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Yesterday’s Faith … and Today

 

Several years ago, there was a wave of bad heroin that wreaked havoc on Wednesday dockets and defense attorneys’ afternoon visit calendars, simultaneously causing opportunistic liberals to brainstorm new grant requests for needle trade-in programs or tent cities, and causing that strange coalition of empty-headed hippies and oversimplifying libertarians to band together once again with their hands around greenlake and protests against all forms of war — though especially wars on drugs, man. It caused conservatives the world around to wonder where it is that money grows on trees, and why it is that problems are so easily solved over bagel bites, from La-z-boy armchairs three or four thousand miles from their source.

Really, it wasn’t bad heroin. It was extremely good heroin, and that was the problem. Probably laced with Fentanyl or some other semi-unpredictable (or predictably devastating) substance, it would cause the most amazingly high highs, sometimes culminating in death. But that was the allure. Someone dies and people come begging for more. He just did it wrong, he didn’t know his body, he miscalculated. Or damn, I’ll bet that was a thrilling way to go; like a thousand orgasms coursing through your body all at once, starting at your toes and racing up to your brain for a climax to end all climaxes. You could get chased off a cliff by topless buxom ladies with their helmets and kneepads and gravity-friendly breasts, sure, and that has it’s place, of course. Or you could go out like Challenger, on your way to the moon. That’s not the goal, of course, as you’d certainly rather plant a flag and come back to plot another exploit … but if you’re going to live on hedonism, how could you possibly stand to die by anything else?

Years later, I sat in a 10-by-10-by-10 little concrete cell for youth, with a guardian ad litem and one of my kids, listening to them talk.

You can’t be smoking marijuana, mija.

But I love it! I’m never going to quit, I just love it too much.

That’s not funny, mija, it’s a gateway drug. You and I have talked about this. You have to stop.

I’m not being funny, I just love it.

It’s an addiction, and you’ll end up on meth or …

No, I won’t. I haven’t, have I? Jessi put it in front of me and I said [CoC] that [CoC] I’m not touching it. I’ve been all around it. You don’t think people have put that in front of me and I say I’m not going to be like that, and wouldn’t I have done it? I’m not doing that.

… the GAL was still. She stared. She clicked her pen. She parsed her lips. She let out a sigh that could have knocked down a house of straw, or of sticks. And my kiddo just sat there like bricks.

A few minutes later we were alone. I had disagreed with some of what was said. Not all, but some.

It’s not a gateway drug, I said. That isn’t the way this stuff works. That’s the way it makes sense when we think of decisions like chemical reactions, and when we think of problems like asteroids falling from the sky.

What?

But it is a drug, and at 13, it isn’t good for you.

Yeah, you’ve …

… I can tell you all over again about the development of your brain and learning … but I really … you know, I really don’t care about that right now. The question is why. Smoking pot won’t make you want to smoke meth and it won’t make you want to shoot heroin …

She rolled her eyes.

She’s wrong about it being a gateway drug, but she’s right about you being stupid.

She never said I was stupid.

She didn’t? Maybe that was me who said you were stupid. Either way.

Shut up.

As I said, it matters why. If you smoke for fun, well … maybe you like to have fun, and if you smoke with friends, well … maybe you’re just smoking with friends and when you grow up you’ll do grown up [CoC] like me and you’ll play sequence or you’ll get together with your college buddies and have a LAN party …

A LAN par… what? what the hell? You’re weird.

Yeah … you’re weird, too. You say “get off the car” when you mean to say “get out of the car,” and I think I just heard you say “lit…”

Like, “that’s lit…” you know, it’s dope …

… right. And if you smoke because you’ve got some [CoC] that you want to bury … Well, it won’t stay buried. The gateway isn’t pot, it’s you. The gateway is whatever it is that made it so that last year you were getting straight As and you were never in detention, never in fights, never kicked out; and this year, you’re sitting here in that orange jumpsuit with those ridiculous oversized shoes …

… they’re huge! See my toes?! They’re halfway down the …

… oh, you complain, but they’re cons, and …

no!

… they’re knockoff cons, but they’re gangsta shoes and they’d be perfectly cool on the street … But you’re not …

… these aren’t gangsta shoes, they’re stupid black cloth and plas…

… a gangster. You’re a little girl …

… shut up … damn right I’m not even a gangster …

… who got straight As last year, and who has more [CoC] at home than I even want to think about; except it’s exactly why we’re sitting in here, and why you have people talking all about chemicals and gateways and colors and all that stupid [CoC] that doesn’t really motivate you, does it? So what changed so that now we’re sitting in here?

… Last year I cared. And then I stopped caring. I just stopped.

Why?

I told Terri why.

Yeah?

I talked to Terri, and she said you were her friend, and I told her that you’re not allowed to be friends with her — she’s my friend, and you’re not my friend … 

I raised my eyebrows and placed my hand over my heart, leaning back. She laughed.

Psych; you’re my friend.

But her eyes glowed like a still lake on a clear night, perfectly reflecting the fluorescent moonlight of our little detention cell.

I sat up and stared at her as hard as I could. Yes. And you know I’ll always do everything in my power to help you. Then sat back; but you’re really pissing me off by making my job so [CoC]ing hard with these dirty UA’s and running, and…

.. shut up, you’re stupid.

Stop copying me.

Shut up.

I would like it — I wouldn’t just like it, I would love it — I would love it if I could buy that garbage about chemicals and gateways; about synapses and imbalances and treatment and therapy and fixing the problem like a mechanic changes out a torn hose or a burnt fuse or even a blown head gasket. But when a machine has problems, you start with the whole and you slowly eliminate all options until you arrive at specificity; you identify the issue and you correct it. We’re not a machine.

We’re not a machine, and we’re not — dare I say — we’re not a glorified or randomly advanced member of the class mammalia. We don’t work like that. And we’re not a planet floating haplessly through space to be periodically barraged by asteroids that are equally hapless in their flight; where evil is merely our incompatibility with some other innocuous random occurrence.

We don’t work like that.

At social services, God is not a therapy (and if anyone tried, we’d shut that down … church and state, you know); He’s not truth, and He’s not a foundation or a basis upon which to plant your hope or to build a change or a new start or a lasting and meaningful recovery. Recovery from what? Your sin nature? Right … We can teach you parenting skills, we can help facilitate your divorce from a domestic abuser, we can provide gas vouchers and food stamps and disability and social security. We can wean you off of drugs and get you into groups with mentors and sponsors. We can solve your legitimate and practical problems and start you on the real path to recovery. Quit trying to be more like some magical ideal that doesn’t even bother to stop wars and end starvation and eliminate income inequality; try to be more like us.

At social services, God is a joke. A mother calls a priest to bless her house, and what could be funnier? Maybe he can take care of the split-pea soup threat or stop that closet from opening a portal to hell … sure would be better to place a hex on that slumlord. Maybe the priest is handy enough to fix a window. The experts gather ’round and chuckle; there are a couple of foster parents out in the parking lot praying. For what? Magic? Open your eyes and go to college. God won’t educate you unless you want to learn how to be more of a bigot.

God isn’t dead, they’ll tell you. Ideas — especially fake ideas — don’t die, especially if they were once useful. They just become obsolete. We’ve become experts, and we’ve identified your problems. We can solve them. It will work, eventually, if you give us the power, and the tools; if you acknowledge our authority. We went to school and we learned about how stupid everyone else is, how pathetic mankind has been all through history. It’s your will and your ignorance that are keeping you back … and all that stuff that seems to point to a people with nothing to believe in … well, we’ve come up with a long list of diseases and mental disorders that explain pretty much everything, after the fact. But we’re getting there if you’ll just sit back and, well …

… just have a little faith.

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Members have made 16 comments.

  1. Profile photo of Doug Kimball Member

    The Leisure Class has become the welfare state. With the basics largely covered, we are left with the here and now. Nothing much to worry about; no roots to gather, shelter to build, animals to hunt. We live in the now with nothing to think about and it’s depressing. So we party. The party is life man, what we crave. Beer, vodka, whatever; pot is great. It makes everything that is good, better. Food, music, sex. But booze and pot, they steal energy and the party is about energy, so that’s why there is meth and crack. It lets you continue to party forever, more beer, more weed. LSD and shrooms are like wild rides in a fast car with a maniac behind the wheel. They can be good, no great, but they can be bad. Heroin, we all know, is big time. No party there, but when you’ve done all the partying and you crash, sometimes when you wake up you just want to avoid all the energy required to party, plus all the people who just don’t understand and want to take you away from all this fun. Smack is the great escape; it takes you to a place where you can float on clouds where everything is chill and alright. It takes you home, by yourself, and for a moment, you are a kitty in God’s lap purring and drifting off to sleep.

    We party and do drugs because it’s just too hard to think about life all the time.

    • #1
    • July 15, 2017 at 11:42 am
    • Like7 likes
  2. Profile photo of Doug Watt Member

    I have always found the term “Victimless Crime” paradoxical. I have seen the damage that drugs do to the user, the user’s family, and to those that they steal from. There is of course no such thing as a victimless crime.

    For those of you that see this comment as a chance to change the thread of Ryan’s post please write your own essay and list what you think are victimless crimes and I’ll be more than happy to comment on your “Victimless Crimes” essay.

    • #2
    • July 15, 2017 at 12:30 pm
    • Like5 likes
  3. Profile photo of Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The Post author

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    I have always found the term “Victimless Crime” paradoxical. I have seen the damage that drugs do to the user, the user’s family, and to those that they steal from. There is of course no such thing as a victimless crime.

    For those of you that see this comment as a chance to change the thread of Ryan’s post please write you own essay and list what you think are victimless crimes and I’ll be more than happy to comment on your “Victimless Crimes” essay.

    Oh, I don’t mind anyone wanting to change course! The idea of victimless crimes is indeed nonsense, but I also get the perspective that crimes need to be concrete and obvious before the state should intervene. As a side note, the belief widely held by drug enthusiasts that folks sit for years in jail just for “smoking a little weed” is utter nonsense. It is generally not users who are targeted in drug prevention efforts.

    • #3
    • July 15, 2017 at 12:33 pm
    • Like6 likes
  4. Profile photo of Percival Thatcher

    The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.

    — G. K Chesterton

    They monkey with the symptoms because they have no understanding at all of the disease.

    • #4
    • July 15, 2017 at 12:47 pm
    • Like17 likes
  5. Profile photo of Ray Kujawa Thatcher

    Hammer, The: I would like it – I wouldn’t just like it, I would love it – I would love it if I could buy that garbage about chemicals and gateways; about synapses and imbalances and treatment and therapy and fixing the problem like a mechanic changes out a torn hose or a burnt fuse or even a blown headgasket. But when a machine has problems, you start with the whole and you slowly eliminate all options until you arrive at specificity; you identify the issue and you correct it. We’re not a machine.

    I take it you would be against the argument that our genes dictate our future choices. This is an important argument you’ve made with broad application. I love the kicker that all it takes for their methods to work is a little faith.

    I would add that it’s more dangerous and destructive to accept phony baloney and submit to the so-called authority of the experts. That’s a fast way to lose oneself. If all one had to do to be happy was to submit, there are religions (well one I know of) out there ready to help you with that. I would argue that the benefit of a religion is not in being forced to accept volumes of trivia, but in the personal recognition of truth that is eternal to be a guide post for measuring one’s own life.

    • #5
    • July 15, 2017 at 1:52 pm
    • Like1 like
  6. Profile photo of MJBubba Member

    Hammer, The: …

    … I can tell you all over again about the development of your brain and learning … but I really … you know, I really don’t care about that right now. The question is why. Smoking pot won’t make you want to smoke meth and it won’t make you want to shoot heroin …

    I have given the mental health lecture to a number of different young people. I sometimes think I am wasting my time, but then every now and then I see evidence that it made a difference. Sometimes you have to tell them stuff they have already heard and that they don’t want to hear again and that they will try to tune out.

    • #6
    • July 15, 2017 at 3:29 pm
    • Like1 like
  7. Profile photo of MJBubba Member

    Hammer, The: …

    I would like it – I wouldn’t just like it, I would love it – I would love it if I could buy that garbage about chemicals and gateways; about synapses and imbalances and treatment and therapy and fixing the problem like a mechanic changes out a torn hose or a burnt fuse or even a blown headgasket. But when a machine has problems, you start with the whole and you slowly eliminate all options until you arrive at specificity; you identify the issue and you correct it. We’re not a machine.

    Often it depends on what really prompted the interest. I am familiar with a number of cases where the youngster was grappling with depression and did not know how to express their problems, or thought they had nobody who would listen. They tried to self-medicate, but using substances that made their problem worse instead of better, because it provided temporary relief.

    • #7
    • July 15, 2017 at 3:33 pm
    • LikeLike
  8. Profile photo of MJBubba Member

    Ray Kujawa (View Comment):

    Hammer, The: I would like it – I wouldn’t just like it, I would love it – I would love it if I could buy that garbage about chemicals and gateways; about synapses and imbalances and treatment and therapy and fixing the problem like a mechanic changes out a torn hose or a burnt fuse or even a blown headgasket. But when a machine has problems, you start with the whole and you slowly eliminate all options until you arrive at specificity; you identify the issue and you correct it. We’re not a machine.

    I take it you would be against the argument that our genes dictate our future choices. This is an important argument you’ve made with broad application. I love the kicker that all it takes for their methods to work is a little faith.

    I would add that it’s more dangerous and destructive to accept phony baloney and submit to the so-called authority of the experts. That’s a fast way to lose oneself. If all one had to do to be happy was to submit, there are religions (well one I know of) out there ready to help you with that. I would argue that the benefit of a religion is not in being forced to accept volumes of trivia, but in the personal recognition of truth that is eternal to be a guide post for measuring one’s own life.

    Life is complicated. We have to own our choices, but there are times when these sorts of choices are influenced by the corruption of our genes. Sin corrupts everything in this fallen world, and sometimes kids inherit mental problems. This is why it is helpful to know if a kid who is getting into drugs has a grampa who was an alcoholic or a grandma who fought clinical depression. A kid who came from a dysfunctional family that does not model good life habits is going to be at a disadvantage. If they have inherited a tendency to depression, then they started with two strikes.

    • #8
    • July 15, 2017 at 3:44 pm
    • Like3 likes
  9. Profile photo of Postmodern Hoplite Member

    Hammer, The: We’re not a machine, and we’re not — dare I say — we’re not a glorified or randomly advanced member of the class mammalia. We don’t work like that. And we’re not a planet floating haplessly through space to be periodically barraged by asteroids that are equally hapless in their flight; where evil is merely our incompatibility with some other innocuous random occurrence.

    I haven’t yet read any further, but his statement along is worth praising and quoting. Well said, brother! The tragedy of our world is that so many of our children have bought into the lie that our lives have no purpose, that we are a random and meaningless accident in an empty, meaningless universe.

    • #9
    • July 16, 2017 at 7:01 am
    • Like4 likes
  10. Profile photo of Lois Lane Coolidge

    This has some gorgeous writing in it. Absolutely gorgeous.

    And when I got to the end… the immensity of what you are saying? I swear to-the-real-and-absolute-and-totally-relevant God that I started crying.

    • #10
    • July 16, 2017 at 8:06 am
    • Like2 likes
  11. Profile photo of MJBubba Member

    And my Sunday paper has a feature story today about middle school suicides.

    Lord, have mercy.

    • #11
    • July 16, 2017 at 8:54 am
    • Like2 likes
  12. Profile photo of Ontheleftcoast Inactive

    Hammer, The: We’re not a machine.

    Yes and no. True, in the Newtonian sense, the most important part of who we are isn’t mechanical, in the biological sense, we sort of are machines. The thing is, that we are to a significant and critical extent (even from birth, though the extent radically increases in childhood and beyond) self-programming and self-instructing machines. We know that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy produces fMRI changes very similar to those produced by successful antidepressant treatment – and that the changes last longer and can be restored by brief refreshers with CBT. That points out the importance of what thoughts we cultivate, and of mindfulness. And, since we are social creatures, the friends we choose* also program us and instruct us, and we are motivated by their approval and disapproval.

    But there are powerful forces opposing this. In addition to the old ones that have plagued human being forever, your daughter, and her friends have been exposed to many thousands of highly professional messages designed to get past their rational brain (still under construction at the time of your story, and also under massive and not yet stabilized hormonal bombardment that has changed how they experiences themselves.) That doesn’t make them robots of course.

    However, those messages were much more frequent than anything they get on any specific topic in school. Back in the ’70s there would have been a lot of people who, even though they couldn’t spell anything else right, when asked “how do you spell relief” would have answered “R•O•L•A•I•D•S.”

    The messaging was certainly were touting different products but each and every one of those ads have been selling the overarching concept that taking exogenous chemicals is a good way to manage your discomforts. I don’t just mean the drug ads on TV and in magazines, I mean every medical drama and half the movies on screens of all sizes. I mean news stories about sports and entertainment stars. Unless you and her friends’ parents raised you kids in a barrel in the basement and fed them through the bung you’re fighting an uphill battle. I’m not saying you can’t win it. I agree (with theologically appropriate qualifications) with what you say about how to win it.

    ______

    *I still remember moment after moment at my 20th high school reunion when I looked at a classmate and thought “that’s why my mother didn’t want me hanging around with her.”

    • #12
    • July 16, 2017 at 9:02 am
    • Like5 likes
  13. Profile photo of Jules PA Member

    Hammer, The: right. And if you smoke because you’ve got some [CoC] that you want to bury … Well, it won’t stay buried. The gateway isn’t pot, it’s you. The gateway is whatever it is that made it so that last year you were getting straight As and you were never in detention, never in fights, never kicked out; and this year, you’re sitting here in that orange jumpsuit with those ridiculous oversized shoes …

    Kids think drugs are a gateway to fun, excitement, adulthood. Or an escape from aspects of their life that are challenging or miserable. Or escaping the legacy of their parents’ misery

    Either way, all drugs do is take kids away a path where they face, manage, and make a good life.

    It is very difficult to watch people you love destroy themselves, maybe even die.

    At some point, whether it is by willful choice or a stronghold addiction, we can not control the path that others take.

    We can only beg them to take a different path, based on what we’ve seen: that in the cul-de-sac of the drug path is dissipation, destruction and death.

    Road closed ahead. Take alternative route.

    • #13
    • July 16, 2017 at 11:26 am
    • Like4 likes
  14. Profile photo of Quietpi Member

    So true, so sad.

    In my career as a Private Investigator, Of all the murder cases I handled, and they were my specialty, I can only recall one where marijuana was not an integral part of the defendants’ lives.

    I studied hundreds of other cases, and often saw the same pattern: Straight A student, then something changed, then the abyss. Is weed always a “gateway drug?” No, but that’s a normal pattern, and virtually always the pattern for those who move to other drugs. It’s the Victory Gin, the “opiate of the masses” of choice for this generation.

    There’s another almost universal common denominator in all those murder cases: no biological father in the house. If there is any male figure at all, it will typically be a series of boyfriends, at most uncaring, often abusive.

    • #14
    • July 16, 2017 at 5:34 pm
    • Like6 likes
  15. Profile photo of Quietpi Member

    And of all those cases, I never once ran across a person who was in jail, let alone prison, for the “mere possession” of marijuana, or merely being under the influence. Not that I wasn’t told that by many a resident of the Graybar Hotel. It’s a lie from the pit of Hell.

    • #15
    • July 16, 2017 at 5:37 pm
    • Like5 likes
  16. Profile photo of Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The Post author

    Quietpi (View Comment):
    So true, so sad.

    In my career as a Private Investigator, Of all the murder cases I handled, and they were my specialty, I can only recall one where marijuana was not an integral part of the defendants’ lives.

    I studied hundreds of other cases, and often saw the same pattern: Straight A student, then something changed, then the abyss. Is weed always a “gateway drug?” No, but that’s a normal pattern, and virtually always the pattern for those who move to other drugs. It’s the Victory Gin, the “opiate of the masses” of choice for this generation.

    There’s another almost universal common denominator in all those murder cases: no biological father in the house. If there is any male figure at all, it will typically be a series of boyfriends, at most uncaring, often abusive.

    I’ll push back on this just a little. Yes, pot is generally a common denominator, but there are a lot of common denominators. Weed, alcohol, television, fatherlessness, lack-of-education, poverty, etc… etc… Some of those things are a really big deal, and some are less so. I agree completely that the issue of fatherlessness is a huge one, and likely does have more causality than any of those other issues, and that’s pretty consistent with the underlying point of what I wrote. I think it is a mistake to attack correlative issues and think you’ll solve the problem. The problem, for instance, is not that TV makes you stupid, it’s that a person would desire to spend 15 hrs. a day watching television. Not that pot is addictive or that it causes other drug use, but that a person thinks that it is an appropriate cure for what ails them. The problem isn’t even, I’d say, that a father is not around, but that the father does not understand what it means to be a father and why it is so important for him to be around … a father like that might stick around for any number of reasons, and his mere presence won’t solve anything. So I think the fact that, as you say, “marijuana is an integral part of their lives,” is maybe indicative of a different common thread, I don’t think it is likely the cause of anything at all… which is why I said “it’s not a gateway, you are.”

    • #16
    • July 17, 2017 at 11:37 am
    • Like4 likes