The Wicked Witch of the West had a plan to stop Dorothy and her friends from reaching the city of Oz: flowing poppies. And so, when the adventurers veered away from the yellow brick road for a shortcut across an inviting field of flowers, Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion fell fast asleep (the Tin Man and Scarecrow were unaffected). Thankfully, Glenda, the Good Witch of the North, intervened with weather control, causing snow. How and why snowflakes counteracted the sleeping spell of the poppies isn’t exactly clear, but the characters were saved, and off they went in search of brains and heart and courage—three traits our modern-day political opponents would be well advised to seek as well.
Maybe the original author of The Wizard of Oz chose poppies as a sleeping agent because of their drowsiness-inducing qualities. Opium is derived from a genera of poppy, and over the last century and-a-half, a number of powerful painkillers have been derived from opium. These opiates are a double-edged sword, as they have wonderful medical qualities, but regular use can result in dependence or full-fledged addiction. It’s a scourge that has found its way into news and police reports since the days of President Ulysses Grant.
Once again that menace is in the news. This time it’s prescription painkillers leading the way, or more accurately, opioid abuse stemming from prescribed pain meds. Overdoses are on the rise and legions are moving from pills to heroin or fentanyl, and then straight to the morgue. It’s a real danger, but it’s one that regularly gets hyped by media. It plays on Vietnam War-era fears of crazed, drug-addled hippies or inner-city thugs roaming the street like armed zombies. They may not crave living brains, but they’re portrayed as though they’re willing to blow your brains out at the drop of a hat for a temporary fix.
Of course the reality is far removed from colloquial stereotypes. We’ll talk about that more below.