Tag Archives: laws

Altered States

Sometimes I feel the need to make sense of our society’s drug policy.  For a brief moment in the ’60s (or so I’ve heard, having not made my entrance into this world until 1970) there was a subculture of people experimenting with altered states of consciousness, often induced chemically.  But besides that, we have all kinds of factions fighting against each other, none of them going anywhere except to hell in a handbasket: the “cool” drug counterculture, the illegal drug making/selling economy, the drug war economy, the poor souls fighting addiction, the puritan idealism that inevitably adopts a hypocritical position of condemning some chemicals utterly while accepting others without question, the pharmaceutical industry, the food industry, the tobacco industry, the alcohol industry, etc.

Okay, well, the legalized industries are doing fine.  But we often excuse their products as harmless, though in the last few decades we have been leaning the other way with alcohol and tobacco.

But we still allow people, including children, to walk around souped up on caffeine and sugar and few of us recognize these effects as altered states.  (I don’t know about you, but the most positive and productive I am all day is the hour or so when I’m flying on my morning caffeine fix.) We are only  just beginning to see them as powerful.  And our inevitable response seems to be to condemn them.

Are we capable of a more intelligent handling of the issue?

No matter where we stand on whatever drug issue, legal or otherwise, we all seem to be operating under the same common assumption: altered states are secretly fun, to some degree dangerous and always carry at least a small stigma of shamefulness.   Even with coffee, aren’t we addicts all at least a little sheepish when admitting our fixation?  Sobriety is held as the ultimate righteous state.

But might altered consciousness be something humans need?  Is it ever beneficial?  We might admire a Native American peyote ceremony for the soul searching and mystical insight it provides, but none of us is allowed to do it.  How would someone’s reputation change in your eyes if you found out they’d done acid?  

We allow, “I was just experimenting in college” and “I didn’t inhale.”  We’ve gotten to where we allow people to be reformed users, like George W., for example.

But for someone to be a respected member of mainstream society who proves their worth on a daily basis and is also a known pot smoker?  Nope.

We all have understandable fears based on anecdotal evidence of some type of chemical destroying someone we know and/or love.  We may even decide to buck the present trend and be against alcohol consumption.  But cars and motorcycles maim and kill lots of people, and isn’t that an altered state for a lot of people?  The power, speed, independence, road rage, status symbol possession… Most of the time we drive in a fairly sober, utilitarian manner, but who among us doesn’t ever floor it or take that corner just a little faster than necessary?  We definitely are not in our natural state, feet on the ground, head surrounded by sky.  Our heavy metal boxes put us in a certain frame of mind.

But we would never dream of outlawing them.

Our tv watching puts us in an altered state, a passive, drooling spectatorship.  How are the hours wasted and life energy atrophied away any different in front of the tube than passed out with painkillers?

Okay.  Granted they are different.  I’m just being dramatic in an attempt to make the point that we try to avoid sobriety in many different ways, some of them demonized as too dangerous and others labeled as simply “entertainment” or “transportation” or “java” some other moniker that makes them untouchable.

What would happen if we said, yes, we need to escape.  Yes, grownups are going to be allowed to choose their method of altering with no legislating and then they will be held responsible for any consequences of their choices.  The pluses and minuses of every method could be discussed freely.  We could openly admit that lots of things we do everyday, even something so innocuous as having a drama queen fit, are forays out of our “right minds.”  We could talk without shame about what we are looking for outside of our sobriety, about what we find there.

Or should we just continue to behave as though stone cold sobriety were the only way to be, ever.  That there is no time or place for getting out of your head or your day to day perspective, unless perhaps you choose Zen meditation, prayer, yogic breathing.  Newsflash — these things are seen as a little bit crazy, too.  Innocuously so, but nevertheless.

I hope this article did not induce any sort of altering in the reader’s awareness of reality as they’ve always assumed it to be — any effects of change in point of view, feelings of lightheadedness or hallucinations were purely unintentional.  Unless you go for that sort of thing.  In which case, you’re welcome. 

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Criminal Element

I am on a bit of a low due to the rash of robberies in our area.  My husband, as you may not know or remember, is a cops & courts newspaper reporter, so every local criminal event is, in some way, a personal event in our household.  

Before you say that maybe my husband shouldn’t bring his work home with him, I LIKE to be part of his life and to hear about how his day went.  And if you’d ever heard the way he tells a story, you wouldn’t want to miss a single one either.

I know robberies happen all the time everywhere, but lately they have been violent around here.  One middle aged waitress was pistol whipped by a scumbag thief trying to rob the restaurant where she was working because she claimed not to know the combo to the safe.  Obviously the s*** for brains criminal has never worked a service job in his entire worthless life or he’d KNOW that there’s no restaurant owner going to trust the lowly employees with the combo to the safe (just about the only jobs I’ve worked have been service jobs, so rest assured I am NOT insulting the employee with my sarcasm.)

Almost as repulsive as this man beating on a woman is the fact that a dishonest thieving rat is terrorizing someone trying to earn an honest living.  

So then I hear about the owner of a small country store being robbed for the third time this year, and he ends up shooting the two robbers, killing one.  I should be saddened by a death.  But it makes me want to cheer.  I feel like this store owner was standing up for all of us, sending a message that this sort of immoral insanity will not be tolerated anymore.  Additionally, there is one less criminal that will be able to wreak his havoc in our area.

I heard a comment stating that the deceased had tried to straighten out his life but due to his criminal record, no one would give him a job.  What else could he do but turn back to crime.

This softened me a little.

Is there ever a second chance?  Is there a way to turn your life around?  Would society let you do it, if you really had a change of heart?

What are we doing to ourselves that we have light sentences for the criminals and strict rules for the cops and courts so that violent offenders end up on the streets either with no punishment or after learning new tricks of their trade inside, and then there is no way for them to walk the straight and narrow even if they wanted to?  Aren’t we just setting the stage for disaster?

I have no solution to offer.  I just see it all up close and personal and there appears to be no end in sight.  Just a few days after the robbers were shot, there was a report of another armed robbery in a parking lot, but this time the victim was shot.  Perhaps, instead of being a deterrent, the injury or death of a criminal will just inspire them to shoot first?

Is there a way to encourage and facilitate the re-entry of criminals into “normal” society, or at least a way to get them to empathize with their victims?  Is this why they commit crimes in the first place, because they have no awareness of the feelings of their victims? Is there a way to determine if an individual is incapable of feeling empathy, and if so, what should be done with those people?  Should they be allowed to run loose?

It scares me to think like this.  I see Big Brother and machines hooked up to people’s brains and citizens in mortal terror of being imprisoned as a “preventative measure.”

I guess we have to value freedom and civil rights and accept whatever consequences come along for the ride.  

I just wish it didn’t always come down to physical safety vs. human rights.  Such a fundamental American conflict, and one that we might never sort out.

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Family crisis

What is this world coming to?

Have you heard about the Nebraska law that has inspired parents to abandon their children at hospitals?  I have been following this story for a while now, and in every article about it you read that someone or other says, “Gosh, we need to close the loopholes in this law that was originally designed to protect newborns…” and yet I keep reading about more kids being dropped off.  How long does it take to close a loophole?  Or are they questioning whether they even should close it?

I don’t know what to think.

On the one hand, how does any situation get this bad?  The father who dropped off his nine kids, ages 1 to 17, was living in poverty after his wife had just died.  How is there no one on this planet to help this family?  There are people as we speak enjoying themselves on vacation, people buying themselves a third or fourth car, people planning what mountain of presents they will put under the Christmas tree in a couple of months, but this man was left to despair until he decided to hand over his kids to what he thought would be a better life.

On the other hand, maybe there are people out there who genuinely just don’t want their kids.  The kids are neglected, they act up, they are isolated even more by their disengaged parents, so they act up more. Are these kids better off somewhere else, maybe if we recreated orphanages so that they genuinely served all the needs of kids who have been abandoned?  If we can spend billions of dollars bailing out a huge corporation seems like we could scrape together something to help the youth of this country that someone has obviously failed to take care of. 

Who knows.  I am just trying to imagine what could possibly be going on.  Personally I don’t even understand the infant abandonment thing, I guess we accept it because the infants are more helpless and also more adoptable, whereas the older kids can fend for themselves and no one else would want them anyway.  

??????

I am not leading to any reasonable conclusion or solution.  I just think this law, whatever its original intention, raises a lot of interesting points about our current priorities in this country.  It is increasingly difficult for me to read the story passively, to remain a spectator, to have a detached curiosity.  It is beginning to feel like sitting in an armchair with a cold one while watching a building burn with people trapped inside screaming for help.

Am I being overly dramatic?  Is there a cold, aloof way to look at this that I am missing?

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Lowering the drinking age

This topic from CNN news is one I’ve long debated over: should we lower the drinking age?  

On one side of the debate, the testimony from countries who allow kids to have a glass of wine with dinner, and they tend not to go nuts and die from binge drinking when they are suddenly let loose in college.

On the other hand, does it encourage kids to drink earlier?

On the other hand, I take great issue with the term “kids.”  Until a person is in their 30’s, they are girls and boys and kids.  Forget about the fact that, at 18, they can vote and fight for their country, they are tried as adults and can sign legal documents.  We insist that they are children who know nothing and should be treated with no respect.

Well, yeah, they know nothing.  I think most of us know nothing until we are probably 50.  And maybe not even then.  But to treat someone as a baby lets them off the hook (“Boys will be boys!” = there is no point in trying to civilize the young males.  This is crap.)

I have long been in favor of making the 18 year old cutoff age as the true threshold of adulthood.  At that point you are a grown-up, with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with this label, and if you mess up we aren’t going to smile and waggle our finger and say, “Kids will be kids.”  You will be busted.

And there will still be drunk drivers, there will still be people dying of alcohol poisoning, unfortunately.  But we will have consistent expectations of our young people.  They will know when they need to wise up and start behaving themselves, even if in reality it ends up taking them awhile to get there.

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