Marc Emery compared the oppression of the cannabis community to that of the Jewish people
By Bryan Punyon
Special to Toke of the Town
Fair Warning: This article begins with material that some may find offensive, but for a point.
“Why do Concentration Camp shower heads have eleven holes? Because Jews only have ten fingers.”
Find me a joke about the Cannabis community that borders on that kind of black humor. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
“What’s the difference between a Jew and a pizza? Pizza doesn’t scream when you put it in the oven.”
Same challenge. Still waiting.
“Holocaust jokes aren’t funny, Anne Frankly, I won’t stand for them!”
Gotta love wordplay. Some of my favorite jokes are the result of clever word choice. Still nothing on the offensive Cannabis jokes? Well, then.
Many will find these kinds of jokes offensive. To be honest, they’re some of the tamest Jewish jokes that I know. It’s called Gallows Humor, the art of turning tragedy into hilarity, because the alternative to doing so is to give in to despair and disgust. For an oppressed people to claim the language used in their own dehumanization is a form of cultural empowerment, and part of that includes the use of their own slurs and derogatory humor.
If a Jew tells Holocaust jokes, do you have the right to be offended?
Michael Coren may be, in Mr. Emery’s words, a “loathsome” conservative TV host. I certainly disagree with him on a great many points, find some of his tactics and statements offensive, and would challenge the accuracy of some of his information.
Jodie Emery appeared on a station her husband has subsequently dubbed “Fox News North” unprepared for Conservative lines of questioning regarding her Libertarian views
However, the fact that he espouses these views on TV does not surprise me, because he is, in fact, paid to say them on the air. What does surprise me is that Jodie Emery would appear on a station her husband has subsequently dubbed “Fox News North” unprepared for Conservative lines of questioning regarding her Libertarian views.
Mrs. Emery appeared flustered as his questioning and tone became more derisive, and as with any prominent activist figure, supporters jumped to her defense. In this age of the Internet, many would call the deluge of offensive responses that Mr. Coren received predictable, up to and including the atrocious spelling. The Internet, being a bastion for free speech and open celebration of our cause, allows an anonymity that tends to lead to bold words that most wouldn’t speak with their own lips, face to face.
While Mr. Coren could be described as aggressive and patronizing, a quickbrowsethroughotherclipsfeaturing Michael Coren easily shows that his views are, in fact, traditionally conservative (sometimes crossing into hard Right-Wing), and his typical demeanor is far more confrontational than he had previously shown to Mrs. Emery. I’m not a frequent purveyor of Canadian television, but from everything I’ve seen of Mr. Coren, while I may disagree with his political views, the man is certainly no Bill O’Reilly (in a good way).
It’s also fair to assume that the Emerys don’t have direct control over what their fans say and do, especially on the Internet, and cannot necessarily be directly blamed for unkind words and racial slurs flung in response to an unflattering interview.
Whatever the circumstances of the messages he received, Mr. Coren found them offensive. Mr. Coren issued a strongly-worded response, denouncing the Emerys and legalization movement as trivial and fanatical, also making reference to a previous remark that Mr. Emery made in 2004, when he called then-Justice Minister Irwin Cotler a “Nazi Jew or Jewish Nazi” in reference to Mr. Emery’s prosecution, which he perceived as a betrayal of social justice by a Jew.
Marc Emery decided to use Mr. Coren’s article as a jumping-off point to compare the oppression and successes of the cannabis community to those of the Jewish people. Although there are certainly some parallels between the persecution experienced by both the Jews historically and cannabis users in the last century, the comparison that Mr. Emery draws comes across as both pandering and offensive.
Bryan Punyon wrote this article for Toke of the Town
Recreational Cannabis users have the option in many situations to forgo use and clear chemical evidence from their bodies if the necessity arises, such as to complete probation or find employment. Stashes can be ditched, pipes and bongs can be destroyed or abandoned, and all indications of involvement with the plant can be expunged with effort. Even when people “go straight” out of necessity, many continue to maintain social ties with their stoned brethren without penalty.
Jews do not and have never had that ability. We cannot alter our heritage or genetics, and no amount of effort can ever change who or what we are. During various points in history, continuing to associate with a suspected or known Jew was a torturous death sentence. The historic oppression of my people and the attempted systemic elimination of our bloodlines and culture from the face of the planet multiple times is vastly horrific.
The Drug War is legally unjust and morally despicable, but the Tribes of Israel were persecuted and demonized for different reasons and to different extremes than users of Cannabis. A stoner with ‘420’ tattooed on his wrist, even one who has served time, has experienced a different kind of discrimination and dehumanization than a Jewish man with a series of numbers in his forearm. An image of a pot leaf draws a different kind of reaction from its detractors than the Star of David. I cannot think of a single incident to memory in which a Cannabis user was beaten or killed in any part of the country directly because of being identified as someone who smokes weed.
While Cannabis Prohibition is grossly and intrinsically inhumane, the majority of arrests for Cannabis are made because of choices made by the individual being arrested; the Jews were hunted and killed simply for being Jewish*.
The one subgroup of Cannabis users that has claim to a similar kind of choicelessness as what the Jews have faced in their persecution are certain categories of medical Cannabis patients. There are some within the medical community that do not have another viable option of treatment or symptom relief, much as a Jewish person during the Pogroms had no way to abandon their Jewish blood in order to avoid targeting**. In this aspect of the comparison, Mr
. Emery is correct. MMJ patients, such as Peter McWilliams and Ralph Seeley, have suffered and died directly because of Cannabis Prohibition and the legal orders dispensed as a result, much in the same way the Jews have suffered and died throughout history because of religious, cultural, and genetic persecution.
Beyond that, however, while the Cannabis community has certainly experienced its share of discrimination, sociopolitical oppression, and terrorization, the persecution of the Jews was extrapolated to an unthinkable degree.
When a Cannabis prisoner walks to the showers, he knows there will be water coming out of the pipes. Pot smokers have not been literally set on fire by an angry mob for their use of the herb. Stoners have not been systematically rounded up and shot simply for what flows through their veins.
When a Cannabis user is sentenced in the civilized world, there has been a trial and defense, and a clear length attached to that sentence. Cannabis users have not been forced into cattle cars, left to starve and die for weeks, and then ordered to throw their dead brethren out when the train stops, leaving them unburied or in mass graves. When the subject of Government propaganda against Cannabis is now brought up, it is giggled at and mocked via films like Reefer Madness: The Musical and other satirical media outlets; publish a cartoon in the mainstream media mocking the tales told about the Jews and blood libel, and see how long you keep your job.
My people were tortured and experimented upon during the Holocaust. We were hunted like animals during the Pogroms that Mr. Emery so helpfully speaks of. The Spanish Jews captured by the Inquisition didn’t have the option of taking a plea deal and spending five years in a medium security prison; the most they could hope for was a swift death, and then only if they betrayed their friends and loved ones. For Mr. Emery to compare his own incarceration to the persecution and imprisonment of the Jews throughout history is, to be as kind as Mr. Coren was to Mrs. Emery in her first two appearances, disingenuous.
It is certainly true that both cultures have made numerous contributions and achieved great benefits for society and civilized progress, but this was never in question to begin with in the original dispute between the Emerys and Michael Coren. Mr. Coren’s stated views are that personal Cannabis use should not be cause for incarceration, and there are more important things in the world to be focused on besides Cannabis activism. At no point, on his show or in his article, does he deride the historic worldly accomplishments of members of the Cannabis community. He doesn’t even mention them.
With her third appearance, host Michael Coren appeared to tire of Mrs. Emery’s Libertarian talking points and begins to press her for deeper clarifications
Throughout all three of Mrs. Emery’s appearances on the show, Coren’s lines of questioning remain, in essence, the same; the difference with her third appearance is that Coren appears to tire of Mrs. Emery’s Libertarian talking points (with all due respect to Mrs. Emery, she does hit every one of them in each interview and says little else besides the customary pleasantries), and begins to press her for deeper clarifications. He is looking for, as he says, an argument. Regrettably, Mrs. Emery does not appear to be expecting this amount of aggression from a conservative political TV host who disagrees with her position.
In his subsequent article, Mr. Coren shows even more teeth in his repeatedly-stated opinion:
“This time I challenged her a little on drug legalization, and her answers were thin and predictable.
Not that I am especially opposed to looser drug laws and I really couldn’t care less about personal cannabis one way or the other.
It’s the plight of the privileged, a bourgeois conceit, a perfect example of western narcissism and self-obsession…
Hunger matters, injustice matters, war matters, but this and you don’t.
Yet we have the scenario of inverse significance.
Activists for African poverty relief, for example — who have every right to be mad — tend to be balanced and polite. Yet activists for irresponsible drug-use — who have no right to be mad at all — are insulting fanatics.”
Not the nicest way to put it, but no different in essence from his previous statements on the subject. The difference is that now he has been confronted by grossly uncivil response, and has stopped pulling his punches. Even in this, though, Mr. Coren has not disparaged the historic successes of the cannabis community or its effects on the progress of society. He has simply repeated his belief that Cannabis legalization is not the most pertinent social issue facing our planet.
In tying these two groups together, Mr. Emery has attempted to twist Mr. Coren’s own claim to offense against him by telling him that the suffering and successes of the Jewish people are the same as the suffering and successes of the Cannabis community. Mr. Emery attempts to dele
gitimize Coren’s right to be outraged by claiming kinship, and through that attempts to justify his questionable “Jewish Nazi or Nazi Jew” analogy that he made regarding former justice minister Cotler in 2004:
“In this regard, you have to ask yourself, as I did in September 2004 while serving a three-month prison sentence in a Prairie gulag a thousand miles from home, what do you call a Jewish human rights activist who, as Justice Minister, betrays the principles of decent humanity for arbitrary punishment and power? Do you call him a Nazi Jew or a Jewish Nazi? To me, there is no doubt about his capability and capacity for evil as a government agent; the only question is the appropriate terminology to describe his perfidious deal with evil.”
Point of fact, the Yiddish word for “betrayer”, a Jew who sells out his own people, is “Moser.” The attached article offers some context of how vulgar its use is considered within the Jewish community. It’s a loaded and offensive slur among many Jews, referring to one who sells out his own people for personal benefit.
In my opinion, Mr. Emery intended to chide Mr. Cotler for what he felt was a betrayal because, given his Jewish heritage, Mr. Emery felt that, in his position as Minister of Justice (a Government position that also serves at the Canadian Attorney General) he should have been a champion of the cannabis cause. Whatever Mr. Emery’s personal opinion on the matter, this expectation was, in and of itself, presumptive, and his subsequent comment distinctly offensive.
I would hesitate to accuse Mr. Emery of outright anti-semitism, because Mr. Emery is clearly knowledgeable about the history and hardships of our people, but assuming that the heritage of the Jewish people will automatically translate into empathy from its members for Mr. Emery’s own cause is, at the very least, unintentionally such. Being a Jew does not in and of itself make a person in favor of drug legalization, or any specific political platform. The view of cannabis prisoners as victims is not shared universally. Just as not all Jews support the actions of those in Israel against the Palestinians, Mr. Emery had no right to assume that Mr. Cotler would support him simply because Mr. Cotler is Jewish.
Marc Emery’s poorly chosen words sparked controversy
Go back to the Holocaust jokes at the beginning of the article: even if it’s a Jewish person telling them, the claim to Judaism does not negate anyone else’s right to find them tasteless and offensive. So, too, with culturally-loaded terminology like “Moser,” or in Mr. Emery’s case, “Nazi Jew or Jewish Nazi.” When Mr. Emery claims kinship with the Jews via his own prosecution and incarceration, he feels that he is justified in making his comparison of Mr. Cotler, even as he fails to understand exactly how culturally offensive the reference he’s making is to those of Cotler’s heritage.
With all due respect, Mr. Emery has not experienced accusations of murdering a guy who lived 2,000 years before his birth, to give one minor example of the inherent discrimination that Jews often face simply by waking up in the morning.
Mr. Cotler’s record on human rights speaks for itself. Mr. Emery’s poorly-chosen words sparked controversy, and now Mr. Emery further offends with this defense of his terminology. What’s worse, he doesn’t appear to see anything wrong with his offense because of his own experiences being persecuted for repeatedly violating Canadian and international laws. When called to task for the words of his supporters and confronted with his own questionable language, Mr. Emery takes modern injustice and claims it to be the same experience as historic xenophobia and repeated attempts of genocide.
I wish Marc Emery a safe completion of his prison sentence and happy return to his home country once it has concluded. I wish he and Jodie the best and happiest lives together once his sentence is complete. I hope that Mr. Emery continues with his activist work once his time has been served, and help finally bring full legalization out of the dreams of stoners and into bright reality.
I also sincerely hope that Mr. Emery never has to experience the same kind of hatred and persecution that the Jewish people have gone through.
*I have not forgotten about those who lose homes, finances, and property because of the actions of a loved one or housemate in the Drug War. These victims of Prohibition are examples of a place where Mr. Emery’s analogy fits, in that innocent people suffer and are made destitute because of draconian and unjust laws. This does not change the subsequent point.
**Scholars/enthusiasts/critics of Jewish history will rightly point out that some Jews and Jewish families successfully avoided persecution during the Pogroms and Holocaust by converting to Christianity and/or taking on false names. These folks still lived in fear that their past lives would be uncovered and they would be incarcerated and put to death without Due Process. Those who abandon smoking marijuana or using other substances are often lauded and praised as having “turned their lives around” when such a change is uncovered.