“Wolf!” cried the young, foolish shepherd boy in the famous story. The first couple of times, there were no wolves. He just made it up. So people stopped paying attention and rallying to save the flock. When the wolves finally came, people no longer believed his cries. They just ignored him like the noise from an annoying, oversensitive car alarm. Consequently, the wolves descended. The boy’s sheep were slaughtered. In some versions of the story, he wound up on the dinner menu as well.
“Do not lie,” is the lesson moralists have wanted us to take from Aesop’s story, but there are other lessons. Do not let your imagination get the better of you, is one. Sometimes the wolves are real, is another. The boy and his sheep and the wolves are apropos because this is the first year of the legal sale of marijuana in these United States since 1937, in Colorado and my own Washington state.
And I fear that conservatives are reflexively crying “pot!” without thinking through what that might mean. Former George W. Bush speechwriter and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote that the “freedom to destroy oneself with hard drugs” doesn’t just “degrade human nature but also damage[s] and undermine[s] families and communities and ultimately deprive[s] the nation of competent, self-governing citizens.”
That’s a debatable though entirely plausible point that ought to be taken seriously, but then he veered sharply into self-parody. Gerson went on to apply the warning to pot as well. “By what governing theory,” he asked, “did the citizens of Colorado — surveying the challenges of global economic competition, educational mediocrity and unhealthy lifestyles — decide that the answer is the proliferation of stoners?”
One might respond to his paean to technocratic managerialism by quoting from an obscure old stoner tract, drafted on hemp it turns out: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, man, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, so get off of my cloud.”
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