Iowa View / Robert V. Morris

Drugs: No place left to hide

    During the 1980s, the effects of crack cocaine brought a new level of violence and terror to America's inner cities.
    Crack provided a cheap but powerful addiction to thousands of urban residents who became its victims.  The crack epidemic affected the impoverished black and Latino communities of large cities particularly hard and led to unprecedented crime, gang activity and other social ills.  The crack epidemic eventually spread to medium-sized cities like Des Moines and even small towns across the Midwest.
    By 1997, crowded court dockets and prisons reflected the criminal-justice system's inability to handle growing juvenile delinquency, much of which is the direct result of crack trafficking or addiction.
    To combat the crack-related turmoil, cities like Des Moines built barricades and basketball courts and nonprofit groups sprung from every nook and cranny mopping up the fear and guilt flowing from the corporations.  Somewhere lost in the corporate philanthropy was the principle of self-help based on economic empowerment.   The American dream of self-determination would require patronizing urban businesses that could hire, train and supervise their own people.  Unfortunately, a gift to a non-profit group and a tax write-off remain more in line with the local corporate mentality.
    Just when many middle-class whites fled to the suburbs and thought they were safe from the perils of the inner city and the brown folks who lived there, a new monster was hiding in the corn.  A monster drug with a cheap but powerful addiction that was ideal for the countryside and the white folks who lived there.
    The methamphetamine epidemic is having the same effect on rural America that crack had on the inner cities and is sitting at the elbow of suburban sprawl.
    Coupled with the anti-government "militia" growing in the same rural environments and the resulting trafficking potential of methamphetamine for these groups and others to fund their activities, rural law enforcement and residents are facing an unprecedented wave of crime and terror in their fields of dreams.
    Although the news media have attempted to educate Iowans about the evils of methamphetamine, the average citizen, as with crack, cares or knows little about it until it touches their family and then the outcry begins.
    It is fascinating how state and local government can hypocritically advocate gambling and tolerate alcohol and cigarette addictions and denounce marijuana, crack and methamphetamine usage in the same breath.  These vices are all having a devastating and disproportionate impact on impoverished Iowans of all colors, and have invaded the city, the suburbs and the countryside.  It leads to a plethora of social ills from domestic violence and teen pregnancy to criminal activity and juvenile delinquency.
    What crack cocaine has done to the black and Latino people of the inner city is being duplicated by methamphetamine in the white suburbs and countryside.   But, unlike crack, methamphetamine is only beginning to reach its potential of social destruction.
    The growing hostility and isolation between whites, blacks, Latinos and Asians defeats the ideal of collective community action and cripples our ability to deal with the issues of drugs, crime, juvenile delinquency and race relations that affect us all.
    Unfortunately, with the methamphetamine epidemic, it looks like suburban and rural Iowans will have to learn the hard way that it's a problem that will only grow with apathy.  There is no place left to hide.

ROBERT V. MORRIS is an entrepreneur and writer in Des Moines.

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Robert V. Morris

Thursday, September 18, 1997, Page 13A

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