RAVE Act rehash

The latest attack on music culture by the fundamentalist regime came on June 18th in the form of the RAVE Act (enter "s2633" as the Bill Number, or download the PDF), a piece of proposed legislation bent on "Reducing America's Vulnerability to Ecstacy". The bill has serious implications for the safety of young dancers hard-pressed to find quality entertainment in the MTV age - but more importantly, it tugs at the very fabric of our freedom of assembly and personal expression.

NOTE: what you're about to read has probably been said a hundred times over (and perhaps put more eloquently) by more well-informed civil rights advocates, journalists, and mailing list members. If you're at all interested in the issue at hand, I would urge you to follow some of the more relevant links I've provided below.

For those of you who don't feel like reading the bill, allow me rehash some of Congress's "findings" used to justify its introduction:

  • Raves ("all-night, alcohol-free dance parties typically featuring loud, pounding dance music") are held with the express purpose of initiating young people into "the drug culture"
  • Promoters hire security and decline to serve alcohol only as a means to give parents of attendees the "impression" that their events are safe, when in fact, "raves have become little more than a way to exploit American youth"
  • Promoters sell water and charge admission to chill rooms to profit from "flagrant drug use" (is there any other kind?)
  • "Paraphenalia" such as glowsticks, massage oils, menthol inhalers and pacifiers are sold by promoters to enhance the effects of ecstacy
  • Ecstacy is just plain bad for you (they don't give any hard numbers, but state that emergency room reports mentioning it increased 1,040% between 1994 and 1999)

As any parent that's seen 20/20 can tell you, raves are nothing more than illicit drug havens and orgies, thrown by promoters with no intention other than to squeeze the last penny out of our children at the will of repetetive, sometimes suggestive, music. Surely shady promoters have attempted such exploitative ventures, but let's not make such broad generalizations. We might as well assume all politicians are greedy, scheming socialites who seek to line their pockets and advance their own agendas at the expense of an overworked constituency in the name of Democracy. OK, it's a bad analogy, but you get my point.

Now, I could go on all day about how, at the very least, raving is not about drugs. But the fact of the matter is that nobody should be surprised that they've turned out to be: our government has guilted youth culture into thinking that anything remotely associated with free expression and sexuality are inherently evil or Unamerican. Raves are a large part of what their parents and the media have generally deemed a "deviant" and dangerous lifestyle, which naturally leads to fascination. Perhaps if promoters weren't shamed into throwing underground events under the watchful eye of parents and police, more exposure could be given to the real "rave culture," one built on the ideas of tolerance and expression, and above all, love of music.

...which brings me to the biggest problem with the RAVE Act: the targetting of electronic music. This legislation is loosely worded to threaten any promoter or owner of property involved in events that feature "loud, pounding dance music" with substantial fines and jail time. If made law, this would scare promoters and venue owners even more so, forcing events further underground, into unsafe locations, with fewer support services and necessary safety measuers. One such support service is the harm reduction organization DanceSafe, which would be essentially barred from publicly advertised events because it displays an acknowledgement of drug use on behalf of the promoters.

The RAVE Act does absolutely nothing to curb ecstacy use: ravers and recreational drug users alike will continue to do what they love, just further under the radar. All that will suffer is the ability of young people to dance, and their safety while doing so.

I'm more than disappointed with our country at the moment. At the very heart of the RAVE Act lies the government's increasingly Puritanistic disdain for all things fun and expressive, the least of which is dancing. The bigger issue, of course, is drugs. Despite overcrowded prisons and a multi-billion dollar budget, the government continues its War On Drugs, and is arguably as obsessed with it as it is with its War On Terrorism. Even worse, they've flooded the airwaves with propaganda claiming drug use contributes directly to terrorism, in an attempt to alienate responsible drug users from the "patriotic" majority.

There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, though. With the help of advocacy groups, citizens have gotten the message across to their Senators that the act is not, in fact, just some "innocuous bill that everybody would rally in support of." The bill's sponsor, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), planned to fast-track the bill through Congress without debate, but has failed. However, we're a long way from declaring victory in this battle, which is at most a minor skermish in the continuing War On Drugs. Show your support for the right to dance (and do what you will with your own body) by filling out the form at the Drug Policy Alliance Action Center!

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