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America prides itself as number one. Number one in civil rights. Number one in education. Number one in personal freedoms. Number one in literacy. Number one in international trade.
That chest puffing is a lot of number two. There are a lot of things that America can claim, but claiming isn’t the same as doing. And besides, being number one isn’t always the first thing one should brag about.
Sadly, we are number one in illegal drug use — and probably legal drug use.
But drug use in America is nothing new. From the colonial love affair with tobacco to the opium dens in the west coast. From the boom of coffee drinking in the Civil War to the rampant alcohol usage in the Roaring ’20s. The invention of Coca-Cola in 1886, a mixture of cocaine and caffeine. The over-the-counter sale of heroin as a cough suppressant in 1898.
Alcohol, opiates, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, hash, crack, LSD, meth, barbiturates, PCP, steroids and a host of designer drugs with really cute names.
The term “recreational drugs” says it all. Americans love recreation and are very dedicated to their constitutional rights to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of pharmaceutical happiness.
Personally, after reading the description of the Electoral College in the U.S. Constitution, I’ve always suspected that the Founding Fathers were smoking something other than tobacco.
Which leads me to one of the most pervasive and openly debated drugs in America, marijuana.
Marijuana is a vicious mind altering hallucinogen, which is slowly destroying the fabric of society. Either that, or it’s a really nice buzz. It all depends on who you ask.
Whichever side of the smokey debate you find yourself on, one cannot deny that marijuana abuse has reached epidemic proportions.
Early efforts to stem marijuana usage were laughable. The 1936 anti-drug propaganda film, “Reefer Madness,” with closeups of wide-eyed crazed potheads, induced sexual assaults, car crashes, insanity and ultimately murder, attempted to scare people away from drugs. Ultimately, it became a cult comedy.
Well, marijuana is no joke. I’m not going to try to justify its use, nor argue against it. I lack the legal and medical understanding to justify, or condemn its legalization, criminalization, use or misuse.
But I do know that there’s a problem in this country when life is so boring that kids as young as 10 years old are smoking marijuana, or any of the several dozen other street drugs.
And what commercials are shown to keep kids off drugs? An egg frying in butter? Pee Wee Herman telling kids not to do crack?
Or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles telling elementary school students not to do drugs? Masked freaks and their anthropormorphic rodent sensei who live in a sewer giving advice on health?
Myself, I’d be far more impressed if Rush Limbaugh were to warn me about the dangers of drugs. Now there’s a guy who knows his drugs!
The question that’s not being answered is — Why are kids so drawn to drugs? Why is smoking, or snorting some chemical more attractive than playing outside, hiking, throwing a ball, flying a kite? You know, things kids used to do?
Why can’t kids get a high from just being kids?
“And the Colorado rocky mountain high, I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky.” I’ve always liked John Denver’s music. Life always seems simpler when listening to his lyrics.
The high he referred to was peace of mind. You don’t need drugs to enjoy life. You need life to enjoy life. And drugs take that away.
But today, it’s kids and not kites that are getting high. As a teacher, I don’t really care what someone does to their body after they’ve grown up. But the brains of teenagers are still developing. You don’t have to have a medical degree to understand that drugs, even one as “socially acceptable” as marijuana, interferes with that development.
In “No Country for Old Men,” the deputy remarks that the drug dealers are selling drugs to school kids. The sheriff says, “It’s worse than that.” The deputy asks, “How’s that?” and the sheriff replies, “School kids buy it.”