Once upon a time in 1957 few children ever were placed on chronic drugs. A few needed insulin and a few others barbiturates for diabetes and epilepsy. The vast majority of kids were healthy and off-limits to the grasp of chronic drugs — in fact drugs of any kind.
I was editor at Malverne High School of the humorous yearbook. I had spies everywhere. Had even one of my classmates, more than a hundred of them in the senior class used any kind of drugs, I would have known about it.
The changes since 1957 in attitudes towards drugs have been remarkable. Where once our Hygiene teacher pointed to her forehead and warned against drugs harming the mind, today the school psychologist knows enough about treatable mental illnesses to fill a 300-page book. She even knows enough to treat mental illness that is invisible, a shadow syndrome, a genetic imbalance that must be medicated before it emerges full-fledged.
How brave new world today when our mental states are encapsulated in plastic tubes we swallow containing powders. The tubes contain patented chemicals and cost a great deal of money. They come in colors bearing names of pagan gods. They treat capital letter mental illnesses like ADD, BD, ADHD, and OCD. To become more healthy, we must befriend the physician and pharmacist and take their pills for the rest of our lives.
Once we believed ourselves to be a free people. We raised our muskets against the enemies of freedom. We threw tea into the harbor at Boston, and froze at Valley Forge that we could someday breathe the liberating air of freedom.
We all read Emerson’s essays on self-reliance, and Thoreau’s on living the rural life, growing one’s own food, and plugging up the chinks between logs of our cabin to keep out the cold. It is this spirit of self-reliance and freedom from ordinary restraints that typified what we felt to be the greatness of America.
Since those days of being the 1957 editor of a humorous year book, I have increasingly tried to return to the values from my youth. My dream is still freedom of thought and action. Chronic drugs were discarded more than ten years ago. I quit the institution employing me to do science in favor of independent science. My home is near a grove and a creek that prescribe pills and tell the rest of us what we must do.
Comes the next presidential campaign in 2007, the 50th anniversity of my high school graduation, I suspect that the regrowth freedom, and self-reliance and remaining drug-free will return again the public agenda. We are, after all, among the world’s people the one most free to enjoy our freedoms.
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