Now, I could talk about how hunting accidents sometimes happen, and who I think bears most of the blame. I could wax poetic about the Second Amendment and how people like Sarah Brady will try to use accidents like Cheney's to infringe an unalienable right. I could even jump up and down and join the fray criticizing Cheney's camp for not notifying the media immediately. But after looking at each of these things, I realized that the vast amount of attention being paid - still! - to the vice president's unfortunate hunting mishap is indicative of something much bigger and with far more dire consequences for all of us.
On Monday, February 13, you couldn't listen to the radio, turn on the TV, open up a newspaper, or sign onto the Internet without hearing about Dick Cheney. Most of the ubiquitous reports I personally saw were critical, but even those that excused the accident or any delay in alerting the media were just additions to the three ring circus surrounding the incident. Programming on every news channel seemed to consist of "all Cheney, all the time." And though it died down a little with time, the story continued to take up vast amounts of airtime and ink.
Whatever you personally think of Dick Cheney or of his hunting accident, you now have a great deal of information about it. Is Harry Whittington okay? (His doctors say yes.) Will Harry Whittington forgive Dick Cheney? (Published reports indicate he's already dismissed the matter as an accident.) What kind of gun was the vice president using? (It's a custom made shotgun.) Got any new Dick Cheney jokes? (If you don't, you're the only one who doesn't!) But while you were soaking in all of this important information, some other things were also happening on February 11.
On February 11, a man by the name of Steve Kubby spent another day in a California jail being denied medication that's perfectly legal under state law there. Kubby, who suffers from a rare form of adrenal cancer, uses medical marijuana to alleviate some of the dangerous symptoms of his disease (very high blood pressure among them). California voters passed Proposition 215 back in 1996 which legalized the medical use of marijuana there, including the cultivation of plants for personal use.
Kubby was arrested in 1999 for growing marijuana; in January of this year, he landed back in a cell after being accused of violating probation (which he denies). In both instances, his jailers refused to give him medication that, once again, is entirely legal in California. For Kubby, this is potentially a death sentence (his jailers have been permitting him the use of Marinol which, though not as effective for Kubby as inhalation, does seem to be controlling his condition, but there's a very real threat that his treatment will be discontinued once the current supply runs out).
If Steve Kubby does die, he won't be the first inmate that the State of California effectively kills by withholding prescribed medication. In 2000, Peter McWilliams died after being denied access to medical marijuana to treat his AIDS and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer. The emphasis again is not on whether or not McWilliams was guilty of anything (he wasn't; he was accused of something that was rendered perfectly legal under Proposition 215, but was prohibited by a judge from using that fact in his defense), but rather the fact that no prisoner should be denied medical care.
On February 11, an inmate in Mississippi found himself one day closer to execution. Cory Maye is scheduled to die for the capital murder of a police officer in 2001. The problem? Maye didn't kill a cop. He shot an intruder. Maye lived in one half of a duplex with his girlfriend and their young child. Police executed a no-knock warrant on the other half of the duplex and arrested a "small time" dealer. Though Maye's half of the building wasn't named in the warrant, one officer decided to check his apartment anyway, and burst through the door. Fearing for his safety and that of his family, Maye pulled the trigger. Officer Ron Jones died as a result of Maye's actions.
No one has claimed that Jones announced himself.* Maye has said that he was scared, and who wouldn't be when a stranger breaks into a home in the middle of the night? And yet somehow Maye was convicted of a crime he could die for when all he did was engage in self defense. Yes, Officer Jones wasn't a "bad guy" per se, nor would he have been likely to hurt Maye or his child. But how do any of us know in advance what an intruder might or might not do? And what deadly risks will we take on behalf of our families to wait and find out?
Cory Maye could be me. Or you. And certainly something similarly tragic is bound to happen sooner or later given the prevalence of no knock warrants combined with the fact that more and more Americans are realizing they're largely responsible for their own safety and arming themselves accordingly. There's nothing wrong with the latter (the former is arguable at best). But in accepting that responsibility, how many of us even for a moment think we're also taking on the potential of being considered the most heinous of criminals?
Of course, the press was too busy making much of Dick Cheney's quail hunting trip to take notice of insigificant life-threatening matters like those of Steve Kubby and Cory Maye (in fairness, the Maye matter has finally begun to get a little attention from the "mainstream" media, but it may be too little, too late). Meanwhile, most Americans aren't complaining. It seems they like tabloid journalism far and above the real thing.
American Idol overwhelmed the Olympics in the ratings (in the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit I used my handy dandy video machine so as to watch them both). The fall-out from Bill Clinton's clandestine "not sex" with a White House intern was far greater than that of his orders to bomb an aspirin factory, or the fact that the tragedy of Waco occurred on his watch via the orders of his Attorney General. The media - and the people - spent more time talking about George W. Bush's dubious "wild child" past than about his plans for the course of the country.
As a direct result of our preoccupation with "gossip" (and the media's willingness to fulfill our desires in that regard), we've reached the point where administrations are criticized for many of the wrong (read "less important" but "more titillating") things, and government itself isn't criticized at all. Yet it's the government and its erroneous - and unbending - policies that are trying to kill people, not individual members of Congress or of the Bush administration (although some might say that Dick Cheney made an effort in that regard).
We want to be entertained. Oh, we want to think we're getting serious news, too, but really? We want to be entertained. And it's our very lack of concern with serious (though admittedly dull) government growth and the corresponding encroachments on liberty that ensure those things keep happening. Like the ancient Romans, we want our bread and circuses, and as long as we're fed and amused, the rest can go hang. Sort of like Steve Kubby and Cory Maye.
But remember what happened to Rome. And know that allowing the miscarriage of justice that is ongoing in California and Mississippi is only the tip of the iceberg that will sink America the same way.
* Since this column was first written, a reader who happens to live in the area the original crime occurred has written to advise me that police do claim to have announced themselves. While I've still not seen any reports that make the claim, I'm giving the benefit of the doubt to someone who lives locally and doubtless has heard far more about this case and in more detail than have most of the rest of us. While I don’t put it past the police to lie - particularly under circumstances like these - I have no sure knowledge that they did and am thus adding the information here.
Lady Liberty is a pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House. E-mail Lady Liberty at email@example.com.
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