Janet Periat’s Planet Janet: Victimizing the Victim
July 2012— I just read the police blotter in the San Jose Mercury News. A man caught his son smoking marijuana and “escorted” him to juvenile hall. From the outside, many would applaud this man for his tough stance. Good for him. Straighten his son out before he gets into more trouble. This is the common wisdom when dealing with kids who do drugs. Blame the kid. Punish ’em hard and fast. Put ’em in jail. Detention.
But what no one will deal with — what no one will talk about — is why the kid was smoking pot. There is only one reason why kids get high. It’s not to be cool and accepted, although that’s a nice added benefit. It’s not to piss off their parents, although that’s icing on the cake. It’s not to stand out, rebel, or any of the other reasons society has attributed to drug use. The only reason anyone does drugs, kids included, is because that person is in pain.
My heart went out to the kid in the police blotter. Miserable and hurting, he tried to take care of himself by self-medicating. And what happened? His dad threw him in jail. Dad didn’t deal with the problem at home, he sent him into the system. He not only rejected him and neglected him, Dad foisted all the blame for his actions onto the poor kid, and then banished him to a lonely, impersonal institution to be housed with felons.
This father is the one who needed to be sent to jail, not the kid. That father needs a good slap upside the head. What that kid needed was to be heard. He needed his pain validated and to be given solutions to his problems. Fathers are supposed to protect their kids. They are supposed to support, nurture and teach their children how to navigate life. Fathers are supposed to show their offspring the way to a great future. All this father did was show his kid to jail.
I have no doubt that this father loves his son. I have no doubt he felt he was doing the right thing by tossing him in jail. He wanted to provide the kid consequences to his actions. But the guy is still a total, utter abusive jerk who just did the very opposite of what he was trying to do. His son is now guaranteed to be in more pain instead of less. Dad may get the kid off dope for the moment, but it won’t last, because the underlying issues are not being addressed. More than likely because Daddy Dearest IS the problem.
I had a friend in middle school whose father caught him smoking pot, and his dad was hell-bent on taking the kid to jail. His mother finally convinced the father it was a bad idea. And now all these years later, I know why my friend was smoking pot at 12. Because his father was a soulless sadistic evil controlling bastard. He abused my friend — and his siblings — and broke him emotionally. My buddy still struggles and continues to use drugs, only now he uses legal drugs. Thankfully, my friend has enough income to afford anti-depressants and a good therapist.
I have another friend who was also abused by her parents, but wasn’t lucky enough to be able to afford legal pain treatment. She turned to illegal drugs and ended up in jail. Now saddled with a criminal record, she’s had difficulty getting jobs ever since her incarceration. Her life has been one long, bad ride. All because of her choice of medication due to mental anguish caused by child abuse.
In society today, we have a clear cultural message: Prescribed pharmaceutical drugs are good and moral, illegal drugs are bad and immoral. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling. We are spending billions to demonize particular drugs and spending billions to advertise and promote others. What is wrong with this picture? Why are we treating someone who smokes a joint for depression, instead of popping a Prozac pill, the same way we treat a guy who beats up your grandmother, robs her and rapes her?
While I’m loathe to legalize all drugs — I think methamphetamines should be wiped from the face of the earth — the positives of drug legalization outweigh the negatives. If we legalized drugs and taxed the hell out of them, we could funnel the money into rehabilitation, reeducation, after-school programs and drug counseling. If a person gets too intoxicated and hurts someone, then jail them. We have plenty of laws on the books for bad behavior. But self-medicating — when no other crimes are being committed — should not be illegal.
The reason certain drugs are illegal is money. The reason pot’s illegal is because Hearst (the newspaper mogul) owned huge timber farms, and hemp made better paper, so he lobbied to make it illegal to grow. (Big Tobacco and Alcohol joined the fight, concerned about their bottom lines.) Also the largest demographic of pot smokers in the late 20s were Mexicans and blacks. When the Depression hit, white people wanted their farm jobs back. So making pot illegal took care of two problems: the pesky minorities and Hearst’s hemp issue. Since Hearst owned the papers, he demonized marijuana through his propaganda and look where we are today.
The only thing our current War on Drugs has done is jail the suffering and put money into the coffers of criminals. And if you don’t think the big illegal drug cartels are lobbying Congress to keep drugs illegal (along with the alcohol and tobacco lobbies), you’re crazy. If drugs become legal, the biggest losers will be the cartels.
While the War on Drugs works great for reelecting politicians, it destroys the very people it purports to help. We need to address the pain of the suffering, not demonize their method of medication. If we tackle the underlying issues and help people find solutions to their problems, the drug problem will take care of itself.
© 2012 Janet Periat