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Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Although they are not therapists, comedians are therapeutic. Good ones have us look at our world from a different angle; they encourage us to see discrepancies; they make us question the logic, or lack of logic, in the world. Comedians pull a lot of their material from what I refer to as the “Theater of Safety” — magical theater in which there are practitioners of illusions as well as delusions.
The theater has a number of different plays with multiple acts and a variety of character actors, mostly from the world of politics and public service. One play is called “Gun Safety.” There are actors on both sides of the issue of gun safety vying to make the world allegedly a safer place from gun violence. On one side, in the name of personal safety, there are those who argue for the Second Amendment right to have as many weapons as one can purchase with as many bullets as one can safely store without any real need for accountability. On the other side, there are those arguing for public safety who claim owning even one gun by a citizen is potentially damning for society as a whole.
Another play being acted at the theater is “Child Safety.” In this play, there are those who argue for the safety of all children at all times no matter what the cost. Act 1: Parents routinely stand with their children at school bus stops awaiting the bus to safeguard their children from various dangers, only to entrust those children to institutions where they may be bullied by peers, abused by older peers or potentially sexually abused by an adult. Act 2: There are parents who use alcohol and illicit substances, and at times allow their children to use drugs, with no concerns for the safety or welfare of the children. Act 3: Child safety is advocated by requiring children of certain ages and weights to wear seat belts, but no such requirement exists for children riding on school buses.
Finally, the theater has a play called the “War on Drugs.” This favored play has run for years. On one hand, we hear from legislative actors who are opposed to illicit drug use and underage drinking of alcohol. There are vast amounts of money poured into this play in the form of safety programs like Drug Abuse Resistance Education and Alcohol Safety Action Program, though the available research shows only limited success rates. The legal drinking age was increased to 21 with the purpose of reducing vehicular alcohol-related fatalities.
Although this goal was accomplished, according to the Department of Transportation, the expense of this act has been an increase in the numbers of youth binge drinking and an increase in the number of underage cases stemming from alcohol poisoning. The illegality of some types of drugs, relative to the widespread availability of others seems predicated on some abstruse and arcane rationalization. Any effort to invoke “safety” is absurd, considering that the drug we know to be most likely to induce aggressive behaviors (alcohol) is legally available and typically a significant source of state profit.
Virginia recently has made available convenient Sunday Alcohol Beverage Control store hours. The actors stated that this was done for customer convenience. In reality, it was to increase alcohol revenues for the state. Make no mistake; these stores are open for people who abuse alcohol, not for my mother to buy rum for cakes.
So the state peddles the most lethal drug, and then tells people when, where and how they can use it. If one gets caught breaking the states’ rules for appropriate alcohol use (DUI, public drunkenness charges), then sanctions are imposed and multiple actors make money; it’s win-win for all except the consumer.
In response to the country’s spiraling HIV/AIDS statistics, the government in Portugal in June 2001 made the courageous move to decriminalize all drugs. While here in the U.S. calls for full drug decriminalization are still dismissed as something of a fringe concern, the Portuguese decided to do it and have been quietly getting on with it now for more than a decade. Surprisingly, most credible reports appear to show that decriminalization has been a staggering success, as harm to the public has decreased. There has been no increase in the numbers of those who abuse substances, and crime rates as well as the number of positive HIV/AIDS cases have decreased.
I am not necessarily making the case for legalizing drugs here; I am making the case for decriminalization of the abusers, since the theater does not keep people safe. Harm reductive methods do.
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