Not In Our Woods
When Deirdre or I talk to other parents about the high school keg culture, we cite one possible outcome of letting your kid drink in the woods that's almost guaranteed to make people look at us as if we were Mr. & Mrs. Chicken Little incarnate.
Rape? Violence? Murder? C'mon. Maybe it will happen somewhere else once in a blue moon, but not to my kid, not around here. Our kids are smart enough to take care of each other. Besides, my child only goes for the socialization; she isn't a drinker.
It happens all too frequently, of course — here, there and everywhere. When I saw that a recent study out of Wales found that children between 11 and 16 who drank were not only more likely to be aggressive but also to be hit themselves, it seemed to me that research had once again confirmed common sense. Most of the violence ends with a bloody nose or a bruised ego, of course, but there's no telling when things will get out of control.
One particularly chilling example surfaced recently in a town a half-hour north of us. A man who was convicted of killing a 15-year-old girl in 1989 based on an evidently coerced confession was released from prison after another man's DNA was matched to semen found on the body.
Steven Cunningham was already serving a term for the murder of another women four years later. Confronted with the evidence, he confessed to the first rape and strangulation, saying, "Today, I'm a person that looks back on his life and sees how he ruined it, ruined other people's lives — destroyed them actually — tore them up, all because he wanted to enjoy a toke or smoke cocaine. Addiction to drugs is vicious. It's definitely a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde type of thing."
According the the Journal News report, Cunningham, then 29, was getting high at "The Pit," a popular hangout in the woods when he saw the young women for the first time. He said they talked for more than 20 minutes, and she said she was 21. The Journal News reporter writes:
He grew aggressive with her, and said there was nothing she did that sent him into a rage. Did he remember whether she yelled for him to stop?
"I blocked it out," he said. "She probably did, more than likely."
There's a video of Cunningham's jailhouse confession on the Journal News site. I can't bring myself to watch it.
In case you missed it, a company is marketing a highly caffeinated soft drink under the brand name Cocaine. It has, as it expected to, raised media ire. It's a piece of red meat for politicians like those in the New York City council who called a press conference to denounce the product.
A publicist sent me a comment by the CEO of Corebrand, which helps companies "measure, understand, craft and express their corporate brands."
"These people deliberately and thoughtfully developed a product brand with the very purpose of creating controversy as a way of marketing their products," writes Jim Gregory. "It really is outrageous. I hate to be contributing to their message by commenting on their outrage, but I feel compelled as a branding professional to respond. This product has no redeeming qualities and should be shunned, but it will probably be successful."
I must admit that it never dawned on me that this product would be successful. I figured it would have its 15 seconds and fizz out. Are were really as stupid as some marketers think we are?
Asking for Help
There's an article about William Cope Moyers' new book, Broken, in our local newspaper this morning. I thought two paragraphs in particular were worth passing along.
"This is what I tell kids all the time," he said during an interview at the Manhattan offices of his publisher, Viking. "Look, most young people are going to experiment with legal and illegal substances. And the vast majority are not going to develop a problem. That's why every generation survives long enough to become the next generation. But for a small but significant percentage of the population, of young people, that first joint or that third beer or that fifth line of meth is what plunges them over the edge. And so in the end young people need to know it's OK to ask for help. Nobody ever told me that."