Ron Clem and his daughter, Carren Clem, were in Bozeman on Saturday to promote their new book, Loss of Innocence, and to spread their message about the harms of methamphetamine addiction.
A Web search for “Ron Clem” will bring up his family’s story, told in half a dozen newspaper articles from around Montana. The best-written is the Daily InterLake article, which for some reason leaves out a few details of Carrens fall into meth use, but is otherwise serviceable. With all that material out there, I will omit a retelling of the family’s horror story, which involves rape, drug use, and prostitution. You can read that elsewhere.
What I am concerned about is one thing that Clem said during his Saturday presentation at Barnes & Noble in Bozeman. He noted that there are several historical figures who were meth addicts, but named only one: Adolph Hitler. Now, Hitler’s drug use is speculative at best. Few sites that I found through a quick Google search, including the Wikipedia, list reliable sources for that suggestion. It seems that anti-meth Web sites are the first to latch onto that particular nugget of Hitler trivia.
I’m not trying to defend Hitler here. I am suggesting that Clem’s choice of historical interpretation and presentation is deliberate. What better way to vilify the cause you are arguing against than to link it to Hitler? Was Hitler at meth addict? I don’t know. Does it help the anti-meth cause to think so? Certainly.
It goes back to something I wrote a while ago about the life of a veterinarian in the Gallatin Valley. Some facts of history may be distorted in the record. The narrative will be streamlined as the story is told and retold. The version remembered by public memory may be vastly different than what actually happened, but usually it hits the mark and has a greater emotional impact than the reality. It is something that storytellers have done for millennia and will continue to do as long as humans tell each other stories.
Methamphetamine use is killing a generation of Montana’s youth. The drug destroys lives, ruins addicts’ bodies, and pushes them into a life of crime to support the habit. On top of that, the drug is cheap to make. About $150 in materials can make $3,600 worth of the drug.