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It's A Gray Area: It always comes back to values

November 13, 2010|By James P. Gray

After the recent election was over, one of my friends confided to me that in the final analysis that he was unable to vote in favor of Proposition 19, which would have treated marijuana like alcohol for adults. The reason was that marijuana is harmful, especially to children, and if the initiative passed it would be yet one more compromise and retreat away from our value system.

I really understand his concerns.

Almost everywhere we look today, we seem to be losing ground in what is healthy about our way of life. The examples are familiar to us all, such as the managers of the city of Bell and other cities ostensibly manipulating the finances so as to pay themselves unconscionable salaries and benefits, professional baseball players taking steroids, young people valuing their membership in juvenile gangs more than obtaining an education, and many more. So now we "legalize" marijuana, thus allowing additional moral backsliding and decay? For many people, this was simply too much, and they registered their protest at the polls.

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My response is that we should follow the advice of Confucius, who said, "The first rule in being a wise leader is that you must first define the problem."

So in that regard, we must remember that marijuana itself is not the problem, nor is it city finances, steroids, or even gangs. Those are just the symptoms. The problems — and the resolutions — are presented by the way we deal with these matters, and promoting viable alternatives to those harmful choices.

That is where values come into play. We must change the direction of the political landscape to favor programs that work, regardless of what today's so-called political wisdom would have us believe.

So what works? Basically four things: education, treatment and prevention, positive financial incentives, and individual responsibility.

So how can each of us help to change the direction of our country? The first part of the question is answered by the old saying that "the world is run by those who show up." And the remainder of the question is answered by saying that all we have to do is again become Americans! Rekindle the "can do" spirit at every level of our society by rewarding success, stigmatizing laziness and "entitlements," be open and available for scrutiny in almost every public thing we do, and focus upon things that work.

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