2 Aug 2000
About two years ago, I was in jail reading the newspaper and there was an article about that great humanitarian Judge Lawrence Mira who was saving the life of Robert Downey, Jr. by sending him to prison. I couldn't help feel for Downey, because I was in jail for the same exact reason: a humanitarian judge was saving my life.
In jail, there was little sympathy for Downey's fate. The consensus was that Downey had received better treatment than we non-celebrity drug war casualties. But I defended Downey--for a whole year. To me, Downey was getting worse treatment because he was a celebrity, and regardless, shouldn't people of Downey's greatness--people who have given so much to us as a culture--be given a little slack? I think so.
Some time ago, Downey's friends and family put up a site designed to get him out of jail. It had the workingman's address:
www.FreeRobertDowneyJr.com (no long exists)
When Downey was finally released from jail, the site proclaimed "Robert is Free!" Of course, that wasn't true. Even in the most banal terms, it isn't true. Downey went straight from jail to an inpatient drug treatment facility. At first I though, "Out of the frying pan..." But eventually, I saw the logic of the whole thing.
If Downey's release holds, he be on parole and will be required to live in a "clean and sober" household. So this move sets him up for this eventuality. It also makes the eventuality more likely. This is because the state would have a PR nightmare if they forced Downey back into jail when he is doing what the state supposedly wants--remember, they only threw him in jail to encourage him to deal with his "drug problem".
So Downey is still tied down and controlled by the legal system. But this will be over, of course. Our call to "Free Robert Downey, Jr." is more fundamental than this--and broader. We are calling for everyone's freedom. We think that Downey has a right ingest whatever he wants. What could be a more fundamental right: the right to eat whatever he wants?
Throughout this century, the government has systematically granted (!) the people meaningless rights--like the right to never heard "dangerous" words like "nigger"--and taken away real rights--especially rights that have to do with the control of our own bodies.
So we say, "Free Robert Downey, Jr." But we mean, for real this time. Allow him to run his own life by allowing him to eat and drink what he wants. He is in a better position to make such decisions than the government!