Can you and I agree that enough has been said about "Jimmy," the 8-year-old drug addict, and about Janet Cooke's report that won and lost a Pulitzer prize?
After we file Jimmy under "finished business," can we turn our attention to rock-solid truth -- the reality that remains in Jimmy's wake?
The truth is that drug abuse really is rampant in the Washington area, and that the heaviest incidence appears to be among young people. Drug dealing is commonplace in junior high schools and is not unknown in elementary schools. Police officers and social workers are no longer surprised to find evidence of drug abuse among pre-teens, even those as young as 8. They know "Jimmy" by many names.
If Cooke's "Jimmy" was a composite, he should have been presented as a "docudrama" or dramatization, not in a news story. I can understand Cooke's attempt to pass Jimmy off as a real person, but I can neither condone nor defend it.
However, having said that much and finished our discussion of Cooke and Jimmy, we must realize that reality will not permit us to be finished with the problem to which Cooke's story directed our attention.
There really are children among us whose lives are being grotesquely twisted by drug abuse. Victimized children existed before Janet Cooke was hired by The Washington Post, they exist now, and they will continue to exist until they are destroyed by drugs. The heartbreak will not go away until we have learned to cope with the drug problem, but there is no evidence to indicate we are making progress in that direction.
Until we do, children named Bobby, Betty, Mary, Tom, Dick and Jimmy will continue to get hooked on drugs and chemicals that will ruin their lives and ours.
Why have we been willing to accept this and accommodate ourselves to it?
Why are we complacent about the generalization that little children are drug addicts although we are excited by a dramatization that show one specific child as a drug addict?
I don't know. I wish I did.
I am dismayed by what Cooke did, but I am dumbfounded by the greater scandal that the world is more interested in Cooke's misrepresentation of the details of an evil than it is in the continued existence of that evil.