I haven’t seen American Gangster, but I was checking out the boards on IMDb, and I came across a comment that really got under my skin. It just seemed so ignorant. Here was the originial post (by a user named mizwright):
I was in an audience sitting next to some young black boys and I don’t think they understood what they were watching. They have no concept of the Vietnam war, the drug wars that started in the 1960s…the older people understood perfectly about that era. Good movie, but youngsters won’t understand it.
The comment got me thinking. From what little I know of American Gangster (Manhattan drug lord Frank Lucas rises to power by smuggling heroin– “Blue Magic”– into the country via the coffins of fallen soldiers returning from Vietnam in the sixties), it seems like several conclusions could be drawn between then and now. My response:
I haven’t seen AG, so I don’t know how much it focuses on the Vietnam War or other strictly 1960s material. However, I’m willing to bet it’s not impossible for younger people to understand it, as they still face many of the same issues in somewhat altered form. The 1960s weren’t the only years to struggle with war and drug abuse. Today, 92% of heroin in the world originates in Afghanistan. The poppy resin used to make it is grown illegally by Afghan farmers, and is bought by hands that eventually reach al-Qaeda and the Taliban. These terrorist organizations don’t deal opium directly, but they supply gunmen to protect drug-producing labs and transport convoys. In return for their mercenary-type work, they receive a cut of the profits, which is where the bulk of their funding comes from. No one knows how much the terrorist organizations bring in from this work, but conservative estimates run into the high tens of millions per year. While the number of casualties don’t approach the 1960s, some young Americans are dying to fight these terrorist organizations, and other young Americans are caught up in battling addiction on American soil. History repeats more often than we think.
Drugs are getting so scary. During the last couple of years, America was inundated by a huge influx of fentanyl-laced heroin (stamped as Rolex, Rest in Peace, D-Boy, White House, Timberland, etc.) that has been dropping users like flies. Twenty-two pounds of this crap was put onto the streets (eighty million hits worth). People are still dying from it. Paramedics are unable to revive people who overdose on it, or else they have to use four times the typical dose of naloxone. It is estimated to have killed well over 1,000 people so far. These users often die with the needle still in their arms, and sometimes even before the dose is fully administered. Overdose is rarely instantaneous with heroin, so this is completely scary. No disrespect to mizwright, but I think today’s young people can somewhat grasp what the youth of the 1960s felt, at least with regard to drug use, trafficking, and the resulting impact on individuals and society.