It was a theme night at one of the posh bars on Capitol Hill. Everyone was dressed up. The music was good, the energy was high, the dance floor was packed, and I was waiting in line for the bathroom. Young men disappeared into the one unisex bathroom, two by two and would emerge with…well, lets just say they looked happy. Couldn’t they get-it-on somewhere else? I had to pee, and who has sex in a bathroom when there’s a line outside anyway? That’s just rude.
“They’re probably doing coke,” my friend (who for the purposes of this article shall be called Tina) said.
“Coke?” I asked. “Who does coke anymore?”
“Lots of people,” Tina replied. “It’s making a comeback.”
I frowned. Coke was one of those drugs I’d always skirted like a black hole. I had a few friends get messed up on it in the early 2000’s when we were all working long nights as servers and then going out after our shifts.
Tina laughed at the face I made. “Yes, coke is a thing.”
I looked around. People were wearing oversized off the shoulder t-shirts, fanny-packs and high tops. I felt like I was standing in the middle of 1987…again.
So coke had made a comeback. Where the hell was I? Since 2011, I have watched a growing number of people in my social group who have been experimenting with or regularly using cocaine. When you hang out with a bunch of artists, DJs and musicians, drug use is to be expected, but slowly, steadily, I watched the drug creeping further into social strata that surprised me. Grad students, nursing students, programers, video game coders–even deli workers for grocery store chains and minimum wage baristas were doing coke on the weekends at shows and parties. Some of these people were advocates for human rights, intersectional feminism and fair wage practices.
I doubt that the cocaine use today (at least in Seattle) is anything compared to what it was when I was a kid in the 1980s-90s. Still, its return trend was a little unsettling and I didn’t realize why until earlier this year.
I was listening to NPR and a story came on about the disappearances in Mexico and the ongoing drug trafficking related violence along the border between Mexico and the US. I don’t know what it was about that particular story, but something clicked in my head and the horrible realization set in, all those nights I was out with my friends, people were doing coke and that money was going somewhere. How much of it helped fund what happened to those people who disappeared? How much of it goes to the cartels killing and or disappearing people by the hundreds in Mexico alone, every year?
But hey, coke’s a thing. It gets you high, makes you dance harder, makes a good time better, and it keeps you skinny.
Now picture, if you will, the hypothetical:
You’ll be sitting next to someone at some trendy Seattle bar, throwing back the latest hand-crafted concoction made with ethically sourced bitters and all non-GMO grain, locally distilled vodka and feel that smug satisfaction that doing something good for the environment and your local economy can be rewarding–and get you shit-faced. It makes you some sort of econaut and you start patting yourself on the back, thinking you should get a medal with this tasty, $15 drink because you’re supporting local business and local artisans and that hot bar tender in the vintage flannel, black skinny jeans and the full sleeve tats that run all the way up to his neck in an homage to his favorite comic book super heros.
Maybe you’re engaged in some lively conversation about human rights with the guy next to you who is ripping Indiana a new one for passing a law that allows for legalized discrimination on religious grounds, or for prosecuting a woman for feticide after she had a miscarriage. Maybe the subject is animal rights. Maybe it’s organic produce and “cruelty free” farming practices. Maybe he’s talking about how he withholds “War Tax” because he thinks it’s wrong to destabilize other countries just so the US can have cheap oil, or maybe he tells you, “Your taxes go to support the occupation and apartheid of Palestine. Every time Israeli military forces kill a civilian, a child, bulldoze a house, you’re money paid for that, you’re responsible, their blood is on your hands.”
But when that guy leans in and asks, “Do you do coke?” all those faces in the missing posters hover in your mind’s eye and suddenly you don’t feel like you deserve that medal anymore. nd you realize for all his “activism,” he is full of shit, and contributing to the very kinds of violence that he’s supposedly standing against.
It doesn’t matter if it is cocaine or oil. Both of them have human costs. If you’re trying to save the planet and human lives, that’s awesome. Ride the bus; get a bike; buy all local products from ethical businesses that pay their employees a living wage, and treat them like people, not indentured servants; and don’t do coke–not because some D.A.R.E. officer told you not to when you were 12, and not because you might get addicted, but because you are literally supporting an industry that employs murderers to torture and murder people.