"If you want to send a message, call Western Union." Critics have said that to a lot of writers over the years, and while it's not perfect advice, it's worth bearing in mind.

I'd like to remind the US government of that principle. Or, if Western Union seems too old-fashioned, call a press conference. Create a Web page. Buy full-page ads in the newspaper, or hire someone to do flashy television ads you can run during ballgames.

Don't write your message on the dead bodies of the American people.

That's what the Clinton administration is doing. They admit that needle exchange programs save lives. But they're not going to support needle exchange, because it might send the "wrong message." The "wrong" message appears to be "Even if you're a drug addict, we think you can be saved." No, that's too loving, not tough enough. The message from the administration is "If you use drugs, you will die, and we won't try to save you, because then someone else might use drugs too." Do they really think people try heroin because they see someone, thin and pale, and think "well, he's not dead yet"?

Even that message isn't tough enough for the Republican Congressional leadership, though. Not only won't they try to save drug users, they won't let anyone else do so either, if they have anything to say about it. Because, no matter how bad an idea is, American politicians are too busy competing with each other over who can do it more and faster to stop and think about whether it's worth doing.

Once again, they've decided to destroy the village to "save" it, or maybe to save the next village over. Or to impress someone.

Cut the macho crap. We know you're tough. But messages should be sent on paper, or by modulating electrons: human corpses are not an appropriate medium for public service announcements.

This rant is copyright 1998 by Vicki Rosenzweig. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce it in any free publication, on paper or online, so long as it is not edited and credit is given.

Back to my main page.