I grew up in the Boston area, and the great Massachusetts leader Samuel Adams is a major character in a couple of the history books I wrote. The Boston that sticks with me is a bit of accent and a bond of suffering with the Red Sox. Occasionally, I also wax curious as to how my old townsmen have treasured not only the beer that bears Adams's name but the cultural legacy he left.
A couple of times I've visited the spot where the Liberty Tree stood in the 1770s. That was where Adams and his colleagues plotted the moves that led to the American Revolution. When last I looked, that spot was the entry to the Combat Zone, Boston's pornography district. This is not exactly the type of liberty that Adams (a strongly biblical Christian) and his colleagues envisioned.
During the fall I read about another way that Massachusetts folk have forgotten the distinction Adams used to make between "true liberty," which required a mature ability to make choices unpressured by social currents, and go-with-the-flow "license." One of the country's great journalists, Don Feder, a columnist for the Boston Herald, wrote about the eighth annual Freedom (from reality) Rally held on the Boston Common.
Mr. Feder wrote that 40,000 kids, some as young as 12, listened to music and speeches dedicated to legalizing marijuana, amid a thick haze hanging over the park that is around the corner from where Benjamin Franklin's parents are buried. An airplane flew over with a banner from a local rock station: "Smells good up here."
Don Feder recorded the pro-legalization arguments offered. One young lady said she had a "multifaceted brain" and needed pot to slow down her thought processes. (Mr. Feder's comment: "It's working.") Another young lady argued that everyone is getting high: "Eighty percent of doctors and lawyers-and cops too." (Mr. Feder: "Who says marijuana distorts perceptions?")
That societal leaders in Massachusetts and other states are proposing a free ride for marijuana is a symptom of the distance between trendy political discourse and fact. The main theoretical argument for legalizing marijuana is that individuals should be "free to choose"-yet three of four chronic users seem to lose much of the ability to choose once they become regular smokers, as they merely go with the flow into cocaine consumption.
Marijuana pro-choicers ignore the evidence of studies at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., that show how marijuana, cocaine, and heroin activate the same pleasure centers of the brain, so that regular users get hooked and suffer withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop. Enjoyment of one high seems to create pressure to gain more enjoyment of better highs. None of this suggests that individuals are not responsible, but there is evidence that kids who swim into the current find it is faster than they suspected.
The drug legalization lobby ignores these facts and plays to abstraction. The main political argument seems to be that some people get drunk, and that is legal unless you drive or become a public nuisance, so why can't others get high? Misery loves company. The main sociological argument is an inability to say no among some middle-aged folks: We did it, so who are we to deprive our children? There seems to be no thought of trying to help the son avoid repeating the errors of the father.
I know it's not fair to associate in my head Massachusetts and marijuana: The problem is as great in California and some other states, and my old home state has organizations like the Massachusetts Family Institute (see WORLD, Feb. 8, 1997) that are fighting back. Nevertheless, I can't help picturing the once glorious Bay State as now at bay and almost shackled, not only by powerful pro-drug forces but by openly homosexual congressmen and witches both official and unofficial.
Overall, Samuel Adams would be deeply sad about the rot man has wrought in Boston, but he would not be surprised. The process described in the first chapter of Paul's epistle to the Romans seems well underway: "Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done." Drugs are a tiny part of the huge problem: "They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity." Great creativity comes into play: "They invent ways of doing evil."
And yet, hope springs eternal, because Christ is eternal.