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Substances: American Justice in the Age of Rush and Chong
In the early 90s, I shared a second floor office complex with Jim Lennox. Every morning, like a Groundhog Day alarm, Jim would tune his radio to Rush Limbaugh. It was an ugly business — Rush’s high hateful pitch driving Jim into an angry whitemanland red-ass frenzy. No one was safe from the cranked-up bitch and whine — Rush amping up the odium, Jim growing more impatient with life and his fellow employees. I usually smiled, closed the door and turned up NPR.

One morning Jim didn’t show to work. No Rush. Calm. Quiet. All right.

They found Jim’s body at the wheel of his Taurus. He parked facing a greenbelt along El Toro road in the foothills of Mission Viejo. They found his head in the backseat. Jim shoved a shotgun into his mouth and pulled the trigger. He left his wife and his three children behind to fend for themselves.

Did Jim have Limbaugh on the radio when he sprayed the rear deck speakers with his brains? Possibly.

Listening to the drug-addled OxyContin ramblings of Rush Limbaugh can have that kind of ugly side effect. Rush clutches and fist fucks his listeners into a blame game. Don’t like who you are? Attack someone else.

Apparently, Jim ran out of targets.

Chances are that if Rush had smoked dope instead of getting ramped-up on OxyContin, hydrocodone and Lorce, he might have had some low flying bass beats on his radio show. Jim might have chilled-out in a soulfull groove. But that didn’t happen. Like a run of the mill junkie artificially amped on self-righteousness, Rush’s Hillbilly Heroin high was so south of no north he dubbed himself “the truth detector.” Check it out. Truth:

“Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.”

Chug it, Rush.

"One of the things I want to do before I die is conduct the Homeless Olympics…the 10-meter Shopping Cart Relay, the Dumpster Dig, and the Hop, Skip and Trip."

Stick it in again, Rush.

"If we are going to start rewarding no skills and stupid people — I'm serious, let the unskilled jobs, let the kinds of jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do — let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work."

Too much of a bad thing, Rush. You’re getting my boy Jim upset.

“Send the people who want to do drugs to London and Zurich, and let's be rid of them.”

Unfortunately, Tommy Chong isn’t going to London or Zurich. He isn’t going to deliver a mea culpa radio address or appear in any dumb doper movies any time soon either. For the next nine months, while repentant Rush is in rehab at Sierra Tucson, Chong will be in a federal prison. You can thank your Attorney General John Ashcroft for that. At the same time the rest of the country was busy watching Osama, Saddam, Martha Stewart, Kobe and Arnold, Ashcroft rehabilitated a rarely enforced federal statute that specifically names bongs as drug paraphernalia. Couple that with the 1994 Supreme Court ruling prohibiting bong sales across state lines and you have half a comedy team in lock down and a man who can’t defeat a corpse commandeering a penny ante drug war at a high stakes table.

And so it goes. On, of all days, September 11, Chong pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to sell drug paraphernalia. He was arrested after the DEA set him up. Where? On the internet with a sting operation. How? With under cover agents ordering bongs and pipes and having them shipped to a phony head shop in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

It’s your law and order tax dollars at work. While you sit at home getting spammed by teensdoingbarnyardanimals.com, the feds are out busting Chong, a 65-year old father of six in his 30th year of marriage, who is lauded in his hometown for charitable work and teaching inner city youth. Chong’s internet site never intruded into your AOL account offering water pipes or, for that matter, bigger breasts or longer peni or erotic pet tricks with children. He never barked his way into your life under the influence of a Schedule III opiate, either.

Today, Ashcroft is American justice. Jim Lennox is long dead. I think I’ll smoke a joint and say a prayer for Tommy Chong. As for Limbaugh, you’re forgiven. Now, go to hell.

— Nathan Callahan, October 12, 2003


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