Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Red Ribbons

This week the school is doing something different each day to broadcast an anti-drug message to our kids. Even our Halloween decorations are festooned with slogans and reminders that drugs are unhealthy, dangerous, and not "cool" in any sense.

Red ribbons with anti-drug messages have been distributed to staff and students, and we are being reminded to wear the things at all times.

My ribbon was waiting for me in the mailbox. Cheerfully, it rhymed, "United We Stand - For a Drug-Free Land!" and it bore the image of our nation's flag.

Face in palms.

Look, friends, I'm on board with telling kids to stay away from drugs. It's an issue of health and security. Where patriotism has to come into it, I don't know. Many of my adult friends enjoy themselves a bit of the marijuana from time to time and I do not consider them traitors to their country. Presumably, this patriotic red ribbon does not refer to drugs that are legal, like nicotine and caffeine. The ribbon doesn't say anything about "an addiction-free land." It's a reminder to me that the war on drugs is a political business, not strictly medical.

So I put it on backwards, going for the absent-minded professor dodge, and leave it on my desk at other times. It seems like a thoughtless use of the flag to me. "If you are a real American, you must uncritically adopt this sweeping statement about narcotics." Well, neighbor, I don't.


Pam said...

It's red ribbon week at our elementary schools, too.

I guess I was more tolerant of some drug use when I was a bit younger, and before I had to live first hand with the damage that drug use, by an adult, can do to children.

Gave me a different perspective.

Excessive drug use by adults can screw up the DNA of their children. These are the innocent victims in the drug issue.

Drugs + alcohol + cars too often equal death in the teen and young adult population.

As for nicotine, in spite of what our dear departed friend Maria thinks, it kills.

Yeah, I know alcohol and smokes are legal.

I don't see that this is a patriotism issue.

Kelly said...

Yep....Red Ribbon Week here, too. It's been a part of our community for as long as I can remember.

I agree with Pam. My opinions on drugs (and alcohol for that matter) have evolved a lot over the years. I've seen (and experienced) too much of their collalteral damage.

As for the flag.... I doubt everyone (especially the kids) is so quick to make a connection between being drug-free and being patriotic. Just take it at face value. The week will end quickly enough.

Algernon said...

On the damage done by drugs - yes, we all have seen it and we do right to warn our kids away from drugs and their dangers. Like I said in the post, I am on board with that message.

It has nothing to do with patriotism, however, and Kelly, that's my problem with it. Patriotism is used to pressure us into believing one thing or another about drugs, religion, war, which political party to support, and much more. Not just this week, but every week. I consider that a desecration of the flag: patriotism deployed to enslave minds.

This puritanical and punitive approach to drugs has cost us $50 billion without budging the problem much. Meanwhile, here we are having a coy debate about what a "real American" does in the privacy of their home.

Pam said...

Quite a few "real Americans" severely abuse, even kill their children in the privacy of thier homes.

Perhaps our approach to drugs has been costly, punitive and puritanical. One could even agree that the problem hasn't moved much.

We can't stop trying to save younger generations from the damage that comes from drug use.

In my day it was just alcohol; my kids added the pot equation. Now it's not just alcohol, pot, coke but even more lethal drugs like meth.

Some of the legal and somewhat "harmless" drugs are, for way too many users, so-called gateway drugs to the more dangerous substances.

I don't have all the answers to how to keep as many kids as possible from destroying their lives before they are old enough to have the sense to perceive the destruction. Moderation is not in a kid's vocabulary.

I just know that Red Ribbon Week in elementary schools is a good tool. We talk to our boys at home about the dangers of drugs, especially since they take medications that could be dangerous, if not, lethal with the addition of illegal drugs.

If wanting to protect our kids from the dangers of drug abuse is puritanical, then I'm all for being puritanical on that front.

Our approaches to drugs may have cost us $50 billion, but the fallout from drug abuse and abusers isn't cheap either. We are paying no matter what.

I guess I don't understand your patriotism issue. I consider myself to be patriotic and I don't feel pressured to do so. I don't see any one religion attached to being a "real American". I don't see one political party more patriotic than another, nor do I consider anti or pro war a patriotic issue.

My young grandsons love being "Patriotic". They see it as a good thing to be. One voted for Obama in the school election, one for McCain. They think drugs are bad for obvious reasons.

I don't see what's coy about any of this discussion.

Algernon said...

I am forced to repeat one more time that I understand, quite well, the problems presented by drug abuse and addiction. And not just illegal drugs, but products that are legal and even *promoted* by society, such as alcohol and cigarettes. The political 'war on drugs' does not target the latter for reasons you can understand simply by following the money.

I am forced to point out that I have not denied the issue nor suggested we should stop providing children with proper education about drugs.

My point was, you don't need to wave a flag to tell kids that meth will kill them.

With other drugs, like naturally-occurring plants and funghi that have entertaining but benign effects, I am not inclined to moral opprobrium. The guy who smokes a joint and writes bad poetry is somehow less of an American than Bill who drinks a six-pack and farts into his sofa watching football? It makes no literal sense and frankly smells like the juvenile 'cultural war' forever being incited by the right wing.

Pam, just because perhaps you do not fall for patriot-baiting messages ("real Americans do this and not that") does not mean that false patriotism and social indoctrination do not exist.

One thing about you, Pam, is that you are VERY straightforward. This means you are much less susceptible to subtle indoctrination; on the other hand, it could also mean you don't notice the subtle indoctrination that goes on.

Sly messages in the media, I mean. "Real Americans" back the President, right or wrong. (Very powerful sentiment 2001-7)

"Real Americans" recognize that American is a Christian nation that 'tolerates' other religions. (Ongoing)

The main line of attack in this national election we have been watching is that Barack Obama is not a 'real American.'

Do I need to exercise the long list of popular uses of patriotism to brand some kinds of people as "american" as opposed to, I don't know, 'pretend Americans?'
You don't do it, Pam, but it's in our media and yes, it is coy. It is sly and it is effective.

My "patriotism issue" is this, if I may be plain: people died for what that flag *really* means, and I don't like seeing it prostituted.

Kelly said...

Just two more comments on my part...

1. Why, just because they stamped a flag on the ribbon, does it become an issue of patriotism and "real Americans" do this or that? Maybe I'm just dense, but I don't automatically jump to that conclusion. I like to think I'm fairly patriotic at the appropriate times, but I don't integrate it into my daily living (such as my choice not to partake of illegal drugs... that's a health choice). For the most part I tend to be politically incorrect, so I try not to pay much attention to messages, subtle or otherwise, the mainstream media might be sending my way.

2. I can't agree with you on the "benign effects" of the naturally-occurring plants and fungi. For some people they may be benign, but for others they aren't. One of my family members has finally admitted that although pot is not physically addicting, it IS emotionally and psychologically addicting! It demotivates and is still a gateway drug (even though I've been informed by those in the know that xanax and other pills are now the "new gateways"). Keep in mind many poisons are naturally-occurring, too.

As for your original thought.... I just don't see the connection that makes teaching kids to stay away from drugs a patriotic issue.

Pam said...

Actually, we prostitute most everything in this society. That pretty much sums up the seemingly endless election cycle.

Through commercials, ads of all kinds we prostitute things to sell or promote. That's the point of the ad agencies. It's why they get the big bucks! Indrocination by any means possible is the name of the game.

Some people are more gullible than others, more easily swayed one way or other. Some of us aren't so easily swayed, but we see the sublty, see the cartoonish wafting cloud of hypnotic air.

Kids are the prime example of easy indoctrination. They believe what they see and hear. My Connor is an example of a kid who, even with his deficits, has been highly engaged in this election process since before Hillary was ousted.

He was drawn to the Cable News Networks that are on somewhere in our home almost 23/7. My Muzak. He watched and listend...to ads, to speeches, to debates, to pundits. He soaked it all in. Hillary was an early favorite with him.

He liked what she had to say. Once she was out of the picture he continued to listen and decided he would 'vote' for Obama. He had his reasons, drawn almost verbatum, from the speeches and ads.

He beleived all that the ads had to say about Obama, believed what Obama had to say. He didn't believe McCain.

He is also 10 and extremely naive. He takes things at face value. If they say it, it's gospel.

He is a child who sees things as pretty much black and white. In his world as in the world of most, I'd say, kids, he thinks drugs are bad, America is good, people are good and some are bad. He also things lots of 'legal' things are bad like smoking and alcohol (when used to excess or abused).

I don't see wrapping Red Ribbon Week up with wearing Patriotic (red/white/blue) clothing as indoctrination. They also wore team jerseys and pajamas on other days. Somehow I don't think the message in this case equates to drug user = unAmerican.

Welcome to life in the today's elementary schools. Stuffed animals, favorite team jerseys, pjs, patriotic shirts or colors, spirit wear(kid's school shirt), fundraisers for all sorts of things: these are elements tossed in with the academics.

It's OK to be proud to be an American and not be proud of all things your country does.

I guess age and lots of life experience have tempered much of both the tolerance as well as the intolerance of my younger years.

Back to the drug, legal or illegal issue. You're right, we can't or shouldn't legislate 'morals'. But we can teach them. We can teach our kids. We can try to protect our kids against the things that can reach out and hook them before they have the age or maturity to understand the possible consequences.

I don't know....indoctrinate? Protect? Teach? when it comes to kids perhaps there isn't much difference.

Sure, we teach our kids to think for themselves, to form their own judgements. However, if we don't guide them, provide a moral or ethical compass for them as they are maturing, we are doing them a disservice. They need a foundation in order to become informed thinkers, critical thinkers.

As an adult I don't think in lock-step with my parents or my siblings or my daughter, etc. I got a good foundation, however.

There are always going to be gullible people, Alg. There will always be indoctrination of some sort. The good thing about this country is that we are free to drink the koolade or not.

Algernon said...


Symbols lend themselves to manipulation, and the American flag is a potent symbol. Note how patriotic images and themes have been used in the political campaign. It's the same thing with the ribbon. We MUST pay attention to this sort of thing - we can't just acquiesce. Sand, not oil.

As for your second comment, Kelly, I said there are naturally occuring substances that have relatively benign effects. I made no statement about pot. I have a question for you.

Everything you said about pot can also be said about alcohol. People become addicted to it on all three counts that you mention. It demotivates. Some people who use alcohol try other drugs as well. Alcohol is created by natural processes. So my question is, why do you suppose alcohol is legal and socially acceptable, and marijuana is not?

I tried marijuana several times before giving up on it. I never once had a pleasurable experience with it. Still, I did smoke it several times. This "gateway drug" argument is to some extent a bugaboo. If it were such a dangerous gateway drug, I would surely have fallen into other drugs. Well, I didn't, and neither have my adult friends who smoke it. There is a little more to the story here.

I close by saying we don't need patriotic brow-beating to tell us how to take care of ourselves. And we can be smart about drugs without adhering to overly simplified, moralistic cant.

Algernon said...


Please see my comment to Kelly above. We don't need patriotic brow-beating to tell us how to take care of ourselves.

I say, take the koolaid and dump it on the floor. That flag stands for liberty, not nationalistic manipulation. You've been reading this blog long enough to know that enslaving people's minds is something that offends us here at the burning house.

Who would have thought this, of all things, would end up being the most controversial post in this blog's history?

Kelly said...

Okay, Alg... you ask about alcohol. (btw....I was just using pot as an reference point. I can come up with numerous other "natural" examples) As you know from one of my blog entries I made a personal decision to abstain from alcohol 10 years ago. I've had heated debates with various family members about the destructiveness of alcohol vs. drugs. I firmly believe alcohol can be just as devastating to the individual and the family as drugs, if not more so (in part because of the legality!) Sp, yes... you are absolutely correct that everything I said about pot can also relate to alcohol. Even more so in my opinion. I've seen few potheads get mean or abusive!

We saw with Prohibition that trying to ban alcohol wasn't going to work. So why not go ahead and legalize marijuana? (Does NORML still exist??) Regulate it with farm subsidies, tax it, etc? I don't know. Unfortunately I can often see both sides of issues like this. My heart tells me one thing, my head tells me another. Ultimately I just have to decide what I think is right.

As for the "gateway" business. I've debated that one many a time, too....on both sides of the issue. I think it really depends on one's personality type. That could apply to not just drugs and alcohol, but also gambling, overeating, video games and a host of other things.

Symbols lending themselves to manipulation. That opens a large can of worms and I won't let myself dwell on it too long. Otherwise you might have me commenting here far more than you want!! I'll leave it with saying I understand your viewpoint about patriotic brow-beating and respect your opinion, even if it differs from mine. A little healthy debate is good for the mind.