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September 2007
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What a long, strange trip

I’ve always been pretty big Doonesbury fan, and have recently found myself pulling out some of the old books of strips from the early years. And I also happened upon a Knight Lecture talk given by Garry Trudeau at Stanford University in March, 2000 titled “What a Long, Strange Strip It’s Been” — now available for free on iTunes. Quite delightful.
Here’s a little piece of it…

Given the sea change in attitudes, it seems even to me, quite incredible that I could have depicted a culture so tolerant of recreational drugs, but in fact that was our reality. That tolerance, which is now largely forgotten, is what has made the past so haunting and difficult for baby boom politicians when confronted with queries about past behaviors.
As you know, most public figures have used the budding scientist defense — the claim that they were engaged in experimentation. Thus when President Clinton finally came clean, it was only to admit that he too had been bitten by the research bug, but had been plagued by flawed methodology.
Many other public figures have used this approach, from Al Gore, to Newt Gingrich to Mustang Sally – Susan Molinari, but all of them have adhered to the confessional guidelines laid down during the Ginsburg Supreme Court hearings.
Judge Douglas Ginsburg, you may recall, conducted his experiments while he was law school professor, at which exalted station one is expected to have already concluded one’s benchwork and re-joined one’s better senses. Having forfeited the youthful indiscretion defense, Ginsburg was toast.
In contrast, Justice Clarence Thomas, another confessed lab rat, wrapped up his experiments by senior year, so he now occupies the chair that would have been occupied by Justice Souter had Judge Ginsburg completed his experiments in a more timely fashion. The irony, of course, being that Justice Souter, who didn’t conduct any experiments at all, is the only one of the three who probably could have benefitted from them. […]
How refreshing it would be to hear a baby boom Congressman step up and say “Hey, I don’t remember my Freshman year. Get over it.”
The fact is an estimated 80 million of our countrymen have used Cannabis to date. At one time such unlikely sources as Jimmy Carter, and Dan Quail, and Richard Nixon’s Marijuana Commission all favored decriminalizing the stuff, but since the early 80’s nearly 5 million people have been arrested for marijuana-related offenses.
One of the weirder outcomes of the drug war is that much of America has to behave like the criminals they technically are. They have to lie. A lot. Job applications, medical forms, insurance forms, recruitment papers, all of them are opportunities to deny “youthful indiscretion.”
So. Would I ever admit to using pot? Of course not. I never experimented with marijuana. Nor did I every drive a motorcycle, or have an alcoholic beverage until my 21st birthday, or have a sexual experience of any kind until well into my third year of marriage.
In other words, I’m a parent. […]

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