Don Williams
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Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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Conversation with a friend points to nation's hypocrisy regarding drugs
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   08/27/1999)

Dont you love to see him squirm? my friend asked with a smile, as we sat watching George W. Bush try to answer by not answering, a question about drug use.

Not really, I replied, as I turned off the TV. I mean, whose business is it?

Whose business? Why, its everybodys business, my friend said. Take Bill Clinton, who was roundly criticized for smoking pot....

No, he was criticized for the wishy-washy way he admitted to it, I said. That bit about not inhaling. When Gore admitted to experimenting with pot as a kid, nobody blinked.

O.K. then, how about several hundred men and women in the Texas prison system put there for doing no more than Clinton and Texas Governor Bush did? Dont you think its their business?

In the first place, we dont know whether Clinton and Bush ever did cocaine....

Dont be naive. Jennifer Flowers is on the record that Clinton promised he could get her as much cocaine as she wanted. She said he did so much it made his head itch. As for Bush, if his slate was clean, dont you think he would say so, and put all this behind him?

Maybe hes being true to a principle.

Like what?

That politics of personal destruction should not be tolerated.

There are bigger issues at stake, dude.

Such as?

Equal justice under the law; personal liberty; whether we should be spending billions for a war on drugs that was lost before we started; whether all drug use is bad. Did you see that bit on the news about the late great Carl Sagan--you know, the Cosmos scientist--BEEL-yuns and BEEL-yuns? His notes reveal that some of his most elegant theories came to him under the influence of marijuana. Heck, half the books and music we grew up on were influenced by drugs. The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Elton John all....

Your point being?

That our government has engaged in massive denial--no pun intended--when it comes to drugs. Read Willie Nelsons autobiography some time. Theres a passage about him smoking pot with a friend in the Carter Administration while theyre sitting on the White House roof. Then theres the rumors about Hamilton Jordan.

So what? Were evolving as a nation. We had our experiment with drugs back in the sixties and seventies and decided that, for the sake of the children....

Dont change the subject. It gets even worse when you move to the Reagan/Bush years.

Youre not about to say Reagan did drugs?

Its worse than that. Its pretty clear that some in the Reagan Administration used drug money from Central America to ransom those hostages in Iran.

Those were desperate times....

Meanwhile, Reagans own daughter wrote about recreational drug use. And going back a few years, its come out that at least one of John Kennedys blonde bombshell girlfriends actively sought to buy LSD for Kennedy on the streets of LA. Who knows, maybe he was under the influence when he thought up going to the moon or started the Peace Corps. Of course, you know the psychedelic movement was started by college kids who were the subjects of government drug experiments about 1960. Just read Tom Wolfes famous book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Its all in there.

Why would government scientists do drug experiments on college kids?

They were looking for truth serum and emotional destabilizers to use against our enemies. Only they let a genie out of the bottle, and it changed everything. Fashion, music, attitudes toward the environment. Ordinary people saw God in a daisy. Peace movements sprang up everywhere. Even in the Soviet Union and places like Hungary.

Now wait a minute. Its well known Reagans strong stand against communism beat back the Soviets.

Yeah, but that didnt happen in a vacuum. True story: I met a Russian immigrant in Oak Ridge a few years back. Hes dead now, but he was an air-conditioning expert who was working, ironically, for Oak Ridge National Laboratories. I say ironically because, turns out he had designed the latest cooling system for Lenins Tomb in Moscow. He said that by the seventies almost nobody in Russias intelligentsia gave two cents for Communist dogma. He said they were all listening to Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and American jazz fusion.

Youre nuts, I said.

Hey, I have an excuse. Im a child of the sixties.