Walker Chandler’s speech to the National Convention of the Libertarian Party of the United States, July 4, 1998
Drug Testing Libertarians
When invited to address you all, my first impulse was to keep it light, to tell you funny anecdotes about my arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court last year, and to sound out the broad Southern colloquialisms and pronunciations which play so well on the national stage—in short, I thought to amuse and to entertain. Clearly there is no need for me to preach to the choir from this podium about the evils of drug testing.
Indulge me, though, if I do speak from the heart to you and the thousands who are watching us here today. Indulge me if I talk not so much about the testing of our bodies as I so about the testing of our principles and about war, and tragedy and suffering.
Yes: My theme would have been light—how I bantered with the justices and even got my fellow Georgian Clarence Thomas to laugh indulgently when I pointed out to the court that we have a saying down in Georgia that no man’s liberty or property is safe so long as the General Assembly is in session. It makes a good story.
So with thoughts of humor, I asked my beautiful wife Ruth, who said that, No, it’s not a funny topic. Talk about your clients and how they suffer. Talk about—get this—”The Thinly Disguised Humiliation of the Working Class” and “Drug Testing and the Culture of Despondency.”
She suggested an episode of the Simpsons: the one in which Homer is busted for possessing something illegal. His wife Marge is forced to agree with the social workers that he is evil or they will take away her children. The government begins a forfeiture on the house, and Homer loses his job at the plant and spends the family’s meager savings to hire a lawyer to represent him. He loses his house to the government, his family to the social workers, and his car to his creditors. Then he stands there, a broken subject of the crown, while Chief Wiggin self-righteously laughs as the judge hands down strongly for what Dylan called “penalty and repentance” and one more family is torn asunder. This is the episode we shall not see. It is not funny.
There is, yes, a war going on out there. During the Nixon years it began to be called a war on drugs. As we all know, it is not a war on drugs: It is a war on individuals.
Like men and women fighting some desperate rear-guard action, the much-maligned criminal defense attorneys of America interpose themselves between the State and the accused individual. On our clients’ behalves we implore judges to limit incursions upon our Bills of Rights, we tend as best we can to some of the wounded of that war, and with increasing frequency and conviction we ask juries to judge both the law and the facts and nullify prosecutions when they think it right to do so.
But we can only interpose, and implore, tend the wounded, and boldly ask. It is you—and people like you—who can do more. You can counterattack on numerous fronts: calling congressmen and senators and state representatives, writing letters to editors, talking to people telling them where we stand and why. Praising the Lord and passing the ammunition.
You can stand without flinching when men question your motives and the morality of our party’s positions on this most important of issues. It is you who can—and must—lead the charge.
And it is a most important issue because it lies at the basis of what we believe about the nature of man and government.
Every person has a major issue that concerns him or her. For some it may be the dismantling of that great cornerstone of class warfare, the income tax. Other issues include the rights of sexual, identificational, and financial privacy. The Great Right: the right to bear arms. The right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Free speech rights. Associational rights, including our on-going struggle against evil ballot access laws by which the collectivist Party and its two wings, the Democrats and the Republicans, maintains its stranglehold on the body politic. Proportional representation. Religious freedom and the freedom from religion—in short, the rights so succinctly stated by Mr. Jefferson and his colleagues: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
The Pursuit of Happiness.
I find myself most often returning to the issues raised by the war on the individual, on his right to live as he sees fit, to smoke and to eat what he will, to use or abuse his body and his mind as he sees fit. His right to succeed and, yes, even to fail. Perhaps that last right is the greatest right of all: the right to fail.
And there is another issue altogether which we and those who with whom we ought to be forging alliances should agree: we must recognize that it is the individual who must be allowed to pursue his or her own psychic and religious destinies. Are these really matters which should be subject to majority vote?
What if man invents—or already possesses—some substance that can break down, if only temporarily, those great barriers that so often separate the hearts of men from God? Should such substances be controlled? If so, we ask, then why? And who is to decide? A majority? A committee? A godless politician ?
None of us here would deny that society has a duty to protect children . But at what point are we no longer children?
I go to church regularly. We say the 23d Psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd.
Not the government, mind you. Have the American people let themselves become the sheep of its pasture? If so, then it has the right to herd, to test, to shear, to chastise and control and, ultimately, to cull and slaughter. If the American people let themselves be disarmed, it may someday come to that.
But we are not there yet, and we are speaking of an ongoing fight—the eternal struggle of one group to dominate, and another to resist domination.
Let us then speak of allies. Let us not look for them among the ranks of the unprincipled or the amoral. More importantly, let us not estrange ourselves from those who may think differently than we in this most crucial issue of the right of the individual to live free. They may ally with us if only they can understand our points of view and our motives.
And our motives—like those of the Founders – have their roots in the essential tenants of Christianity—that we should love our neighbors as ourselves, that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us, that we should turn the other cheek to insults, that we should use not force to coerce but logic and persuasion to help others to turn away from sin.
And is it not sin in its most essential form to suppose that one has the right to coerce one’s fellow man in matters of custom and religion?
I say—and there are many here who may challenge me on it—that we should engage ourselves positively with what is called the Christian Right, for there we shall find many with whom we can discuss our ideas,
For whether one is a Christian, a Jew or an Atheist, one thing is clear: nothing in the teachings of Jesus authorizes the use of force to accomplish a social goal. There is not one word in the Gospels about seizing temporal power,
not one word about using the government as an instrument of plunder or to oppress hapless minorities, or impose upon others one’s religious beliefs.
No: all of Jesus’ injunctions are personal and even then they are suggestions and not dictates. Even the Ten Commandments are directed to the individual and not to the collective mass of society:
Not Ye, but Thou.
It is of course true that many who think of themselves of Christians follow false prophets who urge collectivist coercion to accomplish social goals. We should not fear or dislike them on that account. Most of them are victims of a system of public education that stifles critical thinking and promulgates the obviously flawed idea that for every problem there can be fashioned a governmental solution. I submit that those who believe that way do not have true faith. Like lost sheep they have gone astray and are demanding secular solutions to moral problems.
Yet something else is clear to us: that there are millions of people of faith all over the world who open their hears and purses every day, giving generously to those in need, tending the sick, and spreading messages of hope, faith, love and cooperation throughout the world.
We can respect those people. They are helping others not because they are compelled to by governments. Their dollars sent to foreign lands are used for medicines, food, schools, and safe water. They are not wasted on weapons, bribes, and propping up weak currencies. Let us not think ill of those who are doing voluntarily what we contend ought to be done.
Therefore let us go forward from this place as if convicted and repentant, trying to preach, if you will, this American gospel which is rooted in higher ideals: This gospel, this creed of Jefferson and Madison and Whitman. Let us sing with open mouths this song of the Open Road.
It will be easy. Use the tools of the trade. Don’t expect others to be as educated in political and economic philosophy as you are—not yet, at least.
Read what they read. Even if you are an atheist, you might just find it interesting. One would have to be very arrogant to think that no wisdom can be found in the religious teachings of thousands of years.
If you are an atheist, bear with me. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t a moral person. But if , on the other hand, you are a person who has listened and has heard the Word, then the task is easier still. Look for signs—you’ll find them. An example of that was when I was facing my first large public forum when running for Lt. Governor in 1990. I feared having to face an aggressive press and audience with our then-unpopular message about the relegalization of drugs. After asking in my own way for guidance, I opened the Bible at random and immediately laid eyes upon this very line from Daniel 6:22:
My God has sent his angel and hath shut the lions’ mouths and they have not hurt me.
And so it was, and so it has been, for through the years and the election campaigns we have experienced, most of us have found that almost every journalist we meet has been generous, open-minded, and intelligent. And in their hearts, they, too, know the truths about the drug war, and one of those truths that they know is that if this matter of governmentally decreed drug testing is not stopped, then ultimately all of us can be tested for anything for which our benign governments think we ought to be tested: tuberculosis, AIDS, genetic defects, intelligence.
And there is even another aspect which of which I spoke to the High Court and that is this: if we travel abroad and do that for which the government can test us when we return, and if they can then charge us with those uses, will that not signify the final triumph and confirm the ownership of the individual by the government?
Take up the tools, then. One of those tools will be, I hope, the book I have recently published, The Evangeline Manuscript. It is the first person account of a modern young woman who has traveled through the ancient world of 27AD. It has taken 22 years to complete and can be used, I hope, as a bridge to the millions of people of faith with whom we should be allied, for it answers most convincingly basic questions the answers to which should be obvious to all: What would it be like to travel in those times, what is the nature of the bearing of arms and the right of self defense, what are the cultural aspects of drug and alcohol use, what would it be like to meet the man named Jesus? What would he think of our present social structures and the oppressions of the ensuing centuries which have been carried out in his name?
I submit that there are only right answers to those questions.
But there is hope! Based on this party’s many years of patient work among the intellectual and journalistic circles, based upon the fact that a whole generation of men an d women who came of age during the Vietnam War and to whom we may refer as the Woodstock generation are now assuming public office, there is hope. Of course it is also true that many of my generation who have political aspirations are afraid of telling the truth, and as cowards and traitors to their friends and families they lie and dissemble and say, like Gore and Gingrich, that they deeply regret having smoked marijuana and some may be even more creative and more obvious when they say that never did they inhale it, but then, let’s face it: those sorts of men will have to live with themselves and hear in their old ages the snickers and laughter of the citizenry and think on the obituaries which shall be written of them .
And it comforts us, also, to know them for what they are. Those lesser men, those liars and those cowards! Think of them like those Gentlemen in England who were not at Agincourt on St. Crispins Day. Let us become orators of freedom. Even if when we are back at home we find ourselves few in number in a mass society, let us think and speak as Shakespeare had Henry the Fifth say of that fight:
This story let the good man tell his son And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by from this day to the ending of the world but that we in it shall be remembered: we few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he that today sheds his blood with me shall be my brother, be he ne’er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition
And gentlemen now abed in England shall think themselves accursed they were not here
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks who fought with us here upon St. Crispian’s Day.
Old words ring true. Use them.
But use the new: We are the party of the internet, cyberspace, the future: It’s tremendous: it’s almost biblical:
There’s a passage I like that puts our existence into perspective, particularly when we think of supernovas:
the nations rage, the kingdoms totter, He utters his voice, the earth melts.
Mankind has a destiny, and it is not here on this earth picking at, testing, and oppressing one another as if we had nothing better to do. No, our destiny is to populate the stars if we don’t destroy ourselves first. The geometric expansion of technological change which will make our expansions easier are also moving us rapidly toward a very profound change—the development of a single world language for the commerce of ideas, and that language is English.
Yes, a common language and one oft associated with utterances of the ancient aspirations of the individual to live in liberty, to pursue his own happiness, and to enjoy exercising his inalienable rights and recover those so often impaired by men with lesser visions and baser hopes.
But will that common language which unites us as we go forth toward the planets and the stars beyond be merely one spoken by an insect horde, or will it ring with the cadences of Shakespeare, Whitman, and Jefferson?
Will it continue to repeat the self-evident truths? Will in still repeat the warnings of Jefferson’s generation about the dangers of government and the Rights of Man? Will it vouchsafe the promises of limited governments enshrined in the bills of rights of the federal and state constitutions—bills which clearly stated that the rights not specifically granted to the governments were reserved to the people?
And so we are tested in our beliefs. We are not standing upon soapboxes at street corners. We believe in one’s right to use or misuse his own body and his own mind. We believe that such rights were among those that the people reserved unto themselves long ago. We believe that those rights cannot be alienated by others, and
we believe that we need never be ashamed that we would leave men free even to fail,
And we believe that is exactly what Jesus himself once taught.
And if God is with us, how can any man stand against us?
So go forth:
And may the Force be with you!