Rolling Stone writer, Shawn McCreesh, penned a particularly poignant tale of his adolescence and early adulthood wherein he and his pals engaged in Caligulan levels of self-indulgence until many were dead, addicted or brain damaged.
It starts out predictably.
I was raised, along with a younger brother and sister, by a single mom who worked as a hairdresser and a waitress. I spent every other weekend with my father, who lived in the next town over and founded a tree and landscaping company and later worked in real estate. We qualified for the free lunch program at school, and some years were tougher than others, but we were not poor and always had everything we needed.
Sufficient resources? Check. Stable family? Not checked. From the looks of things and given his apparent age, it's a good bet his wasn't the only such family in his hood. The parties the kids threw were legendary, or would have been, had they been aware of their surroundings.
Sharon was a year older than me and lived in the neighbor-hood. The year her mother was sent to jail, Sharon’s house became our free-for-all party pad and experimentation fort. Sharon’s scratchy baritone made for the perfect imitation mom-voice, so she could supply an alibi to any anxious parent inquiring about their child’s whereabouts. It always worked, including on my own mother. One night at Sharon’s we couldn’t get our paws on any preferred substances, and so Collin, our friend with the stickiest fingers, had a brainstorm: He would go to the home of a girl he was seeing and raid her parent’s medicine cabinet. After he came back with a bottle of what we thought was pharmaceutical-grade sleeping medication, we decided to divvy up the bottle, pop all the pills at once, wash them down with fortys, and have a contest to see who could stay awake the longest.
It goes on and on like this. Friends die, friends get pregnant outside of marriage, friends get addicted. On Twitter, I suggested to him that this was what happened when you didn't have a stable community of traditional families to provide guardrails for the kids. He disagreed.
Good for him. After his preemptory reply, I reconsidered his essay. He had just told us that he and his friends had only a passing acquaintance with self-denial, an ailment common to teenagers. I wasn't much different, I just didn't have the opportunities to get loaded like this. There was weed and booze, but there were plenty of married moms and dads committed to sniffing out impending doom before it impended.
His essay taught me one thing - the value of parents at home for teens. When the kids are tiny, you provide love. When they're youngsters, you provide guidance and rules. When they're nigh unto adulthood, you keep them from killing themselves as they experiment.
In Shawn's neighborhood, those safety nets were less common than in the ones where I grew up. Thus, children got into the narcotics and some died. Not to worry, mom was busy doing accounting work for Megacorp and their widget production was 0.0023% higher, thanks to her diligence. Dad was off boinking barflies or whatever amused him more than mom had.
And yet Shawn clings to his Rolling Stone outlook. That works until it doesn't and it hasn't stopped working for him. If it costs a dozen or so lives in his circles, well, tough luck for them. Compassionate asceticism was one drug he didn't take. Blame the drug companies, blame advertisements, blame something, just don't suggest self-discipline.
It also made me think of the recent elections where the airwaves were saturated with famous people exhorting us to vote. "Vote! It's the most important thing you can do!" If it's that important, maybe we should vote more often and perhaps that would save youngsters like Shawn's pals. Maybe we could try voting every 90 days and see if that helps.
It's worth a try. God knows traditional morality isn't.
|"Now do you understand why we have to move to the Yukon and get away from your druggie friends?"|