Learning from past experiences
Our human existence is like a road down which we travel together toward some unknown destination. The route is fairly straight and easy enough to follow, but every so often a side road leads off to the left or the right, winding through the trees and beaconing to us to go there. For some reason, we feel obligated to pursue each and every one of these roads as far as they will take us.
Obviously, this slows down our progress on the main road considerably, but the illusion is that at the ends of the side roads we shall find things of value, and such fantasy drives us to adventure down them.
Marvelous magic takes place as we terminate each foray and turn, once again, onto the main highway to resume our journey. At the entrance to the side road from which we emerge, we now notice a sign with the words “dead end” clearly inscribed on its face. The sign was not there when we entered, but we now know that the road leads nowhere, so the appearance of the dead-end sign seems appropriate.
We continue on our trek along the main road, and we observe that at the beginnings of some of the side roads are signs that also say dead end. Our wiser members take note of this odd occurrence and, after conferring among themselves, report to the group that similarities must exist among the roads that have signs and that it should be possible to forego venturing onto them.
No one listens to them, and we continue our practice of going onto side roads, including the ones with dead-end signs at the front. In no case do we find any reason to doubt the veracity of the dead-end declarations, but we continue on each path just as we did when none of them was graced with a sign. This is the sad state of mankind, who is unable to read the signs of experience that indicate that something has been done and that doing it again is unnecessary.
Nowhere in our experience is this tendency truer than with our policy in the United States regarding illegal drugs. We are striding down a side street named “self-righteous prohibition of drugs,” and at the entrance to that path is a sign that states “dead end.”
We have no excuse. In the 1920s and early 1930s, when we tripped down the side road called “self-righteous prohibition of alcohol,” no sign stood at its entrance, so it seems forgivable that we went all the way to the end of that disastrous path before returning to the main road. Such is the nature of walking down the first side road in a related series. With the passage of time, we can forgive ourselves for doing it.
But the forgiveness stops when we march arrogantly down an obviously analogous path to its bitter end. The dead-end signs at the entrances to subsequent side roads in a related series should be enough to stop us, but they’re not, and what was forgivable ignorance the first time becomes unpardonable stupidity the second.
We must admit our error forthwith, turn around, and head back to the main road. Legalizing alcohol was the only way to get back on track the first time, and legalizing drugs is the only way to do so now. Thinking we can control the distribution and use of illicit drugs through prohibition is nonsense. The social experiment has already been done and is widely acknowledged to have been a failure.
We are on an expensive and destructive path because we refuse to heed the dead-end sign. Our massive demand for drugs is wreaking havoc in Mexico, as well, creating a neighbor that is politically and militarily unstable. It’s all avoidable, if we will only trust the sign at the entrance to the side road.
Sadly, we as human beings seem unable to do anything but continue to turn onto each side road and follow it all the way to its conclusion, only to confirm that the sign at the beginning is correct.