First a little background. I first struck up an email friendship with Peter McWilliams after reading his book “Ain’t Nobody’s Business – The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in America” many years ago. It was at a time in Peter’s life when he was very active in the medical marijuana movement, having stumbled onto the relief the drug gave him in combating the nausea brought on by his AID’s medicines. He was eventually jailed and charged for conspiracy to grow medical marijuana. This was clearly a retaliatory measure from the DEA to silence him and his inspirational message on the subject.
As part of his plea deal to avoid continued incarceration, he was forced to stop using cannabis to control his nausea or face a long prison sentence and forfeiture of bond (his mom’s house!)
His compliance with the orders of the court saved his mom’s house, but cost Peter his life. Shortly after sentencing, Peter ended up choking to death on his own vomit from the uncontrolled nausea the marijuana had previously abated. While you may never have heard of Peter, he was high profile enough to have attracted the attention of a John Stossel (on 20/20), who did a segment on his death at the hands of the police state. Peter died in 2000.
Fast forward to 2010. A person I’ve never met, a seemingly gently soul with a desire to honor Peter’s memory, sets up a Facebook tribute page on behalf of the memory of Peter. She’s been amazing in her efforts to honor Peter, going so far as to write a tribute song which has received a fair bit of radio play. She’s also working on a video to honor Peter as well. She saw one of my pro-Peter posts and invited me to join the Facebook group which I promptly did.
At the time, I was totally unaware that there were ulterior motives behind the effort. Perhaps ulterior is too dark a word. Maybe “competing interpretations of Peter’s life” would be more accurate. Peter was many things to many people. That’s not up for debate. The problem with the tribute page on Facebook is that it’s being run, not as a PUBLIC tribute (why Facebook then?), but as a repository of goodwill specifically tailored to make his mother feel better about her son. Therefore, some aspects of Peter’s politics and passion are NOT WELCOME on the page, lest it ‘upset’ the remaining members of his family. I have been chastised in private messages from the group for mentioning aspects of Peter’s work, simply because of family politics.
I can understand the desire to shield the family, but I do not agree with the idea one bit. I’ve mentioned topics that Peter wrote and spoke of loudly and proudly when he was alive. Subjects he took the time to commit to his writings and public speaking venues. Subjects that not only was he was passionate about, but that I am passionate about as well. The latest smack-down from the group aimed at me comes as a result of my mention of Peter’s stance towards legalizing prostitution.
In the bizzaro world of Peter’s Page, such topics are considered taboo because of the aforementioned family sensitivities. I might feel more compassion for their position if Peter himself hadn’t been so forthright on these very same issues when he was alive. Peter never shied away from confrontation about issues he felt strongly about and neither do I.
Why the family should feel shamed by discussions surrounding the subjects so near and dear to Peter is puzzling. I can’t help but wonder how far Peter’s Page wants to take this newly found protectionist attitude? For chrissakes folks, we’re talking about a fellow who confronted not only the medical/prison industrial complex, but also the issue of his own homosexuality in a society openly hostile towards same.
His family should feel no shame at all. They should be angry about the way he was treated by authorities and proud that he stood up for what he believed in. The work that Peter did in advancing the cause of medical marijuana has advanced greatly since his death. That said, even the Obama administration, despite public statements to the contrary, is still raiding medical cannabis dispensaries in states that have legalized it’s use in that regard. The war is far from over. I will not let the memory of a fallen comrade, nor the advancement of the goals he believed in, be glossed over for the sole purpose of defending the delicate sensibilities of family members he himself apparently discounted when he was still alive.