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One Toke Over the Line

A pamphlet entitled 10 Things Every Parent, Teenager and Teacher Should Know About Marijuana produced by the Family Council on Drug Awareness tells us marijuana is not physically addictive. 

The 1980 Costa Rican study, the 1975 Jamaican study and the 1972 Nixon Blue Ribbon Report all concluded that marijuana use does not lead to physical dependency. 
The FBI reports that 65 to 75 percent of criminal violence is alcohol-related. On the other hand, Federal Bureau of Narcotics director Harry Anslinger testified before Congress in 1948 that marijuana leads to nonviolence and pacifism.

According to a 2003 Zogby poll, two of every five Americans say “the government should treat marijuana the same way it treats alcohol: It should regulate it, control it, tax it, and only make it illegal for children.” Close to 100 million Americans, including over half of those between the ages of 18 and 50, have tried marijuana at least once. Military and police recruiters often have no alternative but to ignore past marijuana use by job seekers.

Polls now show a majority of Americans (52 percent) favoring an end to marijuana prohibition. Dr. Deepak Chopra is on the Board of Directors of the Drug Policy Alliance.

During the early '70s, the debate was over legalizing abortion and/or marijuana.

"One toke over the line sweet Jesus
"One toke over the line
"Sittin' downtown in a railway station
"One toke over the line

"Waitin' for the train that goes home, sweet Mary
"Hopin' that the train is on time
"Sittin' downtown in a railway station
"One toke over the line

"Who do you love? I hope it's me
"I've been a changin', as you can plainly see
"I felt the joy and I learned about the pain that my mama said
"If I should choose to make a part of me, surely strike me dead

"I sail away a country mile, 
"Now I'm returnin' showin' off a smile
"I met all the girls and loved myself a few
"And to my surprise "Like everything else I've been through
"It opened up my eyes! 

"I wanna be
"One toke over the line sweet Jesus
"One toke over the line
"Sittin' downtown in a railway station
"One toke over the line

"Don't you just know I'm just "waitin' for the train that goes home sweet Mary
"Hopin' that the train is on time
"Sittin' downtown in a railway station

Brewer & Shipley, "One Toke Over the Line" (1971)

A disc jockey here in the San Francisco Bay Area quipped in the '90s that Brewer & Shipley were a one-hit wonder band: they were living on a hippie commune (perhaps it was The Farm, pro-life vegan hippies, out in Tennessee?) recorded "One Toke Over the Line," and went back to their commune, never to be heard from again! 

I can't help but wonder what mainstream secular American society would be like if we'd legalized marijuana in Jan 1973 instead of abortion (which is arguably an act of violence).  Cool and mellow and nonviolent?

I'm told there was an episode of the remake of the original Twilight Zone series in the late '80s along these lines, which depicted history had JFK not been assassinated.

Of course, we can't really speculate about these things. 

If you accept the premise that abortion and war are the collective karma for killing animals, then the legalization of abortion in American society was inevitable.

George McGovern, the "peace candidate" (like Dennis Kucinich in the '90s and early '00s), smeared by the Republicans as the candidate of "acid, amnesty, and abortion," said in 1972, "I have no 'secret plan' to end the war, I have a public plan... I will halt the bombing on Inaguration Day (Jan 1973)."

When direct U.S. involvement in Vietnam ceased in Jan 1973 (and the war on the unborn immediately began!), we negotiated the same kind of peace treaty we could have gotten in 1969.

Direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War continued for four unnecessary years! Neither talk of "peace with honor" from Nixon and the right, nor political protest from the left ended that war.

You *have* to believe in karma!

My friend Greg Sims told me that an older relative of his once quipped:

"People told me that if I voted for Goldwater over Johnson, within six months we'd be at war. I voted for Goldwater, and sure enough, within six months we were at war..."

Does political protest make a difference? 

My friend John Antypas, a liberal Republican, reacted unimpressed and with mild cynicism in the spring of 1985 at the anti-apartheid demonstrations which had rocked our (usually quiet and apolitical) campus, and campuses across the country. 

He said, "It's a given that college students will protest."

I countered, "The campuses have been quiet for thirteen years." (Student demonstrations erupted in the spring of 1972, during the bombing of North Vietnam, and had been quiet since then.)

John said, "If you really want to make a difference, you have to hit them in their pocketbook (divestiture, boycotting, etc., which is what the anti-apartheid demonstrators were doing, too!)."

On another occasion, I pointed out to John that political protest makes a difference: in 1966, the Beatles came out against the Vietnam War at a time when it was supported by 90 percent of Americans, but by 1971, public opinion had shifted, and 60 percent of Americans opposed the war!

John replied, "That's because America was losing the war!"

That's John, ever the cynic.

Dr. Carl Sagan described the 6th century BC as a time of intellectual ferment across the globe: in Egypt, Pharaoh Necho caused Africa to be circumnavigated. Zoroaster appeared in Persia, Confucius and Lao-Tzu in China, the Hebrew prophets in Israel, and the Buddha in India. In Ionia, it was the time of Thales, Anaximander and Pythagoras.

John, on the other hand, suggested with mild cynicism, that (at least in India) it wasn't high ideals about nonviolence and pacifism which led to the doctrine of ahimsa or nonviolence toward humans and animals alike in India, but ecological and economic realities.

John Antypas, took the position of an economic determinist, like Karl Marx, saying economics determine everything, including the ethics of a civilization.

(My friend Chris, a political liberal, would later react with amusement at John Antypas, a Republican, being compared to Karl Marx!)

Keith Akers writes in A Vegetarian Sourcebook (1983): 

"There was a major upheaval around the sixth century BC in India, which not only deeply affected Hinduism, but also led to the formation of the Buddhist and the Jain religions -- both of which put increased emphasis on the sanctity of all life, including animal life. 

"In the third century BC, the great Indian king Ashoka himself gave up most, if not all, meat consumption. Meat was almost entirely done away with at the royal court; and the killing of some kinds of animals was prohibited entirely... The official religion changed from Hinduism to Buddhism... It is said that Ashoka was converted to Buddhism after viewing the carnage that resulted from one of the great battles of the day.

"But economic factors, as well as religious factors, were making meat consumption increasingly rare. It was becoming more and more expensive to produce meat because of the pressure overgrazing and deforestization were placing on the land. Given the economic situation in India at the time, it is quite possible that Ashoka had one eye on the Buddha and another eye on the condition of the land. 

"Some of Ashoka's other decrees -- such as restrictions on forest-cutting -- also demonstrate an acute awareness of the relationship between ecology and human prosperity."

If economic determinism is to be believed, it could be argued the real reason we're seeing the emergence of an animal rights movement, is because (as pointed out by Peter Burwash in A Vegetarian Primer in 1983), the world population has long since passed the point at which everyone could be comfortably fed on a meat-centered diet, so it makes sense to eat lower on the food chain, an idea first popularized by Frances Moore Lappe, in her 1971 bestseller, Diet for a Small Planet. As vegan author John Robbins points out in Diet for a New America (1987), the world's cattle alone consume enough to feed over 8.7 billion humans.

Interestingly enough, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, morally opposed to killing animals (and repeatedly bringing the issue for discussion with Christian clergy and people of other faiths), shared John Antypas' cynicism toward high ideals about nonviolence and pacifism toward the antiwar protests during the Vietnam era.

Srila Prabhupada said that human civilization is meant to be divided into four classes: brahmanas (priests), kshatriyas (soldiers, statesmen), vaishyas (farmers and merchants), and sudras (laborers, the working class). 

Srila Prabhupada said military draft is contrary to Vedic civilization, because it forces men from the working class to take up arms and fight against their will. 

Srila Prabhupada did not fall for the high ideals about nonviolence and pacifism that were voiced during the Vietnam era, rather he said that (unlike the Buddhists, Jains, Pythagoreans, and early Christians) because the majority of the population 5,100 years into the Age of Kali is sudra or lower, they're evading the draft because they're afraid to be killed, afraid to die.

"That's a pretty good reason to protest a war!" said my friend and roommate John Anklow, a Reform Jew from New York in 1986, when I told him that an older gentleman and friend of ours, Rick, who was in college during the late '60s, admitted that fear of being sent off to fight and die in a foreign land, rather than noble pacifist sentiments, was a significant factor in the antiwar protests.

In high school (circa 1979 - 1980), we learned that because Vietnam was never a declared war, the government couldn't impose a state of emergency or take any other measures to stifle political dissent.

Does political protest make a difference? Maybe. A lack of censorship certainly does! 

In 1966, when Paul Revere and the Raiders recorded "Kicks" (an anti-drug song), they couldn't make any direct references to drugs, even in a negative context. But by 1971, Brewer and Shipley were singing openly about marijuana (see above).

In 1966, the Monkees, not a real band, but singing songs written by professional songwriters, couldn't sing openly against the draft, but could only allude to it, in their first hit single, "Last Train to Clarksville":

"Take the last train to Clarksville,
"And I'll meet you at the station
"You can be be here by 4:30,
"'cause I've made your reservation
"Don't be slow...

"Take the last train to Clarksville
"I'll be waiting at the station
"We'll have time for coffee flavored kisses
"And a bit of conversation...

"I'm feelin' low 
"And I don't know if I'm ever coming home..."

But by 1971, Freda Payne was openly singing, "Bring the Boys Back Home."

In 1965, the Byrds deliberately added the lyrics:

"A time for peace
"I swear it's not too late..."

to the music of Pete Seeger, with words taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes, in their hit song,"Turn, Turn, Turn."

In 1965, Simon & Garfunkel sang:

"Last night I had the strangest dream
"I ever dreamed before
"I dreamed the world had all agreed
"To put an end to war"

And my friend Greg said that when it was announced over the loudspeaker system of his elementary school in Connecticut that direct U.S. involvement in Vietnam had ceased (just days after the war on the unborn began!), Simon & Garfunkel's words and music were broadcast as well.

The Seamless Garment Network (SGN) is a coalition of peace and justice organizations on the religious left. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has signed the SGN Mission Statement:

"We are committed to the protection of life, which is threatened in today's world by war, abortion, poverty, racism, the arms race, the death penalty and euthanasia.

"We believe these issues are linked under a consistent ethic of life. We challenge those working on all or some of these issues to maintain a cooperative spirit of peace, reconciliation, and respect in protecting the unprotected."

Pro-life Catholic and vegetarian Al Fecko wrote to me in 1995, interested in bringing Vaishnavaite Hindus into the SGN, which would increase its pro-animal component as well. 
I told Al that abortion and war are the collective karma for killing animals. We can't end abortion and war until we shut down the slaughterhouses.

I told Al that for us, as Vaishnavas, or devotees of Lord Vishnu or Krishna, abolishing all war is utopian. The Bhagavad-gita itself was spoken on a battlefield: a call to action. I said, instead, the SGN should oppose all wars of aggression (rather than wars of self-defense) and a military draft.

By the early '70s, the draft was unpopular. Shirley Jackson's short story, "The Lottery" was written about the lottery system which had replaced the draft, and concerned a small town in the heartland of America, where a lottery system (abolished in some towns, but still considered patriotic in this particular town) decides which citizen gets stoned to death: indirectly taking a stand against the draft AND capital punishment.  
"The Lottery" was made into a short film, which I first saw in high school in the late '70s.

Pro-life literature from the early '70s tried to compare girls and women facing unplanned pregnancies but being required to carry a child to term with young men being asked to heroically serve their country in the draft. 

This was a poor analogy for conservative pro-lifers to make, at a time when the draft was extremely unpopular!

On the other hand, there was an anthology of pro-life essays circa 1972, which included an essay by respected pro-life physician Dr. Thomas Hilgers. Frances Moore Lappe's 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, advocating eating lower on the food chain (lacto-ovo-vegetarianism) to make resources available to feed everyone was already a bestseller. And in response to abortion advocates warning about "overpopulation," one of the pro-life essayists in the anthology said if it comes down to it, we'll live as vegetarians, rather than take the lives of the unborn! 

(This was at a time when vegetarian art-rock bands, consisting of classically-trained musicians, like Yes were hitting the charts as well. And the Krishna Conscious band Quintessence, out of England, sounded like a cross between the Moody Blues and Jethro Tull.)

George McGovern said: “I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.”

And, “The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher standard.” 

A Democratic Party fundraising letter from the mid-'00s similarly referred to Bush, Cheney, etc. as "chickenhawks," having evaded the draft themselves, but starting wars while demanding others serve.

I told Al the SGN should oppose all wars of aggression and a military draft, rather than all wars in general.

Is killing the unborn aggression or self-defense?

Debates like these were raging in the early '70s. Professor Judith Jarvis Thomson wrote in her 1971 essay, "A Defense of Abortion," that even if the fetus is a person, if you find yourself unwillingly hooked up to a comatose person, are you morally obligated to sustain that person for nine months?

Pro-lifers have responded that her analogy is only valid in the case of rape: what if through your own actions, you caused yourself to be hooked up to the comatose person?

Thomson acknowledges that her first analogy is only valid in the case of rape, and goes on to provide another analogy, comparable to using contraception: If you have screen doors, windows, etc. to keep other life forms from entering, but still some living entities still enter, are you morally obligated to allow them to live in your house?

UC Berkeley law professor John T. Noonan Jr., a Catholic, responds in a 1973 essay, "How to Argue About Abortion," that while Thomson lives in an imaginary world of political theory, she ignores a very real legal case in which the Flateau family invited a guest to dinner, and then insisted the guest leave afterward, despite the harsh elements outside (a snowstorm), in which the guest would not survive.

The legal ruling was that the law as well as humanity deemed that the Flateaus were morally responsible for allowing the guest to remain inside, until circumstances permitted the guest to leave.

In the late '80s, on USENET, a pro-lifer asked, if feminists say abortion is justified because a woman has a right to control her own body, does this mean she has the right to become a prostitute?

A pro-choice female responded: "Welcome to the libertarian position!"

Another pro-choice female acknowledged that the fetus might very well be a person, but insisted, no one has the right to use another person's body without that person's consent!

Is killing the unborn aggression or self-defense?

I'm not a follower of any of the Abrahamic faiths, but I must point out that Pope John Paul II even opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Perhaps thinking along these lines, when pro-life Catholic Edith Black was kind enough to visit the Krishna temple in Berkeley, CA a few years ago, with flyers advertising the West Coat Walk For Life, she said to temple president Grantharaja dasa (Greg Anderson), "we (the Catholic Church?, Democrats For Life?, the SGN?) oppose all pre-emptive war"... rather than take a stand against all war!

In 1996, when I was trying to be vegan, I was dining at a restaurant with my parents and a friend of my father’s from India, who had worked on India’s nuclear program in the 1950s and ’60s.

The Hindu vegetarian diet is lacto-vegetarian, and he saw being vegan as unusual, referring to it as “anti-dairy.” But he quoted Aristotle having made a statement against wine, while admitting in a sing-song Hindu accent, “Still, I am drinking…” 

...and he was impressed with me for not wanting to touch even caffeine, saying respectfully, “…you are a pure brahmana (intoxication is forbidden to the priestly class in Hindu society).”

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