A Few Reflections on Liberty

October 29, 2017 ·


This little piece is an intersection of two biographical facts: First, that I witnessed and to some extent participated in the social changes of the 1960s and 1970s. Second, that I have been in the criminal justice system for 32 years. Everything I have to report comes from personal experience, and observation.

A little background. When people say to me that “marijuana is no worse than alcohol,” I want to ask them, “Okay, then. How did the Greatest Generation give us stable and loving homes? What happened to the safety and stability we children of that generation knew?  How do you account for the differences in achievement between their generation and what came after?” I wonder if they see my point? Our World War II fathers weren’t getting tattoos — not after they got home from the war, anyway. They weren’t getting stoned. They didn’t experiment with gender. They would have scoffed at the idea of two guys getting “married.” They did not have or care about what today is being called “liberty,” yet they provided better homes than we are providing now. Something happened right around 1968 that separated us from the safety and security that generation attempted to provide, and what we have now.

Why is that, do you suppose? I would say drugs, probably more than any other factor, have taken away the America I knew and loved. There are other factors involved, but drug use has imposed a serious, vampiric drain on American vitality. I think I can tell you why that is so, but if you’re like a lot of people, you’d rather I didn’t say. After all, I should be concerned about “liberty.”

My point, of course, is that when parents focus on providing a stable, loving home for their children, getting stoned is not an option. My generation was the last to see traditional, American homes as the norm — before parents were also stoners. Those homes have been replaced by a legion of self-indulgent people who value the wrong things over the necessary things.

Perhaps it is nothing, but I have noticed it. It seems that not long after pot shops show up, downtown areas transform from solid and crisp Yankee ventures into a kind of slouch. Do you think it’s the patchouli oil and crystals that do that? I’m not sure what the cause is, but I’ve noticed that every time a certain kind of culture shows up, there is less of that old-fashioned determination to overcome poverty, and more of a kind of indolence, a surrender to class determinism and one’s astrological chart, perhaps. There was a will to establish orderly neighborhoods and schools and hospitals in Americans of my parents’ time and before. There is a kind of indifference in our time born of class envy, even misplaced pride in one’s fictitious achievements. When it comes to drug use, there is something in the whole “lifestyle” canard that doesn’t ring true. Skeptics like myself wonder if there isn’t something else at work there — something decidedly antisocial. If I were looking for a chemical cause of these delusions, THC would certainly have to be regarded as a suspect, because it elevates juvenile drama into fake science. It is not liberty its defenders protect. It is immaturity.

Those of us who watched the change that took place from the late 60s to the early 70s surely saw this difference, and it seems to have a primary cause, and the cause is not obviously attributable to the sins of the Greatest Generation.


I was asked recently to “distinguish” between the alleged horrors of alcohol, versus the relatively minor damages caused by marijuana use. That, to me, is apples and oranges. Many people drink moderately. In fact, the greater percentage of alcohol sales that occur throughout the day result in no drama whatsoever (dinner with wine, beer after work). Surely moderate drinking has no harmful effects among the general population. Granted, if a person has serious mental health issues, alcohol can aggravate those issues. Also, absinthe and moonshine are more dangerous than 3.2% beer. But alcohol is a natural byproduct of metabolic processes and is nearly unavoidable in many food and pharmaceutical products that are used daily. The first big problem that occurred after Prohibition was that pharmacists and hospitals couldn’t treat people because alcohol has so many daily applications the authors of the 18th Amendment did not take into account. Does alcohol use in any way explain the dramatic, visible spike in serious mental health issues that we are seeing? I’m willing to bet that in the next 10 to 20 years, statistics will show a definite spike in serious mental health challenges traceable to the normalization of marijuana use, whereas alcoholism rates are largely unchanged. I might be wrong, but I doubt it. It does not seem particularly honest to apply an equivalency to alcohol and marijuana.

While we’re on the subject of alcohol, let me tell you what I’ve seen over the course of my lifetime. I was born and raised on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State and am very familiar with the dreaded wife-beating alcoholic that haunts marijuana-drenched imaginations. The kind of defendant we see in the courtroom today is an individual whose psychiatric and social pathologies go way beyond anything you would have seen among alcoholic longshoremen in 1965. The reason is obvious, once you think it through. A high percentage of people drink without getting drunk, but it is pretty much impossible to use marijuana without getting “baked.” No one rolls a doobie unless they’re prepared to spend the next several hours stoned, whereas many people who drink alcohol do so without any need to get drunk. It is a question of intent. The question you have to ask yourself is, what are the consequences of that mentality? Of needing to get stoned?

We’ve seen damage since the 1960s that outstrips the problems historically associated with alcohol. We’re talking about people who will likely be disabled their entire lives. The casualty list is long and depressing. The question I always have for people is, “Instead of lecturing me about the War on Drugs, when are YOU going to feel enough compassion for your fellow human being to actually try to help them?” We’re led to believe that arresting people is cruel. I think it’s more cruel to let them go insane.

The typical response to that question is rage. Like it or not, the “mellow marijuana user” is very frequently an angry individual when it comes to his or her drug of choice. A friend of mine calls it “pot rage.” There is a definite anger pattern among marijuana users that is not being addressed. I think it is more pronounced in our time, with the more potent THC content.


Here in Washington State, where marijuana has been legalized, you can see an alarming increase in people suffering from mental illnesses. It never seems to occur to anyone that marijuana use might be a cause, but it looks rather obvious to me. I’m suspicious that THC is creating schizophrenic-like symptoms in people who might otherwise live ordinary lives. I could be wrong, of course, but I’ll bet time vindicates me on this. Another aspect to this that people are discussing is that many people currently using psychiatric medication are getting stoned at the same time. I wonder what kinds of results we’ll see over the next 20 years from that? I imagine it won’t be pleasant.

We are forbidden from saying that marijuana is a gateway drug. Why? Our parents and their parents did not naturally experiment with other drugs as a result of alcohol use, whereas the entire Psychedelic Sixties started with cannabis. Did you miss that connection? I was there. I saw it happen. Marijuana transforms people in a way that is noticeably different from anything alcohol does, and it’s not for the better. Compare the lyrics of Big Band music to the lyrics of John Lennon and the Doors, if you need any proof that the Sixties pushed psychedelic use. I could make the argument that the single biggest achievement of the 1960s was mental illness brought on by the politics of class envy, and the use of psychedelic drugs.

It remains an enormous mystery to me how people remain in denial about the obvious mental health issues that crop up around marijuana use. Yes, I know professional people who are “responsible” stoners. But it is also true that there is a kind of emotional immaturity that goes with persistent marijuana use. The people who have been using marijuana since I was a teenager seem to have stayed stuck in a conspiratorial morass that always involves their need to get stoned. I call it the Black Helicopter Effect. They don’t seem to be able to see the world and people as they are. There is always a conspiracy, hidden motives, and ALWAYS those motives are designed to take away their beloved marijuana. They are not nearly so dedicated to Liberty as they are to a childish self-indulgence.

I think I know what accounts for marijuana’s peculiar effects on the human mind. THC, I would say, promotes hypnotic trance. It diminishes the acuity of the objective faculties, promoting a kind of suggestive state. Prolonged use has the effect of compromising the forensic faculties. Marijuana users seem to be stuck in a solipsistic place where their opinion about how life works is maintained no matter what additional facts are produced. It is a very odd. It is also frequently accompanied by self-pity. People challenge me when I make that observation. I make it nonetheless.

People I speak to oftentimes commiserate with me that I see the “less than savory” elements of society because of the work I do. What I am seeing has little to do with social judgments on what is savory. What I see is a society that has lost, or is losing, its will to live. A society that is exuberant and grateful about life does not fall into Hell. It works its way toward order, just as frontier Americans first built homesteads, and then cities. What I am seeing can only be described as a kind of sickness that allows the gates and the siding to deteriorate, while the residents inside live out adolescent fantasies about “liberty.” It has more to do with a resignation to death. There is something in marijuana that promotes indifference to one’s duties as a human being. It allows one to wear diapers and pretend they are wearing a tuxedo.

The picture of Coit Tower in San Francisco, just after World War II, tells the tale. Those people weren’t smoking dope.

I predict that America’s next large crisis is not a war, like World War II, but a public health crisis brought on by a combination of dependence upon the state for sustenance, and dependence upon drugs. We have people who remain helpless throughout their most productive years, hiding from Black Helicopters and pretending to be experts on things without having studied or done the work. When the curtain finally lifts, and the ugliness exposed, we will have to put our country back together, one individual at a time — without drugs.

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Two links to consider:



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In a Facebook discussion about whether America died in 1968, my friend Shay Nyunt wrote:

The nation didn’t die, it changes with the generations, very slowly. Just as slavery was taken as a norm in 1700 by 1776 it was fading out in NE mostly because the economy wasn’t slave based, not because Yankees were morally superior. The socio-economic change of the sixties was simply the great wealth created by the Greatest Generation and the rotten children it spawned. A look back to the time of Augustus you find the same kind of excess and moral decline. The major reason Rome continues for another millennium mostly in Byzantium was it’s conversion to Christianity.”

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Bruce Hanify was born and raised on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.He was a deputy prosecuting attorney for 15 years and a criminal defense attorney for 15 years.

He is working on a book about dreams and teaches dream workshops.

Bruce Hanify 2017 All Rights Reserved



October 15, 2017 ·



That handsome couple in the lower right hand corner of the above picture are my parents, Bud and Mary Lou Hanify, around 1950 at the “Salmon Club” in Port Angeles, Washington. Ballroom dancing was how the Greatest Generation continued their Big Band years into middle-age. Their shoes were polished, their ties and dresses pressed and straight. My father used to sing in front of the bathroom mirror, telling himself what a handsome bastard he was as he shaved, timing his razor strokes with the words of his song. He had a vivid Irish voice, polished to proficiency in southeastern Montana, where the whole family sang through long winter nights. There’s not a tattoo or pierced body part in the world that can substitute for singing yourself warm in a Montana winter!

Because the Greatest Generation matured during World War II, they learned how to embrace life’s beauty without holding on too tight. It was common for me to hear compliments about my mother’s beauty or my father’s rugged handsomeness. The Greatest Generation was charismatic and gracious without being crude. No one used the ‘F’ word in mixed company. They hugged their friends and laughed out loud. They dealt with life on life’s terms, making sure to enjoy the beauty and wonder they found in each other. With humor. Always with good humor. The Greatest Generation lived and loved with well-earned style and grace.

The ones who came home from the war lived life to its fullest, loved with all their hearts, and did everything in their power to put a very dark chapter of world history behind them. I saw many a pained expression whenever the war was mentioned. They were grateful to be home.


Before television was invented, evenings were spent reading or singing or practicing musical instruments. When you have to write your own story, your plot line comes from what you’d like to be and do. For people who are obliged to develop their own story, progress is measured day-by-day, week-to-week. My father dreamed of becoming an actor, so he read Shakespeare and appeared in every school play he could, first in Broadus, then in Kalispel, where the family moved in 1935. He boxed to develop physical prowess. He even took speech lessons from a voice teacher in Kalispell. My mother studied English literature and learned how to work the typesetter at her grandfather Moorhead‘s newspaper, the Cowlitz County Advocate. She ended up publishing over 200 articles and three books. It all started at her grandfather’s typesetter in Castle Rock, Washington.

Before Amazon delivered groceries and household items to your door, people had to make their meals and their homes from what they could put together. If your dog got sick, you had to worm it. If you were hungry, you killed the chicken out back. The women canned, the men took pride in carpentry and home repairs. My Dad was an electrician. He frequently traded wiring jobs for just about anything but money. Since money was a source of anxiety and crushed pride during the Depression, my folks’ generation went out of their way to not talk about it. The way these Depression kids worked was, “I’ll wire your house, you bring your post hole digger over.” “I’ll cut you 20 boards, you bring your mower and rake.” Everyone knew how to do something. There was a sweetness in the way people helped other families. No one put anyone else on the spot about money. The Depression had done that enough. Its survivors were determined to give their fellow man a breath of dignity.

If I was asked to state the biggest difference between my folks and the kids I see now, it is this: they taught us that America was good if you made it good. I never once heard anyone say that one group was bad, and that only government could make it good. That kind of stuff started in the 60s and became the cultural norm in the 90s. My folks’ generation wouldn’t know what you meant by that. If you wanted to make something better, well, I guess you’d best get to work.

This was how my Dad and his buddy Dean Lockhart got around in 1935:

Bud Hanify and Dean Lockhart Kalispel


My Grandfather, Charlie Hanify, was born in Sturgis, SD in 1889. He had a job as a ranch hand when he was 16. One of the other hands was a retired lawman. One day the lawman learned that an old enemy was in town looking to kill him. The lawman horsed up at breakfast, rode into town, and shot the man dead, then returned to work. The lawman never said a word about it.

On another occasion, my grandfather was drafted by the local doctor to ride out to where an embankment collapsed, taking man and horse down in a heap, breaking the man’s leg. My grandfather’s job was to hold the man down while the doc cut off his leg. First thing the doc did was hand my granddad a bottle of whisky.

“What’s that for?”

“Take a swig.”

After my granddad took a swig, the doctor poured a long one down the injured man’s throat. My granddad said the man’s screams never  left his brain.

That was Frontier America. In 1925, when my Dad was six-years-old, his family transported wood and coal by horse-drawn wagon. In 1965, when I was eight, we sat in front of the TV eating cold cereal and watching cartoons. That’s how much this country changed in 40 years.

If we’re gonna talk about my Hanify grandparents, there’s no good reason to leave out Grammy.


GRAMMY HANIFY, Montana 1918

Pretty, isn’t she? And tough as nails. She kept my Dad’s sisters working in the garden while my Dad herded cattle and horses. My grandfather went off when spring came to make money building road and trails. The wages he earned were thrown into a cookie jar, which only my grandmother had the authority to disburse. They lived through the winter off what was in the root cellar.

I miss my Grammy, I can tell you. Whenever I was in the mood for sport, I’d sneak within cane range, say something I thought was funny, then try to outrun the snap o’that whip. She had a fast draw! After she smacked you, she pulled you to her breast and cooed noni noni noni. We didn’t know what it meant. It didn’t matter.


I got the idea to write this post from a friend of mine who was stationed in Germany when he was in the Army. He and his mates went out for a night with the local Germans, who strummed their guitars and sang the same songs their ancestors had sang for maybe hundreds of years. When it came time for the Americans to sing, no one knew any songs. Ever since I heard that story I’ve been thinking about the difference 50 years have made in my country. One lifetime, one epoch. How did that happen?

None of us postwar kids knew starvation. None of us got worked to the bone. We sat in front of the TV and expected to be entertained while we ate cereal and colored pictures. All of us expected to have a car, when it took my grandfather nearly a lifetime before he owned a paid-off car. In my lifetime, government was expected to eliminate poverty, win our overseas military engagements (once called ‘wars’), send us to college, and keep us all rollin’ in dough. If debt and inflation cautioned our appetites any, no one mentioned it. We just borrowed more and blamed the president when things didn’t go our way. The national debt was $250 Billion in 1945, and only increased to $320 Billion by 1965. In 2015 it was $19 Trillion. I’m pretty sure no one thinks we’re gonna pay that debt off, which means a collapse at some point is inevitable. That means we all get to learn the kinds of things my grandparents took for granted — knowledge that was mostly lost in a span of 50 years.

People in my folks’ time had to develop character. We have replaced character with caricature, mistaking a tattoo, for example, with an actual achievement. You can see it wherever you look. The movies that were produced and the books that were written in the 1930s and 1940s had more vitality, more flavor, more genuine humanity, A SOUL. I guess we’ll have to find out what it will take to replace our counterfeit America with the real deal. I’m worried the reclamation process will be very prolonged, and difficult.

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Bruce Hanify was born and raised on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.He was a deputy prosecuting attorney for 15 years and a criminal defense attorney for 15 years. He can be reached at

Bruce Hanify 2015 All Rights Reserved