On the evening of September 21, I was sitting in the green room of KTVA, Anchorage, Alaska’s local CBS affiliate, awaiting my turn to discuss the Alaska gubernatorial race live with news anchor Alexis Fernandez on the Ten O’Clock newscast. It was then that my earpiece picked up the shocking conclusion to the report on the Alaska Cannabis Club by the now-infamous Charlo Green. She revealed that she was the owner of the pro-marijuana legalization club that she was covering, and followed that revelation by speedily resolving the obvious conflict of interest: “F— it, I quit,” she helpfully announced on live air, and then walked off the set.
The anchor, Alexis, took a moment to gather herself, apologized to the audience, and gamely moved the broadcast forward. Off-camera she was tough and cheerful. As in life, the show must go on, she said, during the next commercial break, acknowledging what everyone instantly knew, that Green’s sensational resignation was destined to become a “YouTube moment.” The KTVA team carried on as well as anyone could. Seconds before my segment, the producer offered a calming joke. That night an apology for Green’s conduct by news director Bert Rudman appeared on the KTVA website. But, as anticipated, Green’s on-air performance spread like wildfire, nationally and even internationally. My colleague, a professor of Latin American politics at another university, read about it in La Prensa Libre, the main print daily in Guatemala. The bad coverage roiled KTVA. The producer in charge that evening, a good, professional woman, has since resigned.
The damage done to my friends at KTVA was a calculated betrayal. A few minutes before Green’s live report, her club posted a Facebook entry urging its followers to watch her story on KTVA. The next day she was raising money on crowdfunding website Indiegogo. And she preemptively rejected any suggestion that she would apologize. Since her resignation, Green has been busily exploiting KTVA’s unwanted media attention for her “cause.” And for what cause did she betray her colleagues? For “freedom,” she passionately avers, in her rambling manifestos.
Sorry, Charlo, but that is not good enough. Perhaps before becoming a journalist, you should have taken any one of my courses in American Government at the University of Alaska, so that you would know better than to invoke the bedrock principles of the American Revolution, for pot. That brave generation did not march under a Cannabis flag. It did not bleed and suffer with an eye to forming a new government dedicated to protecting or sanctioning hedonism.
At rare moments in political life, high principles are at stake, and it may then be regrettably necessary to risk friendship for the public good. No such principles are at stake in our national marijuana debate. Does American freedom turn on whether we legalize pot? Of course not. The debate does raise legitimate questions about how to faithfully apply American principles, but certainly continued marijuana illegality does not threaten the viability of any principle that our founding generation held most dear and bequeathed to us. Nor does continued marijuana illegality prevent us from pursuing happiness, unless one badly misconstrues happiness. Though self-delusively and self-servingly wrapping herself in the American flag, Charlo Green burned her colleagues for a trifling.
We have a right to question the nature of a cause that callously disposes of friendship and forces itself upon the American people, in the face of much graver political concerns. This election year will substantially influence the answer to a one hundred year-old question, whether our nation will choose to accept progressive reformation or will move towards the restoration of limited government. Also, we can all now see the truth in Defense Secretary Hagel’s observation that the world is on fire, which demands an American response. As I write, worry is increasing that Ebola might take root in America.
But amidst this, pot advocates compel us to hear their profanity-laced activism? Who does that? A committed hedonist does. According to a hedonist’s standard of justice, the pursuit of pleasure ranks higher than all other ends, so it is morally easy to sacrifice professional friendship, and to be indifferent to the changing character of our system of government, our national security, and the shakier condition of liberty in the world, all for the sake of getting high. Adjust your morals, America, those other concerns be damned. The removal of all barriers impeding the next toke on a joint matters far more, and all things must yield to the demand to remove those barriers. This is what the instructive example of Charlo Green teaches. The dope obsession begets selfishness and cognitive solipsism of the worst kind, leading to indifference and ignorance of the world around us.
Should America legalize pot? Skip to the next issue, please. Any moment spent noodling on that question is a waste of what precious time citizens allot to considering our more pressing national concerns. It should not require much thought to realize that on balance, the crucifixion of Iraqi Christians deserves our attention far more. Just a brief accounting of current human rights challenges at home and abroad puts to shame Green’s claim that she is an activist for “freedom.” Really? In that case, get a plane ticket to Ukraine, or what’s left of it. If that’s too far, there are several American cities where your freedom activism is sorely needed.
I will grant Green’s crass boast on her Indiegogo page that she has “balls.” My ear certainly felt her virile assault through my earpiece, and I will not forget it. Thanks to that unpleasant experience, my position on this issue is sealed as tight as Grant’s blessed tomb. I will not shrink from heaping scorn on the pro-marijuana movement, as it richly deserves, and I hope all Americans take the same cue from this exemplary episode.