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America's Drug Wars
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Why Do People Take Drugs?

A. There is a war-like strain in our European culture that drugs tap. Soldiers will tell you that the public wants a military kept in a box marked "Break glass in case of war." To keep the warlike strain alive, we have all kinds of cultural symbolisms working. But the actual spirit needs a more visceral cultivation. Alcohol is okay for carpet bombers of WWII vintage, but if you want somebody to burn hootches and bayonet babies, you need stronger drugs to shape their spirit. Dropping smart bombs down chimneys, again, calls for a different sort of soul formation. If we could weed the imperialist out of our heritage, we could weed out this aspect of drug use.

B. On the other hand, our culture offers little or nothing for healthy, peaceful spiritual development. "No daydreaming!" is the actual translation of "e pluribus unum." Our prickliness, insularity, coldness, and fetish of hygiene put our imaginative life up in some cosmic deep freeze (GNP and body counts, horsepower and cup size, footnotes, all sorts of empty symbolism). We go to church and are told that we can ignore what is going on in our minds, God doesn't promise us that kind of peace. Against all that, drugs offer a haven. Once you stop demonizing the drug user, you can measure the social wasteland by what the users put up with to escape it.

Chris Rushlau
Portland

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