The work I’d planned for today and tomorrow is off my slate. Instead, I’m driving back to Buffalo for a funeral. Our oldest friend’s youngest child died of a drug overdose on Tuesday night.
I’m not going to speculate on what happened. For one thing, I don’t know. But it’s a tragically common story in our age.
Parents like to believe they can protect their kids from making bad choices. To a degree that’s true, but it’s not totally true. I don’t know a single kid who never did anything monumentally stupid, including mine.
I’ve known three generations of this family. None of the usual bromides apply. When I say that the boy had “every advantage,” I’m not talking about just education or money; I’m talking about love, stability, heritage, and a sense of his place in the world.
If you’re my age, you probably think of recreational drugs as pretty harmless. Back in the 1970s, many of us experimented with them. True, most of us aging hippies have—more or less—our faculties intact, but we’ve left a big mess behind.
We are fools when we look back on our youthful foibles through John Lennon-framed rose-colored glasses. Drugs are a curse on our children’s and grandchildren’s generations. Deaths from opioids and their synthetic analogues have skyrocketed, according to the DEA. Heroin deaths increased 248% from 2010 to 2014. Heroin is more potent and less expensive than ever. Even pot is no longer the mild, friendly drug we once knew.
In the 1970s, the annual drug overdose death rate was fewer than 2 deaths per 100,000 people. In 2014, it was 15 deaths per hundred thousand people. As a cause of accidental death, it is now second only to car crashes.
And that’s just the user side of the problem. On the other side is the violent drug war in our cities that disproportionately claim young black men.
When the Bible talks about “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation,” it isn’t talking about transferring punishment (Scripture says that can’t happen). This boy’s parents never touched drugs themselves. They were so focused on their studies that they sat out the Swinging Seventies, making them a little puzzling to have at parties.
That verse says that sin itself, unless repudiated, will keep on reappearing. Our generation’s casual attitude toward drugs has morphed into a scourge ravaging our young people. Both the middle-class kids who overdose and the ghetto kids caught up drug violence are its victims.
When I argue for a closed border, it’s not to keep undocumented migrants out of the US; it’s to seal off the major heroin routes into the US. But even that won’t work as long as there’s demand.
Since my own misspent youth, my generation has cheerfully torn away at the underpinnings of our culture. Marriage, work, faith and family have all been tossed into the great maw. They’ve been replaced by self-actualization and sensualism. Is it possible that this leaves our descendants feeling unnecessary, marginalized and devoid of purpose?
To a degree, parents can counter those messages, but the larger culture has a profound influence on our kids. That’s why there are so many upright old ladies in urban churches mourning the loss of their sons and grandsons in the drug war.
For now, kiss your children and tell them you love them. One never knows what one’s tomorrow will bring. And pray. Pray like crazy.
As for me, in the words of my former gangbanger friend, I feel like punching them drug-dealing m—rf—rs in the throat. Nobody expects a left hook from a little old lady.