There are several aspects of Red Ribbon Week that remind me of the loyalty exercises demanded of school children in totalitarian regimes. When Cuban or North Korean children are massed in order to praise socialism or the Maximum Leader, we shake our heads. But our very own Red Ribbon Week is no different.
The Week was instituted by federal drug officials after Agent 'Kiki' Camarena was tortured and killed in Mexico while on a secret mission for the U.S. government. Leaving aside the dubiousness of sending U.S. law enforcement officers on clandestine missions into a foreign country, the proclamation of Red Ribbon Week tries to cast the drug enforcement apparatus as indispensable as it pretends, superhero-like,to stand between America and the doom of drugs that is supposedly waiting to engulf the land. Actually, for most of its history America got by just fine without a drug enforcement apparatus, which has now become a cult-like idol for the adults who run the schools. These quotes are from Leonna Heuring's 10/24 article, spoken by participants in the "festivities:"
"I don't think you can teach them too young,"
"[W]e also want to educate students so they know the consequences "
"My responsibility to stay drug-free."
"[They] will make tombstones to raise awareness of the dangers,"
The overtones of indoctrination are threatening and evoke images of '1984.' Forcing children to promise to be drug- and alcohol free "for life" has certainly not been reflected in any reduction of drug and alcohol consumption in the 18 years that Red Ribbon Week has been in existence, so there's scant reason to take these little "Promise Keepers" at their words. After all, what's a kid to do other than what the adults tell him? For a whole week the schools put on a pageant of government propaganda, with "parades, pep assemblies, different-themed days, contests, drawings and other ventures." It's unpleasant to realize that we are not all that different from Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and any other axis-of-evil place where they trot out the kids to shout government propaganda. But it's only for their own good, of course, as always . . .)
Woodland Hills, Calif.