Dana Beal – The Consummate Activist

02
May

Dana-Beal-1

“Have you ever watched Time Bandits?”

The question itself feels incongruous to the conversation. In my two exchanges with Dana Beal that lasted over 10 minutes, one of the things I gathered about him was he typically doesn’t have time for idle chatter. There’s just too much to do; too many causes for which to crusade, too much education to impart. Hell, there’s a war on drugs to end, backward polices to reverse, addictions to cure, patients to provide for. Why he suddenly wants to reminisce about an all-but-forgotten adolescent fantasy epic from the ‘80s is beyond me, and by a long shot.

But in such focused conversations where cramming maximum information into a minimal time span is the ultimate goal, these incongruities serve an important function, especially for a journalist. They are tiny windows into the soul, chinks in the armor of the cultivated persona that allow us to infiltrate the underlying personality, albeit momentarily, and catch a glimpse of the subject beyond accomplishments and agenda. I bite.

“No, I haven’t actually,” I answer honestly, my curiosity piqued.

“Well, you should,” he fires back, before going on to explain. “Evil is in this fortress at the bottom of time. At the end of the thing, evil is destroyed through the intervention of the Supreme Being. But then of course, there is a tiny piece of evil that they don’t catch. It’s this little chip of black obsidian or black asphalt type stuff. And we’ve figured out that that’s where Ted Cruz comes from.”

Totally worth it. I can’t resist the opportunity to press for more.

“So, then where does Trump come from?” I ask, not even bothering to conceal my laughter.

“Oh, he’s just a real estate maggot from New York.”

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. I should start out by introducing our subject, though within our culture, an introduction shouldn’t be necessary.

Dana Beal is a counter-cultural icon, a man who has made a career of civil disobedience and social upheaval for over five decades. His story reads like that of Forrest Gump, only instead of an idiot-savant who stumbles into the annals of recent history serendipitously, our protagonist is actively inserting himself there, driven by an indescribable need to see the world change for the better. At the age of 16, he hitchhiked from Lansing, Michigan to Washington, D.C. to attend Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Within that same year, he was back home in Lansing organizing marches to protest the glaring racial inequality of the era. It wasn’t long before his passion took him to New York, where he immersed himself in the budding social awakening of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. The thrust of the era was a radical shifting of paradigms, a departure from conventional thought and an extrication from the social norms that helped the status quo maintain control. Beal was at the center of it all, riding comfortably at the tip of the spear that pierced the belly of the establishment. Throughout the period, if there was a march, a demonstration, or general mischief being made on behalf of a cause, there was a good chance that Beal was there and just as good of a chance that he had a hand in organizing it.

Beal is a man oozing with historical information. Part of this is a result of his voracious appetite for useful knowledge, but a lot of it is also the aforementioned fact that he was at the center of it all. He has lived the history. That comes across in conversation, chaotically at moments, but always coherently. One question inspires a thought, which inspires another, which quickly produces a spontaneously emerging vine of interconnected thoughts that bounce us around on a rollercoaster ride of the larger than life events and memories that are firing through his mind. Beal sees the bigger picture in everything. He naturally understands the causes and effects of bad decisions made by self-serving politicians, of the disruption caused by himself and his associates, and of the general apathy and status quo acceptance of the masses. He sees it all and connects the dots flawlessly. Unfortunately, the picture is too big to be able to capture in the hour of conversation he is able to give me. In its place, he gives me as many pieces as he can to allow me to complete the puzzle myself. A story of a “Smoke in” quickly gives way to a recounting of his memories of the Chicago Seven, or the Alex Rackley murder, or one of the numerous borderline riots he helped to incite.

One of the standout moments has to be the disruption of Nixon’s July 4th Honor America Day that took place at the Washington Mall in 1970. The clashing of cultures he describes is epic. Billy Graham was speaking, espousing the ironically pro-war Christian jargon, as police formed a line on either side of the reflecting pool to keep the “riff-raff” from getting through. Beal and his buddies had been by the Monument passing out cigarette packs filled with joints when they decided to focus their attention directly on the event.

“Basically,” he begins, “what happened was our crowd just jumped into the reflecting pool and marched straight up to the Lincoln Memorial chanting ‘One, two, three, four, we don’t want your fucking war!’ and shut them down. And that was the end of Honor America. They chased us away with tear gas, but the problem was they had to also tear-gas the tourists lining up to see the fireworks. The people I was with, they told me we’d be able to get away with it because we could just blend in with the crowd and they were right. And that became the basis for the tradition of the annual 4th of July Smoke in, which is now a storied event. But the important thing to always remember is when they tell you that pot heads don’t have much initiative and they’re not really very bright is we actually, by inserting ourselves into the history at this key time, changed the course of everything that came after that.”

He’s absolutely right. And to this day, we are still seeing the ever-pollinating flowers of change emerge from those initial seeds of dissent he and his colleagues managed to plant all those years ago.

Unlike many of his colleagues of that era, however, Beal never stopped planting those seeds, never missed a step in his ongoing crusade to turn the establishment on its ear. Through the ‘80s, ‘90s and into the new millennium, he turned his focus largely on the plight of AIDS patients, acting as a point man for New York’s underground medical marijuana network. As a result of his crusade, Beal became very familiar with the inside of a jail cell, but it never deterred him. He fought on relentlessly and endlessly, well into the time most would be content to sit back and collect a social security check.

But in the midst of all of Beal’s passions and plights, all of the causes for which he has fought so hard for so long, there is one lingering milestone he hopes to reach before he will be content to consider his work complete—and that is the legalization of a drug known as Ibogaine.

Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychedelic used within the spiritual traditions of the Bitwi of Africa, who attribute their introduction to the substance to the Pygmy peoples. Banned in the ‘60s amidst the anti-drug hysteria of the day, Ibogaine is currently classified as a Schedule 1 substance. However, much like the healing herb, Ibogaine has been shown to have numerous medicinal benefits, the foremost among them being a cure for addiction.

“It’s very, very simple,” Beal starts. “If you are on methadone, you will be a ward of the state for the rest of your life. You will have to go to a clinic that’s state controlled . . . you’re limited to what you can do with your life because you always have to have this medication. If Ibogaine works, you’re a free man.”

“Ibogaine is a nerve growth agent,” he elaborates. “It causes you to sprout new receptors. When you’ve done a lot of hard drugs or alcohol, you basically repress the receptors. You desensitize. You’ve got to do stuff that brings that back. You can do a bunch of stuff, but it takes a long time. With Ibogaine, it basically makes it happen really quickly. But it’s not properly even a true hallucinogen. 30% of the people don’t visualize. It is a neurotrophin. A neurotrophin is a nerve actor that makes nerves grow. That’s what Ibogaine really is. We know this now because low dose Ibogaine reverses Parkinson’s.”

Wait, what? Not only does it stop addiction in its track, it cures Parkinson’s? What else does this magic bean do? Beal doesn’t hesitate.

“It can also be used to treat Bipolar Disorder. It’s a broad spectrum antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, anti-tumor and anti-parasite agent. It will stop a stroke in mid-stroke. If you can inject it right when someone’s having a stroke, it will stop the cascading effect of cells opening up . . . and if you have drug-resistant tuberculosis, Ibogaine will make the drugs work again . . . It was also shown to be effective against HIV in Brazil.”

He pauses and takes a breath.

“Oh yeah, and it wipes out Hepatitus C.”

Yet, it’s a Schedule 1 drug. Of course it is. My mind begins racing and I find myself again reaching for the drawer with the tin-foil so I can make myself a new hat. Conspiracy theories begin to rage and course through my veins. Big Pharma has to be in on this, I tell myself. Of course they don’t want to actually cure patients of addiction when they can make money off of methadone. I figured Beal would be quick to agree. After all, this guy’s been raging against the machine longer than I’ve been alive. At one point during our conversation he even laid out charges against the U.S. government for bringing heroin into the country to fund their secret war in Laos (those charges are not unfounded; they were confirmed to Beal by George McGovern during the 1972 election.)

But though Beal may be heavily clothed in the garments of social dissidence, he still looks at the world through the lens of a stoic. He attributes it all to nothing more than good old fashioned ignorance.

“They were just not capable conceptualizing a drug that would stop heroin withdrawal that wasn’t itself heroin. Remember, this is three narcotics officers in a room. No doctors or scientists were involved in the classification of Ibogaine.” I tell him I’m impressed with his reticence to ride the slippery slope of conspiracy theories. He chuckles.

“Never assume super-malignant intelligence when pure stupidity will do.”

 

 

For more information about Dana Beal and his work with Ibogaine, pick up a copy of The Ibogaine Story, by Dana Beal and Paul De Rienzo.

Special thanks to Michael Kennedy of MKennedy Photography for his generous photo contributions to this story. To see more of his work, visit www.facebook.com/MFKennedyphoto.

 


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