I know it’s not a new idea, but a MPR talk show the other morning got me thinking again about the contradictory feelings Americans have about ingesting foreign substances. Religion, television, caffiene, alcohol, pot, crack, meth — there’s this kind of continuum (a historically shifting continuum — see the 18th Amendment) as to what’s considered an acceptable drug and what isn’t. We’ve spent billions in the ‘war on drugs’ — and I think the war on drugs is a drug itself. One more distraction from real, intractable issues that our politicians prefer to ignore. Can’t deal with national health care? Start a foriegn war. Can’t deal with corporate feudalism and the growing class gap? Privatize social security.

Drugs are about distraction: avoiding your life by altering your consciousness. It’s not a problem because I don’t feel like it’s a problem anymore — or at least until this show is over, and then there’ll be another one. Or another beer. Or another hit. Or another cup of coffee.

We all do it (I’m all about distraction). What bothers me is that the people who complain most loudly about how bad street drugs are and fight against legalizing pot (as on the MPR show I referenced above) are next in line at Starbucks, or tuned into TV for a few hours the same night. It’s all about altering your state of mind.

What we don’t talk about is what we’re avoiding when we alter our minds. Would meth be at epidemic levels if ours was a culture that provided support and direction to our young people? Al Quaeda is attractive to young, disaffected Muslims the way meth is attractive to young disaffected Americans: it provides a focus for the violence and anger in the human heart.

We do drugs because we want to feel. Different. At all.

We do drugs because we’re hungry. For meaning, emotional connection, purpose. If we can’t find those, then at least we can distract ourselves from wanting them for awhile.