Sean Penn 's biggest regret about his interview with notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera (a.k.a. "El Chapo") isn't the backlash he caused by talking to the drug kingpin. Senator Marco Rubio called the interview "grotesque," The Wall Street Journal likened Penn to notorious Hitler-appeaser Neville Chamberlain, and Penn's life could be in danger after the Mexican government claimed that the interview helped them locate and arrest Guzmán.
He can take this criticism. But what really bothers him is that his article didn't spark a meaningful conversation about drug laws.
"My article failed," Penn told Charlie Rose in an interview that "60 Minutes" aired Jan. 17. "Let me be clear. My article has failed."
Penn says the purpose was to change the conversation about the War on Drugs, to broaden discussion to include failed U.S. policies and Americans themselves.
That thesis appears in the ninth paragraph of Penn's Rolling Stone article on Guzmán:
We are the consumers, and as such, we are complicit in every murder, and in every corruption of an institution's ability to protect the quality of life for citizens of Mexico and the United States that comes as a result of our insatiable appetite for illicit narcotics.
But instead of recognizing our society's complicity in Guzmán's crimes, Penn argues that we use figures like "El Chapo" in order to distance ourselves from the issue and scapegoat one aspect of a greater problem. That hypocrisy truly perplexes the growers and the pushers of illegal narcotics: "They wonder at our outrage as we, our children, friends, neighbors, bosses, banks, brothers and sisters finance the whole damn thing."
Yet Americans continue to buy into the War on Drugs, despite the toll it takes on their society:
At an American taxpayer cost of $25 billion per year, this war's policies have significantly served to kill our children, drain our economies, overwhelm our cops and courts, pick our pockets, crowd our prisons and punch the clock. Another day's fight is lost. And lost with it, any possible vision of reform, or recognition of the proven benefits in so many other countries achieved through the regulated legalization of recreational drugs.
The full interview is now available on the 60 Minutes website: