We Americans LOVE our emblems of elitism! Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfilger and Calvin Klein adorn tee’s, shoes, jeans and more. I’m as bad as the next woman in this respect. Give me a Polo or Tommy t-shirt and I’m a happy camper. Kids want Air Jordans or whatever shoes hit the ads, right now this instant. What does this have to do with narcotics? Nothing, and everything. In trying to help you understand this enormous and complex problem, I will boil things down to basic premises for you to examine. In doing so, maybe together, we can begin to approach the solutions. Ambitious? Maybe, but I have a touching faith in the average American citizen.
I bring up the emblems, the American status symbols for a very good reason. During my 54 years on earth I have been fortunate enough to have lived at both ends of the economic spectrum, and in doing so, learned so much. I have met people in both ends of our society. Wherever I’ve lived though, parents and kids all wanted the same thing: these emblems of success. Often at enormous cost. For the poor, these symbols take on a huge significance, becoming much more important to them then anything else. I’ve known welfare Mom’s who would spend money they didn’t have, so their child could wear Nikes, Reeboks, football jackets or Polo jeans. It was so important to them that their children dressed as well as or better than other kids, that they often ignored more basic needs, such as money for rent or utilities
This isn’t rare and unusual. It happens every day in our inner cities. And, it can lead to crime, specifically drug dealing. When the desire for THINGS, outweighs morality, we have a problem, a big one. These children grow up having little patience or respect for the idea of working for the things they want. Nor do they have much respect for the parents who try and give them these things. Often they have contempt, feeling they are stupid and out of it. It’s one easy step from this, to the world of narcotics, with its dark allure and promises of easy money.
Thousands of dollars are traded for drugs on inner city street corners. All day every day, there is someone paying for some form of high. Crack, speed, heroin, acid and pcp are easily sold. Using cheap chemicals to “cut” the purity and make the amount go farther, we ingest things like household bleach, warfarin, talcum powder, baking soda and more, all in the pursuit of getting high. And every dollar we spend on illegal drugs helps fatten the wallets of the worlds most notorious criminals and terrorists. The ordinary street dealer sees a small fraction of the huge profits made by the major drug traffickers, but even so, the money is huge in comparison to a minimum wage job or welfare.
The money to purchase the symbols of success: rolex watches, and designer clothes, make the risks seem worth taking, to someone who has always known poverty. It requires no education or training. So these new drug entrepreneurs scorn the traditional 9-5 values. Why bother working for minimum wage when you can easily make $1,000 or more per night, just hanging on the corner? Until these attitudes are changed, and economic conditions improved, there is little to no chance these people will quit anytime soon.
Police community efforts, targeted towards getting children early to say no to drugs is admirable, and in some areas working. But it’s not enough. Not by far. Up until September 11th, we were a greedy, self absorbed society. To a large extent, this has changed. And hopefully, our preoccupation with the emblems of success will go down a bit. We need to focus our efforts in our homes, schools and communities. The world has gotten too small to continue on in a self indulgent, me first vein. If we don’t teach our children values, morals and ethics, by practicing them ourselves, we will never win this war.
If we don’t stop the overmedicating of America, the massive advertising of a cure in a bottle, why bother to fight at all? Our enemies know where we are soft, and have hit us where we live. And continue to do so every day in every city in this country. Where they find us, the willing consumer waiting, dollars in hand.