A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.
In November I wrote of a well-inentioned move by the Waukesha County Board to accept a Federal grant to establish a County Drug Coordinator; a beurocratic cipher who will track information on drug use by our young. I don't criticize the Board - their only choice was to accept the grant or not. What I lament is the naivete of our belief that some pretentious official working in the confines of the County Building is actually going to make ANY difference in what we so pathetically call our "war" on drugs.
Madison Kiefer was fifteen years old; just a few months older than our precious daughter. Autopsy results have not yet determined what actually claimed the life of this lovely girl, but it is clear that she used opiate-based drugs, and they were the probable cause of her death. The community of Whitefish Bay now faces the questions posed by her end, even as those who knew her try and cope with this heart-breaking calamity.
It is time to stop the nonsense of believing that the establishment of some County official is going to make one whit of difference to our precious young people. Do any of us seriously believe that a Drug Coordinator is going to matter in the lives of people like this girl? Does anyone seriously suggest that, as she slipped into the foggy grasp of that final, opiated embrace, that her last conscious thought was, "OH - if ONLY the Waukesha County Drug Coordinator had been here".........
Keith Richards, legendary Rolling Stone and rebel, spent years mired in heroin addiction before he "kicked it". He once said of heroin that, "the thing with smack is - you know - it just removes your decision making". In the final months of his life, John Belushi tried to hang with Richards in the frenetic and fractured world of The Big Apple's counter-culture. But lacking the physical constitution of the guitarist, the opiate enshrouded his soul and took his life. Alas, like Madison Kiefer, there was no Drug Coordinator available to rescue John Belushi from the Smack-Down.
It's time to put away our toys. It's time to honor the memory of Madison Kiefer by having the courage to talk about what works and what doesn't.
It's not about marijuana anymore. While that remains the normative "drug of entry", many of our youth are on to bigger things. Prescription drugs like Vicodin, Suboxone, Percocet, and Oxycodone are now on the menu. And in the last ten years heroin has crept into our schools and our headlines. These drugs are all opiates and are all, quite simply, LETHAL. Our kids are not walking around with just a joint or a spliff in their pockets. They are walking around with loaded pistols. And in too many cases, the pistols are going off.
So what do we do?
If we are going to call it a war, let's realize how to fight and what weapons to use. I am reminded of the story of General Patton, who while touring post-War Berlin from the turret of one of his tanks, looked up to see a squadron of B-17's. He turned to a subordinate and asked, "By the way - who won the air war"? Patton knew that it was tanks and infantry on the ground that won that war. Patton knew how to FIGHT his war.
The beginning point for us is the realization that positions like a Drug Czar in Washington DC or a Drug Coordinator in Waukesha County, are an insult. All the good inentions in the world are not going to rescue one single kid. There is only one "prescription" for that - the consistenly committed involvement of responsible and caring adults investing themselves in the lives of our youth. The best equation would have those adults be two parents. Lacking that, the next best options are our Churches, YMCA's, Scout Troops, neighborhood organizations, and all manner of similar insitutions.
Let's do away with Czars and Coordinators, and throw our resources into bolstering our families and our institutions with people "on the ground". They are the ones ready and equipped to fight this war. They are out there, and they are fighting a heroic battle. And resources squandered on the salaries and pensions of inneffective and officious beurocrats would be far better spent in such areas.
That's the only way I know to save at-risk young people from the smack-down.