after G W Bush turned himself in for past drug crimes, Ralph Reed, a consultant
and advisor to the Bush campaign, visited him in jail. "George, why
are you in here?" he asked, still baffled by Bush's unprecedented action.
"Ralph, why are you out there?" Bush responded, using Henry David Thoreau's famous words to Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The encounter led GW to write this open letter to his friends and family:
So many of those close to me have begged me to leave prison. But my answer to all of you is this:
How can I, as a leader who's possessed and used narcotics, expect to live free? Is my life somehow worth more than the hundreds of thousands in jail for drug crimes? Is yours? I implore you: don't urge me to leave jail. But if you've done drugs as well, then come join me. Show our leaders that you believe in only one standard of justice, and in the equal worth of all people.
Let me point out that 70% of Americans have committed drug crimes. In our privileged circle we look upon drug crimes the way the ordinary folks look upon parking violations--we need not fear punishment. But ordinary people risk long prison sentences for partaking in what we call "youthful indiscretions."
40% of America has a criminal record--most from a drug related crime. Tens of millions have been fired or denied jobs because of drug use. One out of nine children have lost one or both parents to the prison system because of a drug crime.
Drugs, of course, should not be encouraged. But like it or not drugs are available. And like it or not people are going to experiment with drugs. Our government has used this fact to criminalize the majority of the population. A higher portion of our population is behind bars than in any communist regime or dictatorship in history. We dog China for a few thousand political prisoners, while we ourselves have hundreds of thousands of political prisoners.
Yes, political prisoners. These people are in prison because the private prison industry has bribed congress to put "lock 'em up and throw away the key" drug laws on the books. At least in China's case the government believes--however wrong they may be--it is imprisoning dissidents in the interest of national stability. But our actions are so much more disgraceful compared to theirs--our leaders are jailing dissidents just to get cash for their campaign coffers from prison corporation donors.
I know in the future many more of you will be asking me, "Why are you in there?" Let me remind all of you of the famous words of Thoreau to Emerson, while he sat in jail for protesting the illegal war to annex Texas from Mexico, "My friends, why are you out there?"