There’s these yellow flowers that populate large swaths of land and turn vacant fields into carpets of yellow. I run past no less than three (3) of these yellow fields within a short two (2) mile stretch. But, though their color is as rich as any dye Picasso would have used, their stench is almost as bad as any sewage treatment plant and make me wish I had another route to run. Plus, I’m so allergic to them that there’s not enough remedies in the world that can provide any relief to how badly I sneeze just being within a mile radius of those stinky yellow things. They are prolific I fear that one day, they’ll use their magic powers of stench to incapacitate all of humanity and then eat us all.
I probably drive my wife and son crazy with as much as I complain about my yellow enemies. We drive by the fields they have overtaken and I’ll say, “Just look at those little stinky things! There’s nothing that can stop their mission to take over the world. See,” I’ll say and start sniffling, even from inside my car. “They own me. I think they’re trying to kill me.”
“But,” my wife says. “They look so pretty. Look how they cover everything in that bright yellow color. I love those yellow flowers. We’ve gotten a lot of rain so of course they’re gonna grow.”
“Yeah, Dad,” my son says. “I bet when a plane flies over them all the people in the plane see is bright yellow. I bet they get all happy with the as much yellow there is.”
Stupid flowers have already tricked my family into joining them on their mission to paint the planet yellow. And though I hate to admit it, those yellow flowers do remind of a saying of which I’m quite fond: Nothing in and of itself is good or evil. Only its use makes it so. To me, those flowers represent sniffing and sneezing and wheezing from allergy-induced asthma; to my family, those flowers are a yellow blessing straight from heaven. I say: Those flowers are evil. My family says: Those flowers are good.
But hose flowers, like most things, are neutral. They exist, but have no morality. They’re just yellow flowers whose scent probably detracts predators and attract pollinators. I’m guessing, of course, as I’m not an expert of flowers. Other things that exist are also neutral: Cocaine, Heroin, Alcohol, and Marijuana. These substances are neither good nor evil, in and of themselves; yet we tend to target our hatred of certain behaviors associated with them upon the substances and not on the behaviors.
For example, we argue whether or not marijuana should be legal. Within the argument, people bring in reasons why marijuana is good and others bring in reasons why marijuana is evil. But just like my argument about the stinky yellow flowers, it’s a matter of perspective. In any given situation, the way we perceive an object determines its role in our lives. I see the flowers as a killer because I am deathly allergic to them. Therefore, because I have a negative response to those killers, I think they’re evil. The truth is, though, that they’re neither good nor evil
Awareness of their impact should be enough for me to avoid them all-together. Since I know I’m going to react to the, I probably shouldn’t stop down within their masses and snap pictures of them. Because of my allergies, I’m behaving irresponsibly. Which is exactly the way people who abuse substances approach the substances: Through irresponsibility.
Targeting any substance misses the point. We should, instead, target our efforts on education about behaviors associate with the substances and then target efforts to reduce those behaviors. Alcohol is legal and easily accessible. Trying to limit its sales is, to me, stupid. I’d rather we educate people that for some, alcohol is highly addictive. If a person is one of those for whom alcohol can be a concern, perhaps educating them about the potential adverse outcomes is a better use of resources than figuring out new laws and new enforcement means of those new laws.
Nothing in and of itself is good or evil. Let’s treat those who struggle with addictions to substances like heroin, cocaine, and/or alcohol as people who have a lot to learn. Targeting the substances eliminates the relationship between the substance and the abuser. The relationship is what needs changing. If it were so easy to just remove the substance, I would have to find something else to do.
Like maybe mow down fields upon fields of those stupid and stinky yellow flowers. They’re trying to kill me.