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Open Letter to a Young Friend

Last night, you spent the night in jail, because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you had cocaine in your pocket.

I want to talk to you about what you did.

I’m not interested in “the drug talk.” That’s silly. Most adults you meet have experimented with non-regulation pharmaceuticals, and the vast majority of people (children and adults both) in America today are on some kind of socially-acceptable mind-altering pharmaceutical. I do not blame you one whit for being curious. Most of the art and music in your world was created by an artist under the influence. And yet we live in this whacked-out dichotomous puritanical culture that condemns drugs that “the bad guys” profit from, and encourages the drugs that Big Pharma profits from. It’s hypocrisy at worst, disingenuous at best.

I’m not interested in shaming you. I don’t think you did anything worthy of shame. Had you shown up with Oxycontin in your pocket, *then* I’d be really upset at you. Although cocaine, IMO, is an asshole’s drug. It makes you feel on top of the world, sure, but it also makes you arrogant, bombastic, and unpleasant to be around. It also was responsible for much bad hair and bad behavior in the ’80s. I’d take a pass, were I you.

What I really want to do, though, is talk to you about something you probably are not aware of, and that’s the supply chain behind getting the cocaine from leaves on harmless bushes in South America, to the white powder you purchased in your insular, protected, and pretty much self-absorbed curiosity. Your parents haven’t been able to take you out of the country, so you haven’t really been exposed to the sort of poverty and need that exists out of your happy and protected social enclave. You haven’t seen what South and Central America are like, and so you don’t have a visceral understanding for what grinding poverty is like. Because you see, the people down there involved in the creation phase of the drug trade are ruthless in their need to get out of that poverty, and they’ve become the sort of people who casually destroy lives.

It’s like drowning. A drowning person will climb their rescuers, sometimes resulting in dual fatalities. And that’s what the drug trade does. People who live in the areas where drugs are grown or made get hurt. People who are involved in the processing get hurt. People who get the drugs from point A to point B get hurt. Dealers get hurt, the dealers’ loved ones get hurt. Cops die. Innocent bystanders die. People in border towns get poorer and poorer because tourists shy away from going there, for fear of what the people involved in the drug trade might do to them, intentionally or accidentally.

It’s a matter of supply and demand. American kids, who don’t know any better, have no idea of the blood price and the psychic stink of their chemical recreation, and because of that, today a Mexican has been shot, and a Colombian has been tortured, and a black American man sits in prison, and a law enforcer’s spouse sits at home worrying themselves into an ulcer. The downstream costs of you choosing that drug to purchase are unbelievable. The human cost of your recreation of choice is astronomical. Think of it like factory farming; are chicken mcnuggets worth the pain and ugly brutal deaths of thousands of chickens? Not really. Neither is your four-hour rush worth the number of demolished lives it takes to get that powder to your pocket.

I’m not disappointed in you for your desire to experiment. I’m disappointed in you for not looking at the world around you with a wider frame of reference.

You’re not going to read this, although I imagine both of your parents are. I know your parents are pretty ripped up about it. My love to them; parenting is a full-contact sport, and it’s hard to navigate your way through it without getting bruised and occasionally broken. It’s important to remember, though, that at the bottom, it’s about sportsmanship, and that even though you feel, sometimes, like fully bodytackling your kids, sometimes all you can do is throw down the yellow card and hope the ref does the right thing.

I’m hoping, young friend, that what you get from this is not feeling oppressed; I’m hoping that what you do is you figure out how to look at the big picture a little more clearly, and that you ask not what the high is like, but you ask what the world is like that the high exists in. And then you go out and be part of that world.

8 Responses to “Open Letter to a Young Friend”

  • Adrift At Sea:

    Fantastic post Laureen. :-)

  • […] fellow sailor and blogger has a fantastic blog called Elemental Mom. Her most recent post is titled “Open Letter to a Young Friend” and really addresses the real costs of drug […]

  • Great letter. I’ve sometimes thought about how to talk to my kids about drugs when that time comes. This strikes the best balance of information without judgment. I found myself wondering, though– who’s the kid?? What happened??

  • ElementalMom:

    Thanks for the comment, Antonia. The kid is the child of dear friends; I’ve known him since he was very young; if you search back on this blog for Rowan’s Birthday or the tag Legos, the six crates of legos are hand me downs from this kid. I know that when someone runs into legal/drug trouble, there are all kinds of folks lined up to point fingers, and in this case, I don’t think that’s what he needs to hear. He’s fundamentally a fine young man, and I’m quite sure that this is just a speedbump in an otherwise spectacular life; good novel fodder, once he’s survived it.

  • Jon:

    Wow. What a beautifully written, articulate, and moving piece. A testament to your talent. Thank you for sharing.

  • This was an extremely startling and thought-provoking post on many levels. Through personal choice, I have never experimented with recreational substances beyond alcohol (and even then, never to any real excess). Nonetheless, this was an eye-opening education for me. Thank you.

  • Liz:

    Excellent post! I am sharing with my eldest, right now. We are just getting to that age of the serious talks about the things that have potential to screw up lives. Your letter fits in with how we’ve tried to educate our children–look at the big picture, not just how it relates to you.

  • Bets:

    Wow. Your perspective (and your writing) never ceases to amaze me. Great post.

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