Brothers in ArmsIn Dr. Joyce Brothers's syndicated column yesterday, she replied to a mother whose 13-year-old son admitted to lying. His father wanted to punish him severely by eliminating all after-school activities for two weeks, thus threatening the boy's chance of getting on the basketball team. And what, you ask, was the boy's terrible lie? "My son told me, in private, that he lied to protect his friend, who had stashed a small bit of marijuana behind a locker in a gym. My son happened to be there when a teacher found it, and my son didn't report his friend." The letter is not entirely clear, but apparently the "lie" must have been something like, "I don't know who put that weed there." The mother asked Dr. Brothers if she agreed that the father's punishment was too harsh.
Brothers's reply? "I do agree, because even though your son was wrong, his intentions were honorable. As long as you're certain that your son himself isn't using, I believe some lesser punishment would be more suitable." Well, the good Doctor is headed in the right direction, but I don't think she goes nearly far enough. A better response would have been: "I agree, because your son did nothing wrong. Your husband's reaction is one more symptom of how the crazed drug-war mentality warps and perverts our values. When every citizen, young or old, is conscripted into spying on his neighbors and reporting his friends in order to crack down on a largely harmless drug, I say it's time to reevaluate our priorities. We may have to tolerate the insanity of the Drug Czar and his army of anti-drug zealots, but we don't have to lend him our support. Give your son a pat on the back, praise him for his loyalty to his friend, and congratulate him on his nascent ability to distinguish good rules from stupid ones."