The Ecphorizer


Issue #60 (November 1986)

Dear Editor:

Concerning "Palko's Payable Piss-Test Proposal" in the October issue, I must take issue with a couple of points.

First, let me indicate that I approach the whole question from a strong civil-libertarian point of view. I believe random drug testing, on any job, to be a violation of personal freedoms, and I generally would strongly support the ideas laid out quite well by Mr Palko in his fourth paragraph. My bones of contention, however, occur later when, first , Mr P indicates that the $50 offered when I am forced to take a randomly-indicated drug test will "compensate...for having to sacrifice...constitutional rights to privacy and freedom from search." Bull. Perhaps I am the last of the idealists, but I feel that no amount the Government or agency or whatever would be willing to give me could compensate me for these freedoms which I hold dear, and which I f e e l every American should hold dear . Are we to be bribed out of the Bill of Rights? There are those who would legislate them away, those who are undermining the courts and justice system to eliminate these rights, and now someone wants to buy them out! We will not sell, and we cannot sell if we wish to remain living in a country free from the oppressions practiced by so many police states around the world.

I read a while ago of a man in Soviet Russia recently incarcerated because he had dared to practice Judaism — teach Hebrew, establish a Yeshiva, and the like. The charge? Illegal drugs! Do we want that kind of oppression right here, at home? Of course not. Paying me, or, I hope, a great many other people $50, $100, or $1000 will not compensate us for the loss of something priceless. Furthermore, "criminal prosecution would be indicated only in cases outside the area of testing...the argument of self-incrimination is negated" is contradicted by some statements a few sentences later summed up by "Call me paranoid, but I'm no fool." Me neither. Surely Mr Palko does not believe, no matter what the testers say, that the results of such tests, snafu or no, will not be available to any official or even quasi-official agency that cares to pry? Anyone could be targeted and removed to confinement, a la USSR, with "random" drug testing.

Lastly, let us make a distinction, as Mr Palko seems to neglect to do, (he is not alone — our current 'leadership" seems also blind to any distinctions on this level) between drug use and drug abuse. It is my understanding that the drug most abused, overall, is alcohol. Yet there are many people who confine consumption of this legal, yet addictive, substance in such a way that it never interferes with any aspect of their jobs. I am opposed to drug (including alcohol) abuse which, I believe, can better be controlled via a program of voluntary education, rehabilitation, and reinforcing positive self- images, rather than random repression. Instead of treating the symptom, why not go after the disease? Although more complex, I do not believe the solution to drug abuse by humane approaches to be either unreachable or too expensive, especially when our rights and freedoms are involved. Thank you for listening.

Larry Bernard
San Francisco

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