So says Abdulaziz Kamus, president of the African Resource Center, about khat — a substance that is illegal in the United States legal and popular in East Africa and the Arabian peninsula.
Now, I don't much understand the background and the significance of khat in the community Kamus is talking about, but I understand a lot about the background and community of the United States and its media, so my observation is about the L.A. Times article at the link. I can see what they are up to. They are reframing a drug problem in terms of multiculturalism.
Look at how this article begins with a cozy colorful picture set in "Washington" (which I presume means Washington, D.C., since the 4th paragraph contains the phrase "in cities such as Washington and San Diego"):
In the heart of the Ethiopian community here, a group of friends gathered after work in an office to chew on dried khat leaves before going home to their wives and children. Sweet tea and sodas stood on a circular wooden table between green mounds of the plant, a mild narcotic grown in the Horn of Africa.See? It's a charming culture. You're not supposed to notice that you could mobilize your writing skills and do PR for any recreational drug like this. You're not supposed to notice that the actual scene is nothing more than some men lolling about having a drug-fueled argument.
As the sky grew darker the conversation became increasingly heated, flipping from religion to jobs to local politics. Suddenly, one of the men paused and turned in his chair. "See, it is the green leaf," he said, explaining the unusually animated discussion as he pinched a few more leaves together and tossed them into his mouth.
For centuries the "flower of paradise" has been used legally in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as a stimulant and social tonic.
But in the United States khat is illegal, and an increased demand for the plant in cities such as Washington and San Diego is leading to stepped up law enforcement efforts and escalating clashes between narcotics officers and immigrants who defend their use of khat as a time-honored tradition....
Increased immigration from countries such as Ethiopia, Yemen and Somalia has fueled the demand in this country and led to a cultural conflict.
"We grew up this way, you can't just cut it off," said a 35-year-old Ethiopian medical technician between mouthfuls of khat as he sat with his friends in the office....
"In my mind, [the arrests are] wrong," said an Ethiopian-born cabdriver who was arrested in November in a Washington, D.C., khat bust and spoke on condition of anonymity. "They act like they know more about khat than I know."I admit I don't know about your culture's drug, but I know my culture's drug, multiculturalism. The L.A. Times is dealing it here. It is not a stimulant. It is a depressant: It numbs judgment.
So let me pour another cup of coffee and say that I do not want my medical technicians doing drugs in the office and I don't want my cabbie high.