It’s hard to find anyone who would argue that the world is not a potentially toxic place for children and other living things. But I’m shocked—shocked I tell you!—when religious folk who (I think) should know better promote the notion that the toxicity is all out there in society. You know who you are. You wanna quote the Bible at me? Bring it! I’ll quote right back.
The toxicity is not out there. I don’t believe our problems stem from exposure to drugs, pornography, and violence. That’s way too easy. I think the flow goes the other direction. Drugs, pornography, violence—the whole shootin’ match—move from the inside out. They are symptoms of deeper issues.
Exactly which issues is the subject of much debate.
There’s plenty of evidence that kids listen to adults—especially their parents—before they listen to peers. You think this isn’t true because of the mythology around peer pressure. The truth is, kids gravitate first toward older people who give them a sense of being and belonging. If no one like that is around, then they look to peers for relationship, affirmation and support. The upside of this is that caring adults value kids and cultivate the kind of safety and assistance that helps them grow as whole persons. The downside is that lots of adults care about things that aren’t good for kids (or adults for that matter).
It’s from adults that kids learn that winning is everything; that outcomes are more important than processes. Whatever happened to, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”? Adults decided it was childish and naive; that’s what happened.
Cheating and other shortcuts are no-brainers for most kids. In fact, many of them are genuinely surprised and confused when they get busted for arriving at the right place just because they got there the wrong way. College students can buy research papers and pay people to take tests for them because success is measured in grade point averages more than learning. What’s wrong with that?
Adults teach kids that pain is bad. The whole system persuades kids to avoid pain at all costs or, should they be unfortunate enough to find themselves in pain, to kill it decisively. Whole industries exist to combat pain quickly and effectively.
Talk about mixed messages. “No pain, no gain” is marketplace sloganeering at its best. The application of this message is narrowly focused on skiing, skating, snowboarding, biking, hiking, climbing, surfing, sailing, and extreme variations on these themes. All of which are profit-making ventures and every one of which is closely matched by products that promise to manage the pain or enhance the gain.
Perhaps you heard about the dustup between Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Abercrombie & Fitch a while back. The Mothers were all mad at Abercrombie because, included with the hot fashions, one Fall catalogue provided directions for creative drinking games to relieve the monotony of your standard beer binge activities. I think I speak for a grateful nation when I say, “Thank you, Abercrombie, for teaching our young to drink more creatively. Thank you for thoughtfully providing recipes for the Woo-Woo and the Brain Hemorrhage. We will not soon forget you.”
An A&F spokesman responded to the MADD critique, saying, “The catalogue aims to be a chronicler of the American college experience.” But they agreed to attach a sticker to the catalogue:
We don’t want to lose anybody to thoughtlessness and stupidity. For some, part of college life includes partying and drinking—be smart and be responsible.
— Abercrombie & Fitch
In the beginning, people binge drink for pleasure. In the end—which comes pretty soon—people drink to relieve or mask pain, because pain doesn’t just hurt; pain equals failure.
Much of the pain kids feel doesn’t respond to conventional medication because it’s more emotional and spiritual than physical. I’m not saying emotional pain doesn’t have physical manifestations. I’m saying analgesics won’t make that ache go away.
But alcohol will. And marijuana. And Mommy’s prescription pills. And nicotine.
We should consider sending troops to Columbia...South Carolina. That’s the Columbian drug trade that poses the biggest objective threat. The cartel fronted by lobbyists and Members of Congress , has us spending millions in tobacco crop subsidies on the front end  and billions more on public health at the back end .
And the drug dealers—R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and the rest—can hardly count all the money .
What kinda sweetheart deal is that? I think we oughta really make those people clean up after themselves—especially now that I quit smoking.
— from Raising Adults
 Ramsey Cox, “Senate rejects amendment to end tobacco farm subsidies,” 05/23/13, http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/301645-senate-rejects-amendment-to-end-tobacco-farm-subsidies
 Environmental Working Group, http://farm.ewg.org/progdetail.php?fips=00000&progcode=tobacco
 Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0072.pdf
 The Tobacco Atlas, http://www.tobaccoatlas.org/industry/tobacco_companies/profits/