Saturday, July 14, 2012

“A tipping point is happening”

Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki discusses Obama's disappointing record on drugs and why he thinks true change may be near

110 kg of marijuana seized from a vehicle that attempted to enter the U.S. near San Diego

Documentary filmaker Eugene Jarecki took on the military-industrial complex in his award-winning 2006 film “Why We Fight,” and now he turns his attention to a war closer to home — the drug war. His new film, “The House I Live In,” which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance earlier this year, takes a critical look at the criminal justice that has ensnared millions of Americans in order to enforce the prohibition on drugs. Jarecki spoke with Salon about Obama’s disappointing record on drugs, about one of the largest voting blocs no one has heard of and about why he thinks we’re a approaching a “tipping point” in the drug war.

The drug war has never quite broken through as a major political issue. What attracted you to this issue, and why should people care now?

The election. Not just the presidential, but at the legislative level and at the local level across the country. Isn’t an election ultimately about the question that we’ve been working out for several years now — what kind of a country are we intending to be? Ever since World War II that’s been a question. We became an enormous world power, and we’ve handled that power questionably, and ultimately, I would argue, to our own detriment. And certainly to the detriment of people who don’t benefit from the industrial system. And this [the drug war] might be one of the most pressing, and sort of inspiring, areas as a possibility for real reform. Whether we’re going to continue the kind of state-following and fear-mongering that we have had since the end of the Cold War, where we almost needed a new enemy, so into that pipeline we put the drug dealer and drug user.

Could we step back and say, there must be a better way for us to lead the world? Morally, spiritually and otherwise. We are now in many ways a laughing stock for the rest of the world due to the enormity of our prison population. We have outpaced every totalitarian country in the world. Not only proportionally, but in real numbers. China has five times the population, but it has a smaller prison population. So it seems to me that the moral bankruptcy of the war on drugs would be something that really should be a central topic of these upcoming elections. More