Archive for April, 2009

Criminalizing Morality

By Lauren Kennedy    http://www.InsitetoExcellence.com

This morning I was enjoying the luxury of lying in bed and drinking my coffee. The kids were, gratefully occupied, and I was contemplating if I could put off going to the grocery for one more day. There’s actually plenty of food, but the items that my children like have been consumed. The television was turned to the history channel, and while I was deciding if staying home was worth the complaining I was certain to hear, a documentary on prohibition aired.

As I watched, my thoughts about the obvious parallel between the effects of the 18th Amendment (prohibition) and the government’s current war on drugs were again confirmed.

The proponents of prohibition intended that the 18th Amendment would mandate that the public adhere to the moral values and principles that they, themselves did. They sought to elevate the moral fiber of the masses.

But Prohibition not only failed to improve the public moral fiber, but set the stage for increased violence and organized crime. Prior to prohibition, the gang were unorganized, unsophisticated, and marginally profitable.

The process of producing, obtaining and distributing liquor created the need for organization and teamwork. And the thirst of the American public made the enterprize well worth the effort of cooperation. Thus organized crime was born.

With the advent of organized crime, murder, violence, police corruption and tax dollars for fighting them rocketed. To maximized their profits, mobsters cut the liquor before it reached the public, just as drug dealers do today. Some of the alcohol was just diluted, but some gangsters added toxic substances to enhance the flavor and the kick. This resulted, as it does today, in many consumer fatalities.

Finally, even some of the original proponents of the 18th Amendment, realizing that it didn’t have the desired effect, called for its repeal. The American public rejoiced. But the mobsters were in mourning.

The war on drugs has produced parallel results in nearly every way. Increased violence, street gangs have become organized, organized crime has partnered with banks to launder money, and corrupt police or government officials aide in the import of contraband. People die from poorly cut products. In addition, due to the high cost of illegal drugs, consumers have resorted to theft, forgery and prostitution to pay for the drugs, making up 70% of the prison population. Alcoholics seldom have to resort to criminal acts because their drug of choice is legal and thus much more affordable.

Tax dollars are spent on this war. Tax dollars that could be levied on the substances if they were legalized, are being lost. Some undercover agents have become indistinguishable from their suspects. Is this working?

Educating people about the dangers of drugs is next to useless. Has the cancer label on cigarettes stopped many people from smoking? When one is in emotional pain, health concerns take a back seat. And emotional pain on some level is the basis for addiction, not the substance. I knew many people, some of them lawyers and judges, who used cocaine. Not everyone who used became addicted. They were akin to social drinkers, they were social users. One does not become addicted to pain medicine because their doctor wrote them a prescription. All prescriptions for pain medicine have directions that state “as needed.” If you take it when you are not in physical pain, it isn’t the doctor’s fault. Many people take pain medicine on occasion without it resulting in addiction.

In a free society, by definition, only laws necessary to protect the public from harm from another person, organization or business are appropriate. Laws protecting people from themselves are an invasion of privacy and laws protecting people from their fate in the hereafter are in violation of separation of church and state.

But the real lesson here has little to due with drugs, alcohol or laws. It is the world’s need for tolerance and compassion. It is feelings of alienation, powerlessness, and worthlessness. It is the negative consequences of judgment and punishment. It is the feelings of inadequacy, the perception that to be important and respected one must fit into a narrowly defined image, role, or segment of society. It is view that only positive feelings are acceptable. It is valuing material success and power over valuing individual purpose, allowing spontaneity, and honoring principles. And it is making goal achievement a priority over experiencing life as an adventure and a journey.   These are some of the issues that leads to addiction, all addictions. It leads to gangs. It leads to teen suicide.

In a free society, legally mandating moral behavior is unacceptable, and it doesn’t work. It didn’t work during Prohibition and it’s not working now.

April 18, 2009 at 6:29 pm 1 comment

Worth is Not Measured in Dollars or IQ

By Lauren Kennedy   – http://www.InsitetoExcellence.com

I frequently shop at Krogers. Their plastic shopping bags are rather small and extremely thin and weak.  If you put three cans in one bag and pick it up too quickly, they will bust out the bottom of the bag.  Any item that has square corners, quickly tears a gash in the bag. And my kids are anything but careful when they bring in the groceries from the car.

Time and again, I have said to the baggers, “Please do not make the bags full or heavy.” But my request always seems to fall on deaf ears. After a glass jar of applesauce fell through the bottom of the bag and smashed all over my driveway, I decided to bag my own groceries.

The baggers always look a bit confused when I tell them that I will bag my own groceries,  but at least I get all my items in the house in one piece.

The other day, I was once again standing in  line at Kroger with a cart full of groceries.   I had spent two hours in the doctors office to get treated for asthmatic bronchitis and another hour waiting for my prescriptions to be filled. By the time it was my turn to check out, I just wanted to get back home and lay down.

So when one of the baggers came to help me unload my cart, I was relieved to have some assistance.  Instead of telling him that I would bag them myself, I just ask him not to pack the bags full or heavy, expecting the request to once again be ignored.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Finally, I wheeled out the cart load of groceries with my last bit of energy.  As I put them in the car, I realized he had actually complied with my request, and he had also packed cold food with cold food, and non food with non food, something that I had completely given up on ever getting done.

A job well done deserves acknowledgement. So I thought I would go back into the store and give him a tip. I though that  tipping might be against their policy. So I asked the manage if I could tip my bagger because he had done a wonderful job. She said, “Oh, you mean David? Isn’t he sweet?”

David happened to be one of their employees that is mentally challenged. (I believe that is the proper term.)

I replied, “Well, yes he is sweet, but I want to tip him because he is the only bagger in two years that has ever packed my bags the way I had asked for it to be done.”

But no,  tipping is not allowed. She said that a compliment would mean just as much as a tip to him. Hmmm. Even if someone is sweet, he can’t buy anything with compliments.

Since I could not tip him, I found him and paid him a compliment instead.  He actually hugged me.

What do You Value?

As I trudged back to the car, feeling a bit lighter,  in spite of the  congestion and fatigue from the bronchitis, I reflected on our priorities and values as a society.

We reward intelligence, but it  is conscientiousness and thoughtfulness that demonstrate  character.  We idealize the wealthy, expressing  disbelief that a violent crime could occur in their high class neighborhoods, and if so, the perpetrator must have been an outsider. We respect  the successful executives, while we penalize  the corporate whistle blower who risked his career for having the courage and integrity of his convictions. We unquestionably give credence, our trust and our loyalty  to people with power and prestige.  To a person that is compassionate and honest, we  give platitudes, isn’t that nice, isn’t he sweet, but they remain insignificant for us unless they also have status.

Given our priorities, we can hardly blame wall street for their actions.  A as a society, our values, the qualities we most respect and desire, are wealth rather than honesty, success rather than integrity , and power and prestige over fairness and compassion.

But it was David,  not those wealthy, successful and powerful individuals, who created a bit of sunshine in a rather long and trying day. David, rather than dismissing my request, as the more intelligent individuals had done, actually listened.  In addition, he demonstrated superb reasoning and conscientiousness when he bagged the cold foods together, non food items together, and produce together. Unlike the other baggers, he realized that putting fresh fruit under a can of soup, was not a good idea.

Yes, he was sweet, but he was also capable, caring, conscientiousness and valuable.  Character, integrity and value are independent of wealth, status or power.

Each of us is important, no matter our level of intelligence, status or wealth.  We each  can touch others’ lives in our own unique way. We can choose to remain self involved. Or we can choose to be aware and present to each moment and to the people that show up in it. We can choose to cast our judgments, rationalization, and fears  aside, and respond from the urgings of our heart and spirit.  You can never know when that one caring word, act or gesture may be the motivation that changes the course of someone’s life. Or puts a ray of hope in their day.

I may still slip David a tip.

April 8, 2009 at 11:08 pm 4 comments


Our life is an evolving creation, shaped by our choices, colored by our desires, and lightened or darkened by our intentions.
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