The lead story in the May 2nd edition of the Springfield News-Leader was entitled, “Drugs on the Rise in Schools”. This should not come as a surprise because the use of drugs is on the rise everywhere. This is despite the fact that the War on Drugs was begun by the United States with the establishment of Drug Enforcement Administration in 1973. It is extremely difficult to find out how much the government has spent on drug enforcement during its 40-year war, but the Drug Policy Alliance, which was founded by the conservative William F. Buckley and the liberal Walter Cronkite, estimated that over $51 billion was spent on drug enforcement in just the last year.
We have little to show for the expenditure of billions of dollars yearly in a vain effort to interdict drugs coming into this country. That is just the financial cost. A less tangible price can be attached to the situation that exists on the Mexican-United States border. One condition of “sovereignty” of a nation is that it controls the means of force within its borders. If this measure were to be applied to Mexico, it would be a failed state. ALL of this is due to the insatiable demand for drugs in our country. Drug gangs in Mexico rule of some of the states in that country. A good share of the border between the two countries is a combat zone.
Within the United States, our population uses more drugs than it did 40 years ago when this “war” began. Our prisons are overcrowded with people who have been sent there for the possession of as little as a couple of grams of marijuana. The cost of building prisons, staffing and maintaining them is so large that an industry has been created where private corporations contract to operate these facilities. I could go on and on with other examples of the foolishness of this war on drugs in which we are being defeated daily.
While organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance have programs that would ameliorate the problem, it seems to me that this is a problem that government by itself cannot solve, which suggests that there should be some thinking out of the box. At the same time that we have a huge drug problem in this country, we have thousands of churches which millions of Americans attend every Sunday morning. Many of these churches have educational programs and facilities for their parishioners to meet in. I wonder how many of these parishioners hear a priest or a pastor talking about the drug problem we have, much less organizing a campaign that would give parents a better idea of how to deal with it.
My criticism of most religious denominations in the US is that they tend to focus on the hereafter, ignoring problems in that confront us on a daily basis. To be sure, churches do have programs to help deal with poverty and hunger and gather food on Sundays to pass on to the unfortunate. This treats a symptom of poverty, but does not get at the problem. I wonder how many sermons are preached in the United States on any given Sunday on raising the minimum wage which would really get at the problem of poverty.
Similarly, I wonder what, if anything, churches are doing to deal with the scourge of drugs in this country. Churches, in my understanding, are places of teaching and learning. It isn’t the responsibility of government or our educational system to deal with the very personal problems of trying to wean our middle and high school students away from drugs. If all the thousands of churches in the United States were to institute programs of helping parents on how to recognize and deal with drugs, might that not help them to find out if their children are using them, and if they are, on how to manage it.
I’m just thinking out loud about this. To my knowledge, neither of my daughters used drugs when they were in high school or college, but that was decades ago. It may well be that many modern parents have used drugs when they were young and should know something from personal experience about how to counsel their children. I do know that efforts by the government to deal with this are terribly costly, totally ineffective, and add yet another level of corruption in our society.
I also know that churches in America are not taxed and enjoy police and fire protection and all the other services their cities offer. In my opinion, this makes them morally required to step up and help deal with this issue.
Ed Janosik welcomes comments and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org