Readers respond to Christopher Ketcham's "Roach Motel" and Suzanne Finnamore's "Aspirin for a Severed Head." Plus: A reader's defense of "When Your Kids Are in the Line of Fire," by Beth Frerking.

By Salon Staff

Published October 18, 2002 10:03PM (EDT)

[Read "Roach Motel," by Christopher Ketcham.]

Christopher Ketcham deals with some important issues in his piece: the fact that the war on drugs is expensive and ineffectual, the fact that minorities and poor people routinely have their rights denied, and the fact that our understanding of drug addiction -- as in the identification of marijuana as "a gateway drug" -- is skewed by our cultural tendency toward simplistic explanations and puritanical attitudes.

That said, I feel compelled to inject a little adult reality here. While we should work to extend compassion and justice where we can, we are never going to create a perfect world in which authority figures are thoroughly competent, honest, and have our best interests at heart.

If I could identify a single individual responsible for this tragic waste of life, it is the casual user. Casual users want to be coddled and accommodated while they take a break from the reality that many of us -- including former addicts -- are slogging through every day unaided by drugs or alcohol.

I have deep contempt for the childlike self-absorption and arrogance in the idea that casual drug users have their lives ruined because the system is irrational and unfair. As a practical matter, the only way to make your life secure and pleasurable is to take control by making choices that make you the principal authority in your life. Anyone who casually risks giving that power to someone else is a fool.

-- Leslie O'Shea

Whine, whine, whine...

This is right up there with nicotine addicts who want to sue tobacco companies, and drunken drivers who get busted ... and that's just about legal substance abuse. Those that indulge forget the consequences. The point is, they don't want to suffer any, despite all the warnings.

It's not one minor infraction that gets marijuana users in jail, but many piled up. The law enforcers and judges know who they are dealing with, and it's a good bet they gave those people in jail many chances to learn their lesson.

-- Regan DuCasse

Thank you for publishing this piece, which left me once again to contemplate the complete hypocrisy of this country's attitude toward marijuana. (The racism and classism of the criminal justice system is also conveyed; however, my heart can only handle so much outrage at one time.)

The writer's experience "in the system" is invaluable evidence of the wasted resources, corruption, and greed that are inherent byproducts (and causes) of this country's "war on drugs." I'd like to thank him for being a voice for those many men he shared those many cells with who have no voice of their own.

I have little hope for saner laws with Bush and Ashcroft in office, but perhaps someday America will join the many European countries -- not to mention our northern neighbor -- who have realized the folly of grouping marijuana with crack and heroin (and other manufactured, highly addictive, violence-related drugs) when it comes to drug enforcement.

Try to comprehend this, DEA: Marijuana is a plant, much like tobacco -- which is also a legal, highly addictive substance that has been proven to cause death when smoked in cigarettes. Visit any head shop to see this hypocrisy illustrated -- products like bongs and pipes must be sold "For Tobacco Use Only." Good ol' harmless tobacco.

-- Karen Lynch

[Read "Aspirin for a Severed Head," by Suzanne Finnamore.]

Suzanne Finnamore's article was insightful and beautifully written, particularly the paragraph that concludes, "They should not be allowed to dissipate on their own, to float away on some random moment, irrevocable as seed from a dandelion." This is one of those paragraphs which say what we all know but have never been able to verbalize; that is the best kind of writing. Just wanted to give the editors some positive feedback on the article in hopes that they'll carry more of her work.

I thought that Suzanne Finnamore's article is the first realistic description of the unavoidable grieving process that you go through on divorcing. Her therapist was right. People tell you to get over it. The self-help industry with their glossy "You, too, can get over a complete emotional fuck-over in three weeks just as I did!" books tell you to get over it. Your friends tell you as well, but really, you don't. There are no short cuts to sanity, freedom and a mended heart. They can't really tell you how to because they don't know. Emotional pain is relative to where you stand at that point in time. Nobody knows your condition but you, and sometimes you just have to do it by crawling over broken glass. There ain't no easier, softer way.

Unfortunately there are so many people out there who think there is a silver bullet. Who are they kidding? It's sad, however, that a number of these numbskulls try to write pitiful books that make you think you are a complete loser because you can't erase the pain, trauma, fear and humiliation straight away. OK, so you can now make popcorn in the microwave. Emotions are a little more complex to fix -- duh!!

My brand-spanking-new shiny life took a little longer than two years and it was hard graft all the way. As a guy I ended up losing more than half my assets and my family through no fault of my own. Losing your self-esteem can be just as bad as having to start over again financially. Losing daily access to your kids can be devastating. I was just too naive to see it coming, even though the signs were there.

Thanks for the article, Suzanne. It was good to read, even now after all the trauma, and still feel relieved. We weren't doing it wrong after all.

-- Michael

Under the theory that there are two sides to every story (and consistent with my own experience with divorce): If Finnamore had spent half as much effort thinking about her marriage during her marriage, she might not be divorced.

-- Patrick Solomon

[Read "When Your Kids Are in the Line of Fire," by Beth Frerking, and two reader responses.]

I was amazed at the level of outrage in the two responses to Beth Frerking's article about the D.C.-area sniper attacks. It seems that the letter writers' personal agendas about parents and children -- as embodied in the mean-spirited adjective, "breederific," that one of them used -- may have colored their reading of the article.

I don't believe that Ms. Frerking was saying it was no big deal for the sniper to shoot adults. Normal human beings are outraged and grieved when such atrocities occur. But normal human parents are especially frightened by the thought that such a thing might happen to their children.

Many of the people interviewed by the Washington-area media because they were in the vicinity of the attacks said words to the effect of, "I was so frightened. It could have been me." Showing extra concern for oneself or one's nearest and dearest is not the same as discounting the wrong done to the victims. It's really unfair to suggest that this writer was making any such statement.

-- Gayle Stamler

Salon Staff

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