Thursday, January 7, 2016

We're Protecting the Wrong Thing

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."The U.S. Declaration of Independence begins with these words.I was having a conversation with Tony this morning about a piece on NPR which discussed the growing epidemic of heroin abuse in wealthy subsets of the population. It was an interesting piece, the elements of which included:- the culture of drug use as recreation, beginning with taking parents' prescription drugs just to try the high- the need for public awareness about this issue and the political will to address it with dollars and resources- the capacity for other drugs to block the effects of opiates, allowing users to withdraw more easilyAnd as I was talking to Tony about it, these words from the Declaration of Independence came back to me. Because what I said to him was that I didn't understand why we kept focusing on helping people deal with addictions once they had them, but we seem driven to intentionally ignore the number of people who become addicted in the first place. Doesn't anyone want to know why a wealthy kid from the suburbs with seemingly every advantage wants to get high? Doesn't anyone want to know why his mother has prescription drugs that help him get high, when she, too, would seem to have every ingredient for happiness at her disposal? Why aren't these people already happy?I think the answer is we have been protecting the wrong thing.The idea of America is a good one, and it is one worth protecting and serving. But the reality of America in the last half-century ~ more probably ~ is that we are no longer pursuing happiness and so we are no longer happy. That's why our politics are so angry and weird. That's why our public education system is perverse and our children are so frail in the face of simple (let alone complex) adversity. That's why we shoot one another and smirk at the President who sheds tears over the loss of small children. That's nuts, you know? Nuts.We've become convinced that our happiness is tied to possession and accumulation, hoarding of abundance is what my daughter calls it. We're so sure that more iproducts and more guns and more plastic crap from China will make us happy that we'll do anything - including letting our children be killed massacre-style, or allowing them to sink into sickness and depression, crawling behind needles and fevers. Our forefathers may have wanted to protect our freedoms, but right now we're focusing on the pursuit of freedom to tax and spend on crazy programs to treat drugs with drugs so we don't remain addicted to drugs, when the source of our unhappiness remains untended. That's dumb. I'll bet our forefathers would agree that was not what they fought and died for. Our society, our culture, and our government need to get busy figuring out why Americans are so damn miserable. And we need to be brave enough not just to deliver that message, we need to hear it and act upon it as our forefathers did so we can make good on the sacrifices that came before us.That's a declaration and a truth that needs to be heard.

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