Better than a divorce and more regular than a bachelor's party, tonight -- New Year's Eve -- is the mother of all excuses to get fucked up.
Ordering from the top shelf, going for the steak, splurging for an Uber driver, downing a margarita on top of the cheap bubbly: all entirely justified, because screw it -- you made it to 2014.
Nights like tonight are when the responsible folks break out their hidden vices. If you're like us, you know plenty people who use NYE as their one night to dabble in that white-collar crime: a line or two of cocaine.
But they shouldn't. That harmless bump in the bathroom? It isn't harmless at all. As Mexico-based journalist Erik Vance wrote over the weekend in Slate, using cocaine contributes to our generation's version of genocide. Do a line, and there's literally blood on your hands (as well as in your nasal canal, from that cheap cut).
Cocaine does not come from the United States. The coca plant is tropical, and nearly all coca plants in the world are in either Bolivia, Peru, or Colombia.
Cocaine is also illegal. Therefore, in order to get it from there to here, it has to be smuggled. And in between there and here is Mexico. Therein lies the problem.
Unlike domestically produced drugs like cannabis and alcohol, there is virtually no way to get a hold of cocaine that has not gone through Mexico -- which is to say, there is no way to get a hold of cocaine that has not passed through the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
Cartels. Perhaps you've heard of these. It's the cartels, Vance reminds us, that have perpetrated some of the worst violence seen this century. The stories from Mexico are so grotesque, so cartoonishly violent -- faces stitched to soccer balls, entire towns disappearing -- as to simply defy belief. Something this foul and this mean -- it can't be real.
But it is real. It's real and it is fueled by American demand. Without a domestic alternative, there is simply no getting around this simple, very inconvenient truth: there's no such thing as "cruelty free cocaine," as Vance put it. And without the demand for cocaine, there would be fewer profits -- and less cruelty.
It is true that cartels deal in far more than just cocaine -- marijuana and methamphetamine, to name a few. But because it is scarce, the profit margin on cocaine is stratospherically high and there is no doubt as to who reaps these profits and what their business methods are.
There was an ad on television not too long ago, an anti-drug propaganda piece created by the Office of National Drug Control Policy that was rightly criticized for its outlandish, absurd alarmism.
This was back in the Bush Administration, when terrorism meant Arab guys with AKs and bomb-making capabilities, and when it was still possible to convince anyone that buying weed funded Al-Qaeda.
There's another spot from that same time, however, that is closer to the mark.
It's not at all crazy to consider that on the long trek from the Andes to your nose, someone ended up dead in order to bring you cocaine.
Cocaine use on its face is not an inherently selfish or evil act. At the right time and among the right people, it can be an awful lot of fun (though it's also tends to make an awful lot of people unbearable).
Maybe, someday, there will be a situation when pure coca leaf extract will be readily, cheaply, and sustainably available, like cannabis or coffee or wine. But it's not, not now. And until it is, the process of bringing cocaine to consumer is one that gets people killed -- lots and lots of people, as many as 1 million people since the 1960s, Vance estimates.
If you're reading this and going out tonight, you will almost certainly bump into people doing bumps. They may just be ignorant. That doesn't make them bad -- unless, of course they're aware of the toll their habit wreaks.
In that case, they're not only colossal assholes -- they're murderous assholes, complicit in the trade that's ripping a country asunder.
Happy New Year.