I watched the first couple episodes of NARCOS, the Netflix series, and before it lost its documentary structure and took its all but inevitable plunge into the sewer of sex and mindless violence which is at the core of the Columbian drug business, it raised the usual questions that we ask ourselves about our strategy in fighting the drug trade. How come we don’t fight it by cutting our demand for drugs? If we didn’t have all these millions of people needing drugs, these Columbians would go back to growing corn and onions.
And when I thought about it, I thought about this one poor guy I met that symbolizes for me the druggie. I thought about the time fate and bad bearings in our waterpump stranded us for three days in Henryetta Oklahoma. Henryetta was the kind of town you had to escape from while you were still young. It had mines to sustain it long ago, and some factories more recently, but now downtown was a ghost city. We had been towed into this all-purpose garage, and parts ordered. The mechanic was a nice guy, and he said he would get to it. But he had some kind of chronic health problem, and pain laid him low. Another mechanic took the job on. When I looked into his bleary eyes, and ended up stepping on the broken body of my old water pump, I knew we were in trouble and needed to get to a more prosperous area of the world that had functioning Toyota dealerships. He looks kind of methylated, said my wife. Maybe it was crystal meth he was on, maybe it was crack cocaine, but something was fogging him up. When you don’t use the wastebasket, something is wrong.
So I asked myself, what do we do to keep this guy off drugs? You address the problems of the Henryetta Oklahomas of the world. You address poverty. You do something about the problems of income and opportunity inequality. People dope themselves up to escape pain and hopelessness.
Drugs don’t ravage towns like my hometown with its colleges and good schools. Here in the suburbs drugs are a nuisance. The drug epidemic has its heart in older factory towns, in city ghettos, in towns in the backwaters of America. Places that our movers and shakers have no interest in. Places where the only good outcome for someone young getting Cs in school is the Navy or the Marine Corps. As long as we don’t have work training programs and an interest in keeping our industries instead of exporting them to the underdeveloped world, we’re going to have people self-medicating themselves. Because the lack of opportunity and caring is the root of all evil.
We made it to the dealership, which was more than a half an hour away. There was some vibration in the front end I didn’t like. We ended up sitting in the showroom surrounded by bright and shiny new Toyotas being talked to by a salesman who had heard we were headed to Massachusetts. He thought we might be interested in a new Camry. I remember we were tempted. Eventually a clear-eyed mechanic with ironed coveralls came out of the back room shaking his head and laughing.We had made his day. As I remember, when you replace the water pump in a Camry you had to unbolt a couple of the motor mounts to get some clearance. One of the bolts in the motor mounts was missing, one was loose, and the wiring harness had been put in wrong. One of the wires was dangling dangerously close to the fan. The only good thing was that he had not used a rebuilt after market part, we had a water pump that would last. We made it home.