Sunday, September 30, 2018

Of Beer, Boofing and Bar Mitzvahs: How We're Failing Our Young Men and Women

The Kavanaugh showdown this week raised questions to many about our culture and how it fails to instruct boys on how to treat women. Instead, as the book Raising Cain notes, we're letting boys figure it out for themselves, to everyone's detriment.

Cain is, of course, the evil older son of Adam and Eve, who was jealous of his younger brother, the kind and good Abel. Growing up, I had a Cain and Abel in my neighborhood. One day when I was about five years old, the elder brother pinned me to the floor and pulled my underwear down, despite my crying and pleading. Sadistically, he demanded I stop crying, then start again. He wouldn't let me up until I promised not to tell anyone. I never did, until the incident popped out of my subconscious in my college years (with the aid of my blessed plant teachers).

Like Dr. Ford, I don't remember how I got to his house, or how I got home. But I do have a very clear memory of what happened to me. And I remember the sick feeling I got when I heard that my former neighbor, who by then had moved away, was implicated in the death of his younger brother. I might have saved him, I thought, had I the words to talk about something that was never talked about in those days. Years later I volunteered at a rape crisis hotline and almost all of my calls were about incidents that had happened years earlier, but the caller was just then able to start grappling with it. We must talk about these things so that we can end them.

Boys used to go through adolescent initiation rights, including the controlled and informed taking of psychedelic drugs to open their eyes to all of life and their place in it. I once saw a film of a boy being given peyote by an elder, who instructed him in that receptive state about respecting women. These rites have devolved in our modern "civilized" world into bar mitzvahs or confirmations, which are mostly about memorizing religious texts, followed by partying (sugar for the kids; alcohol for the grown-ups) and the receiving of money or gifts.

Are boys and girls overusing alcohol in their teens in an attempt to somehow re-create those long-ingrained human rites of passage? Adolescence is when kids figure out they're soon to be adults, with all the responsibilities that brings, and they're mostly scared out of their wits about making decisions (who and how to date, what career they should pursue). Alcohol is a blunt instrument that can, by lowering inhibitions, alter someone's brain into a bit of understanding. But it has many terrible side effects, and cannabis and psychedelics, properly used, are much better at leading someone into the right state.

Tom Hulce and his alter egos in Animal House
Kavanaugh claimed in testimony that his high school yearbook editors tried to make his school seem like those depicted in movies of the day, including Animal House (which was originally written about a high school). That movie actually contains an instructive scene, in which a boy's date passes out from too much booze and he's confronted by a devil and an angel on opposite shoulders, telling him to keep going or stop.

He makes the right choice (although in a well-meaning censorship on TV later on, much of the scene is cut, leaving audiences thinking he may have gone through with violating her). The knightly gent who does the respecting has a revelatory marijuana moment in a separate scene, complete with perfect punch line.

Meanwhile, Rachel Maddow reminds us when marijuana use was enough to derail a Supreme Court nomination and the FBI investigated nominees; Yale Law School prof Amy Chua is accused by multiple law students as pimping for Kavanaugh; and actress Julia Louis Dreyfus, who went to the same school as Christine Blasey Ford, was among over 200 signatories on a letter that said Dr. Ford's story “is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton."

Same-day marijuana use isn’t associated with an elevated risk of dating abuse, according to a new study published in the journal Violence Against Women. “The idea that marijuana may not be causally related to increased risk of partner aggression is consistent with the results of several other studies,” stated researchers at Boston University, the University of Tennessee and the University of Texas Medical Branch.

With the the hosts of the Emmys telling jokes about the bad idea of drinking alcohol and losing inhibitions at an industry function in Hollywood, isn't it time women stood up and called for more marijuana and less alcohol?

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