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Countering illegal drugs -- with moral, spiritual growth

AS is the case with all civic issues, the deepening concern over the flow of illegal drugs across borders and into neighborhoods, schools, offices, and homes should have at least one benefit: It should compel us to consider ``What, really, is the nature of the drug challenge?'' and ``What is our view of man and society?'' The two questions are related. To focus on the drug phenomenon alone would be to miss the context of its cause and the prospect of its remedy. A society represented more exclusively by positive values would leave fewer spaces for a drug culture to take root and grow.

It is helpful to perceive the enormous waste of human lives in the drug trade. After all, what are billions of dollars worth when the traffic is essentially in human illusion and misery?

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More effective enforcement of drug laws, and the eradication of the drug trade, are also essential.

But the disappointments thus far of exhortation against drugs and of enforcement efforts suggest that denunciation and enforcement alone may be just the proverbial sweeping of the room clean for other demons to enter.

If our view of the human experience is of a lawless void of payoffs, crime, and even official corruption, we should probably be frightened at the evidence of the drug challenge. But mankind has faced other social plagues -- the violence and ignorance of the dark ages, religious persecutions, ``holy'' wars undertaken for the basest of motives, genocides. This plague is no worse.

It can be said that the drug trade and drug culture are but a metaphor for society's impoverished spiritual development.

The drug business thrives as an aggressive dream, widely accepted, of satisfaction in artificially induced states of consciousness. It forms its own closed circuit of illusion and victim.

Part of the mesmeric grip of drug use is the belief that it leaves a permanent stigma on its victim. This should be countered by the understanding that there can be ``an utter end'' to drug attraction for individuals, and that society can compassionately welcome back its victims.

The closed circuit of the drug culture can be stopped only by society's awakening out of the materialistic, self-seeking values that perpetuate it. In its place should be encouraged the development of a more pure, selfless, generous, intelligent, and noble race of people.

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These qualities should be expressed in the individual consciousness and deeds of each of us. Often, the simple love of a parent or friend can fill the void that some attempt to fill with drugs. Youth need to be encouraged to be independent thinkers, alert to resist an adverse mental climate.

We would not be true to our convictions if we did not emphasize that the drug problem is essentially a moral and spiritual issue.

Matters of public policy do not really differ from matters of individual conscience and decision. Because an issue is societywide, it is often assumed that it has a life of its own, untethered in individual attitudes and practices, and can strike individuals at whim.

The drug issue is at base theological. The private and social hell of drug use describes an ignorance of God's heavenly presence at hand.

A more enlightened perception of what mankind's experience is all about -- reflecting what is wholly good and real -- should inform public policy. It should stir activity to promote jobs, strengthen the family, and foster wholesome aspirations and entertainment.

``Every day makes its demands upon us for higher proofs rather than professions of Christian power,'' writes Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of this newspaper, in ``Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.''

Thus enlisted in spiritual development and service, each of us can help eliminate the mental space in which the drug culture has thrived. Last in a series

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