Sunday, May 4, 2008
They Must Be Smoking Something
"We smoke pot! We smoke pot!"
That was the chant from a rally on Saturday in Vancouver: something which a news report described as commemorating the "Million Marijuana March", whatever the heck that was. It was, simply put (so that even those smoking something can understand it), another demonstration demanding the "right" to smoke marijuana without being "hassled" by "pigs".
To begin with, giving the demonstration a name that echoes of the "Million Man March" is an affront to the sacrifices of Martin Luther King, Medgar Evars and all the others who laid down their lives for the cause of civil rights. Comparing their struggle with someone wanting the "right" to smoke dope indicates the total self-absorption of a bunch of privileged children who've been denied one more cookie.
But even more striking was the contrast between this event, and something that was going on just a few blocks away.
First, some words about the marijuana advocates.
The inane chanting was one thing (probably all they could get out of their mouths when stoned), but a careful analysis of the sound bite from one of their spokespeople shows the kind of convoluted, distorted thinking that you find when people demand the "right" to do something that is patently not right. They'll say anything to make their point, and remarks like "prohibition only encourages organized crime" is the sort of inside-out thinking that would have made Orwell proud.
Rather than prohibition, organized crime has received carte blanche from the multiple-message attitude our society has promoted. We tell kids not to do drugs, yet our media make heroes out of the likes of Mark Emery, who's been fighting extradition to the United States to face drug-related charges. Anyone who suggests that marijuana is an entree to other, stronger drugs is immediately vilified as a stick-in-the-mud.
Well, at least you know where a stick-in-the-mud stands. Besides, it doesn't take a psych major to know that if someone gets a "wonderful feeling" from something, they'll want to take the experience deeper. It's human nature. And we know that marijuana grown these days is more potent than it was in the 60s, when Cheech and Chong were making it seem oh-so-romantic and exciting. Evidently, the demand for a bigger "high" is already there, even without switching to other substances.
Now, about that contrast: at the same time that the rally was being organized, a group of us had opened the doors on Day 2 of The Lord's Rain -- the showers project at Gospel Mission. Outside, there was the usual array of drug dealers and users, plying their trade openly in the street: Shelly, the street duchess, who's set up camp in the doorway of a disused building next to ours, had her group coming and going, dealing and using; others were handing out their little white nuggets (crack cocaine) in the alley or next door in Pigeon Park.
Inside The Lord's Rain, there was a girl, barely out of her teens, passed out on a makeshift bed of chairs. She had come in crying and shaking and shivering: it was wet and raining outside, and she was wearing nothing but a tank top, jeans and runners without laces, with a wet, dirty blanket around her shoulders. We finally got her lying down and she fell asleep.
As I prayed over her, I asked God to send me a solution -- someplace she could go, someone to take care of her. What do we do with such people? We're giving showers and coffee to people -- we wish we could also feed and clothe and provide homes for them all ... and jobs ... and health ... the showers and coffee are a start -- the seeds to be planted that someone does care and that they are all worthy as God's children. But how do we deal with the immediate need -- like a place for this girl to go?
The fact that the girl looks barely older than my own daughter is all the more upsetting.
She was showing the effects of heroin and cocaine. Isn't heroin and cocaine a "speedball" -- the very thing that killed John Belushi? Belushi's world -- Hollywood and stardom and fame and money -- is so far removed from the Downtown East Side, and yet here is this child, destroyed by the same thing.
God answered my prayer, for someone to come and help: about an hour and a half later, a middle-aged woman walked in and said, "What's my daughter doing here?"
The mother stayed with us and made a few phone calls, and as we were closing up, helped her get dressed in dry clothes we found for her. We loaded the girl into the back of my car and drove around, eventually winding up at Triage, where they let her sleep on a couch while waiting for a place to take her.
(There's some question as to whether the "mother" is actually a blood relative, or is actually a "street mother", who watches over these kids. Regardless, the girl called her "mom", so there was some kind of mother-daughter relationship there: likely a relationship lacking in the girl's biological family.)
Would someone like to tell me that this girl did not begin her life on drugs by smoking marijuana, graduating to things that will give her more of a "good" feeling? Do we seriously believe that she went directly from being absolutely clean to Heroin Hotel, with a brief stopover at the Coke Cafe? Do kids with their raging sores and tempers to match, caused by crystal meth, begin with crystal meth, or were they not given a foot in the door with that "harmless recreational smoke"? (It has been shown that a lot of joints are now being laced with crystal meth, to give first-timers a taste for it.)
Is one not excused for wanting to drive a cement mixer through the Million Marijuana March?
No, Lord, one is not excused for succumbing to the flesh like that. Rather, all one can do is hand this to You: and I pray that You will reveal Yourself to the people in that march, their supporters, and the media who paint this in such sympathetic colours, and that their eyes will be opened to Your Truth; and I also pray that Your love will cover these people on the Downtown East Side -- and anywhere else where they have turned into walking, breathing corpses because of drugs; and that You will forgive us all, for the mixed messages we have permitted, allowing things to come to this point.
And help us to keep seeking You, Lord, even at such a time as this.