Russell Madden
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It Mattered
Russell Madden
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Russell Madden


The recent brouhaha regarding radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, and his self-described addiction to prescription pain medicine has revealed the moral bankruptcy of those who occupy the supposedly opposite ends of the political spectrum. Both liberal and conservative commentators have evidenced their usual propensity for selective focus and their utter disdain for anything remotely resembling logic and consistency. As for principles...that remains a creature shrouded in mystery and terror to those who swim in the mainstream.

While Limbaugh has admitted to a dependence on painkillers following an unsuccessful back surgery, he has not yet discussed the source for those pills he "abused." Allegations continue to float that he obtained illicit medicine via a connection provided by a former housekeeper. Florida police acknowledge an on-going investigation but decline to provide details as to Limbaugh's alleged involvement in illegal drug transactions.

As stories swirled throughout the media, Limbaugh announced to his audience that he intended to check himself into a rehabilitation center for a third try at breaking his addiction. He said he was "not making any excuses," that he was "no role model" given his reliance on pain medication to make his life bearable, and that he is "not a victim" but takes "full responsibility for [his] problem"...even though he said it was the medication that had a "hold" on him.

For decades, our culture has been polluted by both Demicans and Republicrats condemning those who purchase or use drugs without the explicit permission of the State. The reason did not matter. Terminal patients racked with pain from metastatizing cancer were verbally lacerated for seeking the solace of marijuana and its THC as a means of alleviating their pain or of providing a way to quell the nausea preventing them from retaining their medicines. Indeed, some who dared defy the edicts of the State found themselves locked behind bars and, essentially, condemned to death because of their desire to live. Better, it seems, that truly sick people die or go blind or suffer excruciating agony than for the State to weaken its hold on its power over us.

Citizens who approved statewide referendums to offer a measure of mercy to those using "medical" marijuana found their wishes usurped and discounted by the Feds. The latter vowed to wage their war regardless of what any mere state said. Objections be damned. Even with regard to legal drugs, some doctors faced loss of their licenses, fines, and/or jail time for prescribing "too much" pain medication to patients with intractable pain (with the definition of "too much" left to the "expert" opinions of grossly ignorant bureaucrats and politicians).

Even worse treatment than that meted out to sick folks awaited individuals who sought illicit drugs for mere "pleasure." The compassionate politicians running this country into the ground declared that mandatory sentences for nonviolent acts; that sentences of 99 years for growing "too many" marijuana plants; that even execution for selling drugs to willing buyers; that all of these punishments represented acts of justice for those "destroying" our society and "aiding" terrorists.

Limbaugh, of course, never shirked from supporting draconian measures against those involved in the drug trade. Indeed, he believed the treatment of white drug "criminals" was not harsh enough; that too many of them received passes on their evil actions or, at best, suffered nominal punishment.

Perhaps one day soon we will learn why Rush did not turn himself into the police and demand the hard jail time he maintains all drug users deserve rather than treating his problem as a medical condition by checking into a rehab center.

Perhaps we won't.

After all, others who are most eager to see drug users rot in jail have abruptly discovered the power of rationalization. Unlike the poor schmuck in a ghetto hoping for a bit of solace from a lousy job or a bad relationship or a life that sucks, Rush's problem, we are told, "is personal and human." Unlike the penalties pushed by Drug War supporters -- such as life-sentences given to marijuana growers or the loss of all one's assets (even if one never used drugs) or death when DEA agents raid the wrong house -- the Left's unpleasant words about Limbaugh are "ruthless and cruel" treatment. Unlike dying cancer patients withering in pain who are denied narcotics or who are arrested if they use such drugs illegally, Rush has "big-time pain" that justifies his consumption of painkillers. Unlike those ordinary citizens caught up in the nightmare world of guilty-until-proven-innocent-and-probably-not-even-then, Limbaugh is being wronged because his opponents offer him "no sympathy for his medical ordeals." Unlike recreational drug addicts who only want to get "high" and feel better and thus deserve Limbaugh's unremitting censure, Rush should receive "slack" because he wanted to feel better. Unlike many patients who use illicit drugs in order "to live as normally as possible" but who should still be tossed in the slammer or have their lives ruined, Rush should not be in jail merely because he advocated such penalities for others yet wanted painkillers "to live as normally as possible" himself.

No. No inconsistencies there. None at all.

As bad as the conservatives in their reactions to this story are the liberals who have flocked to the airwaves to discuss the issue of addiction. The left-leaning morning talk shows consistently aired the views of "experts" who called addiction a "disease" over which no one has "control." (Compare this to Limbaugh's statement regarding the "hold" the drugs had on him.) Naturally, no one is responsible for getting sick. (Unless -- according to many conservatives -- you are a gay with AIDs....)

These liberals desperately want to co-opt Rush into their wacky world of medical voodoo. They want him to reject and renounce his negative judgments regarding lifelong welfare recipients, those too lazy to work, or those desperately clamoring for increased government largesse. In weakness and helplessness lie his salvation from jail. "Join us," they implicitly say. "Accept the dark side and be free."

None of these proponents of powerlessness and passivity would accept the fact that addiction is a choice, not a disease. (See, for example, the work of Stanton Peele for a further discussion of the latter.) To acknowledge this reality would cost these compassion-junkies their livelihoods and the source of their "self-esteem." To accede to the truth would be to admit that addiction reflects people's "values, skills at living, and personal resolve -- or lack of it." (Peele, p. 3.)

Despite his self-contradictions, Limbaugh at least does not call himself a victim or deny his responsibility for his situation. After all, "there is no biological urge to form addictions." (Peele, p. 4.) Addictions "are known by the goal-directed behaviors they describe." (Peele, p. 6.) While some such actions are destructive, others merely enable people to cope with their problems.

But neither the gurus of addiction-as-disease nor Limbaugh himself can admit that, at times, addictions perform a positive function, that addicts "get something" from being addicted. Abandoning obvious error is a task many find beyond their ken, especially those intent on forcing their views upon others or seeking absolution for their own shortcomings. Rush could say, "Hey, the Drug War is ridiculous. I haven't hurt anyone. Why am I the subject of a criminal investigation? Most drug users do not abuse their drugs. I needed mine to deal with a problem I could not solve by surgery. What business is this of the State? Go away and leave me alone!"

But he won't.

After all, the Drug War is not an exercise in disease control. It is merely an example of control.

Sadly, many libertarians similarly fail to recognize the centrality of this assault upon our liberty. They fear the Great Unwashed will "misunderstand" our opposition to drug prohibition, and thus we should soft-peddle the issue. It appears that loss of (potential) control motivates even otherwise reasonable people.

But the Drug War encompasses a hell's half-acre of abuses in its restrictions upon our right to keep and bear arms; upon our right to due-process; upon our right to properly limited and conducted searches and seizures; upon our right to financial privacy; upon our right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. No-knock raids, the militarization of our police, asset forfeiture, money-laundering laws, military patrols of our borders, promotion of violence and disrespect for the law, corruption of public officials, an explosion in our prison population, destruction of innocent lives... It is difficult to find a single program that manages simultaneously to increase State power and decrease individual freedom in more areas than does the Drug War, a.k.a., the War Against People.

Limbaugh does not see this. His conservatives apologists do not see this. His liberal enemies do not see this.

The status quo will remain intact. The privileged and the connected -- like the daughter of Florida governor, Jeb Bush, who likewise abused prescription drugs -- will skate through the system relatively unharmed. The poor, the lonely, the uneducated: they will continue to receive the brunt of the santimonious and wrong-headed policies that have afflicted the people of this nation for so many decades.

No. Limbaugh should not be jailed. No drug user should. But for his hypocrisy, for his championing of a policy that undercuts all he claims to believe, for his failure to see the facts; for these actions, we who truly comprehend what is required of us to be free should not fail to deliver a judgment to Rush: a moral one.

That kind of a judgment, Rush fully deserves.


Rush Limbaugh. "Rush Limbaugh Statement on Prescription Pain Medication Stories." 10-10-03.

Stanton Peele. The Diseasing of America. Houghton Mifflin. 1989.

Barbara Simpson. "Liberals Love Limbaugh's Pain." WorldNetDaily. 10-13-03.


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