Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Pleasant Surprise

Yesterday Rick Steves was interviewed on Weekday in some fun NPR cross-pollination. Usually I listen (or rather, try not to, bears excepted) to Rick Steves on weekends when he's putting on his "gee shucks, I'm just an American, I don't know what I'm doing" persona, and usually I change the channel. I think Mr. Steves created his persona of the American who's never left Kansas before back in the 1980's, and unfortunately his show seems about as relevant, as he pesters his guests, invariably guides in some country in Europe, with inane questions and talks over their responses. I've also had one bad experience using his guidebook (it sent us to several uninteresting places and bad restaurants in Paris years ago when travelling with friends) and I've heard that the best way to use his books is to read them to find out which little town in Italy to avoid - because if he mentions it, it will be filled with tourists.

However, Mr. Steves has two things going for him - J likes his TV shows on public television, and since he's a local I had one of my few "celebrity sightings" when I saw him snowboarding at Steven's Pass last winter.

Now he has a third thing - instead of interviewing him about travel, Steve Scher interviewed Mr. Steves about his support for de-criminalizing marijuana. Who would have thunk it? Even more surprising, Mr. Steves was actually quite eloquent about his position, bringing in a lot of his experiences travelling through Europe (did you know that in Zurich by law all publicly accessible bathrooms have to have blue light - technically blacklight, as C. and her sister were quick to point out to me last night while we were discussing this - so that junkies can't see their veins? And syringes are available for sale from vending machines outside.) and also bringing up the good point that kids aren't dumb, and if we tell them pot is the root of all evil and will make them poor, ugly, and pregnant, they will figure out that we're lying and stop believing all the other things we say too.

I have to say I agree. I grew up in Berkeley, where you can walk around any respectable neighborhood and notice the distinctive aroma of marijuana. I don't know anyone in high school who hadn't tried it, and I know two successful adults (as in, folks my parent's age - I'm not prepared to admit that I'm an adult yet) who have smoked pot every single day for decades with no deleterious effect. I also know a guy my age who, while he graduated from college and has a reasonably successful career, cannot function in a social situation without smoking up hourly. So yes, marijuana can be a bad thing if abused - but so can alcohol - and we've come to the realization as a society that it's more important to treat alcoholism as a disease than as a crime. It would be nice to see this topic be de-politicized so we can all stop wasting our effort and money trying to solve a non-problem. At least I got the pleasant surprise of having Rick Steves stand up for a cause that I agree with.

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