Monday, April 20, 2009

Bedford Falls or Pottersville?

"Vice is a monster of such frightful mein,
As to be hated, needs to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace."
~Alexander Pope "Essay on Man"

In my last post I briefly commented on the apathy of people towards their own healthcare and now I want to brush on a continually growing moral apathy of America.
Yesterday I was thinking about my favorite movie of all time (yes, I know I've posted about it before - It's A Wonderful Life), and this time I was looking at it from a social perspective and found some eerie parallels. I recommend watching it again, even though Christmas is still 8 months away. You'll see where I'm coming from. Look at the background: Economic crisis (a bank run during the Great Depression), greed, power, and an effort to take over businesses (Potter takes over bank and wants to take over the Savings and Loan), and the transformation of Bedford Falls into Pottersville, where the Emporium, Movie House, and other buildings become sleezy motels and exotic dance clubs. Citizens are unhappy everywhere.

Right now I'm finding a couple of recent topics a bit disturbing that makes me wonder if our country is going the way of Pottersville. Some may consider me a "prude" or an old "fuddy-duddy" twenty-something. Maybe I am.
The first has to do with the legalization of "sexting." This is a new term that describes people taking nude or other inappropiate pictures of themselves or others on camera phones and then sending or texting these pictures to their peers. Some people estimate that 20-25% of teenagers have engaged in this - either sending or receiving. When minors are involved, this is considered technically as child pornography, which in many states carries stiff penalties such as prison terms and being labeled as a "sex offender." Many promoters of the legalization of sexting argue that children should not be subject to such stiff penalties and that it's just another form of lame adolescent behavior such as mooning or flashing. Many do warn that, yes, these pictures of them will be out in cyberspace forever and can impact them years from now, but they don't stress any form of strong punishment other than conversation and taking away their cell phone. To me, child porn is child porn, and teenagers need to realize this and some sort of legal prosecution should be in order.

My next worry is the legalization of marijuana. Some proponents stress that marijuana crimes are not serious and plug up the justice system's courtrooms, lawyers, and jails. Others think of legalization as a solution to easing the tensions and violence between drug cartels, smugglers, border patrol units, and other law enforcement. One California representative offered the suggestion that California would prosper economically off of the legalization and taxation of marijuana growers. Hmmmm.... Marijuana is practically harmless, right?
According to my Current Pediatric Diagnosis and Treatment, low intoxication levels can lead to impaired thinking - sure, we could use more of that. Would you really like to see the driver next to you on the freeway smoking a joint? Chronic use can also lead to infertility (could be touted as an alternative form of birth control!) as well as apathy (after substitute teaching high school, I really fear an increase in this) and amotivational syndrome. Amotivational syndrome is characterized as "decreased attention to environmental stimuli and impaired goal-directed thinking and behavior" which is due to "destruction of hippocampal and basal ganglia nuclei." I think that anything that causes destruction of any part of my body would be cause for concern. Doesn't it seem that all that money spent of childhood Ritalin is going to waste? Not to mention the studies of marijuana as a "gateway drug" and the effects of toxic intoxication (i.e. psychosis...). Other studies have shown that the marijuana stashed under your teenager's bed is not the same kind their dad smoked at Woodstock. One analysis in the late 1990's proved a 3-5 fold increase in the concentration of THC since 1970's and 1980s. Not to mention the possibility of "hybrid" drugs (smuggling hard drugs like cocaine and meth with marijuana).
I fear that we're only a few months to a few years off from public service announcements urging us to "smoke responsibly." Sigh...

2 questions I have are these: Are we teaching the future leaders of this country that when confronted with problems and social issues, we throw our up hands, shrug our shoulders, turn our heads, surrender, and let them infiltrate our society? Do we just legalize all vices just to make "life easier," "save money," and not "tie up our justice system"?

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