Last night I dreamt I was trapped at a dinner party where a woman whom I didn't know, apropos of nothing, addressed me as follows:
"It is beyond my understanding why the fascist authorities insist on restricting my civil rights and try to forbid me from driving 70 miles per hour. I so don't get it. How is how fast I drive anyone's business but my own? I understand that 70 miles per hour is 40 miles per hour over the speed limit. But driving 70 miles per hour isn't nearly as dangerous as driving 90 miles per hour. Ninety miles per hour is 60 miles per hour over the speed limit. Ninety miles per hour is much worse than 70. All the studies say so. The research is unequivocal. There is nothing to argue about: driving 90 miles per hour is more dangerous than driving 70 miles per hour.
"Why is everyone making such a big deal out of my driving 70 miles per hour? I don't deny that there are two school zones on my route in the morning. But driving 90 miles per hour would be much more dangerous for those elementary school age kids than the 70 miles per hour that I drive.
"The police, the legislators, and the parents in the neighborhood are all so stupid. They want to turn the clock backward. What do these reactionaries want? Do they want everyone to drive ten miles per hour? Two hundred years ago, ten miles an hour was the fastest that anyone could travel because that's how fast a horse could go. But I don't have a horse; I have a 400 horse power engine. Don't these people understand that we can't go backward as a culture? Isn't it clear that I should be allowed to drive 70 miles per hour because I can?
"If I weren't supposed to drive 70 miles per hour, then why do I have a car that can go 70 miles per hour? Don't the authorities understand this obvious point? And as I keep pointing out, driving 90 miles an hour would be worse.
"We are a nation of laws, not a nation of obligations. Our country is about what I can do--not about what I have to do or ought to do. If these children in the school zone want to stay safe then they need to play somewhere else or go to school somewhere else. I like driving 70 miles per hour. Yes sometimes, I get a speeding ticket, but I always pay it. So what's the problem?"
I woke up screaming.
At the risk of "explaining the joke," ("explaining the dream"?) here's a similar argument to the one above: Marijuana should be legalized because marijuana is not as dangerous as alcohol or cigarettes.
I find this "not as dangerous as" argument equal parts infuriating and vacuous in that falling off a 300-foot cliff is, in some sense I suppose, "better" than falling off a 400-foot cliff.
But not a great deal better in that dead is dead.
This "not as dangerous as" argument is the best argument for the pro-marijuana forces? Really? That's the best they've got? That marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol--which is responsible for countless needless deaths every year--and less dangerous than cigarettes--which are responsible for even more needless deaths?
The speaker above argues that children in the school zones should get out of her way to avoid being run over when she is driving 40 miles per hour over the speed limit. Similarly, proponents of legalization suggest that their right to smoke pot trumps a child's right to grow up without infinite access to pot. I call this the "I'll only pee on my side of the pool" argument. Legalized marijuana means easier access to pot for everyone, including children.
Everybody knows about your cousin, the successful neurosurgeon in the Midwest who smokes pot on the weekend yet functions beautifully in the operating room during the week. But just because someone survives a fall from a great height is a poor argument in favor of jumping off a cliff to enjoy the view on the way down. Many kids who smoke pot become addicted and have concomitant problems including school failure, oppositionality, and depression--problems that they wouldn't have had absent their dependence on marijuana. Just because you can smoke pot with impunity doesn't mean that those children can. Just because somebody wins the lottery every week doesn't mean that you should sell your house to invest in lotto tickets.
What are loving parents to do? The choice is clear: keep your kids away from addictive drugs. Replace the temptations with other choices--almost any other choices will do. My dad and I used to toss a baseball when I was growing up; my mom and I used to go to the library. But I commend to your attention gardening, baking, athletics, woodworking, hiking, board games, swimming, fishing, canoeing, camping, travel, and volunteer work.
Also to help steer your kids away from harmful drugs, keep the stress level down. Don't push your kids relentlessly down the academic road to nowhere. Wouldn't you rather have a happy, well-adjusted, drug-free child than a stressed out, stoned, recalcitrant one with better grades? Wouldn't you rather have a neighbor who observes the speed limit in the school zone rather than selfishly insisting that at least driving 70 miles per hour is better than careening along at 90 mph?
David Altshuler, M.S., guest blogger and Informed Families Board member, has been helping students and families make good decisions for almost 35 years. He helps students and families choose and apply to colleges and boarding schools as well as schools for students with learning differences or special emotional needs. David Altshuler is the author of Raising Healthy Kids In An Unhealthy World, which you can purchase here.