“And I’m standing at the crossroads
Believe I’m sinking down.” — Robert Johnson
The last week has demonstrated so much about the battle lines in America. In many ways, I would suppose it makes so little sense to those outside of the United States. It barely makes sense to those of us here. We are simultaneously becoming more open and more tolerant of activities that might be considered on the edges of societal norms.
Some people call these things victimless crimes. That designation obviously depends on multiple perspectives. Often times in these cases there are victims but they are not necessarily a victim of the crime itself, but all of the nonsense and danger surrounding the so-called crime. First, a bit of a historical perspective.
As everyone knows, we were settled by Puritans. I liken them to the Southern Baptists and non-denominational Evangelical Christians of today. Nearly everything pleasurable was a sin. Therefore, it was strictly prohibited. I don’t think most people have any idea of how this played on our collective psyche even until the present day.
You cannot drink. You cannot dance. You cannot read strange books. You cannot partake of other substances. You certainly cannot have sex outside of marriage or participate in any activity that might nudge you down that road. Since this is the case, you cannot have access to anything that would promote safe sex or allow anyone to make responsible choices.
What we understand today (and I imagine even then) is that when you deny someone anything pleasurable and tell them that doing that thing is a sin they will begin to crave it. They always joked that the best way to keep a Baptist from drinking your beer is to invite a second Baptist. As silly as the notion is, some people still think that if no one sees them do it then they never did it.
This has produced some widespread problems. I’m not sure how one measures such a thing, but it has been reported that the United States sits behind only Russia in the rate of alcoholics in society. That’s not total alcohol consumed. It’s not even alcohol consumed per capita. It is the percentage of people that have a problem with the amount of alcohol they consume.
We can extend this to other situations. One of my daughter’s friends nearly died from an overdose. It seems she bought some marijuana and still is not sure what it was laced with. Some dealers love to do that. I suppose that even if it were legal universally, some people would still try to find it cheaper or without the hassles of acquiring it legally. Maybe they find the regulated stuff to be too weak. The United States certainly has an opioid crisis and most of those are acquired legally initially. So, legalization and/or decriminalization isn’t the panacea that people think it is.
All that being said, we can’t help but wonder how much making it legal and available through traditional means would prevent things like that. We can’t help but wonder how many fewer people would have addiction issues if our attitudes towards alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana were healthier. We can’t help but wonder how many fewer people would need abortions if they had access to birth control measures and helpful education about sexual activity in general.
Unfortunately, we can’t have these things because we are still stuck mentally in 17th century New England. These things are bad. You cannot have those things and we certainly can’t talk about them. Furthermore, if we allow those things then the slippery slope comes in and we would then see an increase in those other things that all of us find abhorrent.
Instead, we could discuss things like adults. Legalizing marijuana doesn’t necessarily mean a sharp increase in the use of harder drugs we all agree should be illegal. Allowing for and helping children understand safe sex doesn’t mean a sharp increase will definitely occur. If you give someone a bowl of ice cream it is not normal for them to then devour the carton. What is normal is that if you show it to them and them tell them they can’t have any, you might wake up to find the carton empty. This is our collective American experience. It’s time to change the broken record.