look forward to retirement. Meanwhile, the families who are fodder for the system suffer.
As voters and the people the government claims to represent, we have to be more rational in what we insist on and what we allow from our government bureaucrats. We can’t give every child a perfect life, and in trying we create a new Procrustes. The ruling by the Second District Court insists that the bureaucracy visit the real world at least occasionally.