Category Archives: Social Services

I Can’t Even…

As I enter the twilight of my junior college career–getting ready to embark on my final push towards my bachelor’s degree at an as yet undetermined university–I find myself paralyzed. Dumbstruck not by the variety of academic choices that lie in front of me, not by the awesome responsibility of choosing just HOW much debt I intent to incur over the next seven years (2 years BA, 5 yrs PhD program), and not by the use of the Oxford comma (see what I did there?).

No, indeed since November 8th of 2016 I’ve been awed…metaphorically frozen by the, and I use this word judiciously–“reality”–of just who has been sworn in as President of the United States. I guess, like any victim of trauma, I’ve used self-delusion as a defense mechanism. But tonight, while doing laundry during a break from studying The Iliad, I heard an NPR announcer say the phrase: “President Trump.” Obviously, I’ve heard this before, but for some reason, tonight, it hurt. It was surreal. A moment of panic set in and I literally wondered if I had either died, or was suffering from some form of parallel universe awareness. This simply can’t be…

Today, the director of the FBI stated, in no uncertain terms (Don, this means NOT fake news), that the administration of the sitting President of the United States is under criminal investigation for his alleged campaign ties to a foreign government. The Russians. As a child of the cold war, this chills me to the bone. But perhaps the most chilling “reality” is the seeming lethargy with which this news has been greeted by my fellow countrymen.

Let’s review: the republican nominee, and eventual electoral college victor, our now sitting President, is the subject of a criminal (read: treason) investigation for alleged collusion with the Russians to, among other things, affect the outcome of the presidential election.

I’m not going to parse this with anyone, nor do I intend to build a case against him. I believe the investigation alone speaks volumes.

What I do demand is an immediate, and serious examination of the evidence to begin articles of impeachment of this man, and, pending the outcome of the FBI’s (and hopefully a special prosecutor’s) investigation, a constitutional evaluation of the propriety of the last election by our Supreme Court. The buck has never stopped “here” with Trump and it’s pretty clear that the dysfunction has metastasized within his government. I’m calling for the Court, again pending satisfactory evidence of duplicity and criminal wrongdoing, to call for another election.

There is simply too much at stake to allow this narcissistic, impending indicted criminal to continue to govern. Consider the ACA and the wide-ranging effect Trump’s Federal Judge appointee’s can have on our country for decades to come. We can all see the writing on the wall here…let’s quit pussy-footing around the issue and stop calling this man our lawfully elected “President.” Bill Gates visited Trump today to discuss “the internet” today. I was outraged. It’s time for people of conscience to let the emperor know his fat ass is naked for all the world to see.  Government leaders and those in power need to stop entitling this man and his corrupt machine. Call a spade a damn spade.

“President Trump”…I can’t even.

 

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A “Coarse” Correction…

Well it’s certainly not the outcome I’d hoped for. Nor expected. In fact, in my wildest dreams I didn’t think this clown would be elected president. I thought we were better than that…actually I still do (see below). Before I get to the heart of the matter though, I have to say, I’m not ENTIRELY surprised. Since the advent of “hate” style politics championed by Ronald Reagan, through the advent of Faux News and the unbridled partisan vitriol of Karl Rove and the like, we have seen a burgeoning class of disaffected, generally poorly educated, voters that feel as if the system needs to change. I agree. It does. But electing a misogynistic, racist, sexual predator with absolutely no qualifications did not seem to be the way to do it…or was it?

I am very angry at those that voted for this change. By voting for the candidate of the KKK you have effectively endorsed the antithesis of every principle that our nation was founded on. I am most sad today for those young men and woman who so bravely sacrificed their lives…that today a reality show clown will be their commander-in-chief.

But despite all this there are silver linings. The majority voted against this hatred. And although the electoral college will elect Trump, perhaps the next four years is our wake up call. If it is not…if it does inspire you to take action and correct this mess we find ourselves in…well then, we deserve this.

I for one plan to take action. I will NOT let this country go down in flames unchallenged. I have often disagreed with Michael Moore, but his insight on this election, and specifically the pathos that carried Trump to victory is startling.

And Moore provides his own call to action. One that I personally plan on implementing. Now:

Morning After To-Do List:
1. Take over the Democratic Party and return it to the people. They have failed us miserably.
2. Fire all pundits, predictors, pollsters and anyone else in the media who had a narrative they wouldn’t let go of and refused to listen to or acknowledge what was really going on. Those same bloviators will now tell us we must “heal the divide” and “come together.” They will pull more hooey like that out of their ass in the days to come. Turn them off.
3. Any Democratic member of Congress who didn’t wake up this morning ready to fight, resist and obstruct in the way Republicans did against President Obama every day for eight full years must step out of the way and let those of us who know the score lead the way in stopping the meanness and the madness that’s about to begin.
4. Everyone must stop saying they are “stunned” and “shocked”. What you mean to say is that you were in a bubble and weren’t paying attention to your fellow Americans and their despair. YEARS of being neglected by both parties, the anger and the need for revenge against the system only grew. Along came a TV star they liked whose plan was to destroy both parties and tell them all “You’re fired!” Trump’s victory is no surprise. He was never a joke. Treating him as one only strengthened him. He is both a creature and a creation of the media and the media will never own that.
5. You must say this sentence to everyone you meet today: “HILLARY CLINTON WON THE POPULAR VOTE!” The MAJORITY of our fellow Americans preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Period. Fact. If you woke up this morning thinking you live in an effed-up country, you don’t. The majority of your fellow Americans wanted Hillary, not Trump. The only reason he’s president is because of an arcane, insane 18th-century idea called the Electoral College. Until we change that, we’ll continue to have presidents we didn’t elect and didn’t want. You live in a country where a majority of its citizens have said they believe there’s climate change, they believe women should be paid the same as men, they want a debt-free college education, they don’t want us invading countries, they want a raise in the minimum wage and they want a single-payer true universal health care system. None of that has changed. We live in a country where the majority agree with the “liberal” position. We just lack the liberal leadership to make that happen (see: #1 above).

Let’s try to get this all done by noon today.
— Michael Moore

Thank you Mr. Moore…let’s get on this folks…before this “coarse” correction becomes a way of life.


How Us against Them became Them against Us…

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I’ve been sitting on this post for the last several months. Not quite sure I could coherently articulate the confusion and rage I’m feeling about the current state of law enforcement in our country.

Here’s my story as it relates to my interaction with law enforcement.

I wanted to be one. As early as I can remember, I wanted to be a cop. I watched “Adam-12” religiously and yearned for the day I would be the one upholding all that is good and decent in our society.

As a young man, I bought a scanner and became immersed in police culture. When I turned 15 I decided I wanted to be an Explorer (Boy Scout program) for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. My dad drove me to the local sheriff’s station, I met with a deputy and learned about the program. I was on fire….

As we drove home, my dad was unusually quiet, but finally said this. “Son, I’ll support whatever you want to do, but I think you are too smart to get into this line of work. Not only that, but cops tend to develop an ‘Us against Them’ mentality that I’d hate to see you become part of.”

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I respected my fathers opinion a great deal and I eventually turned my interest to the Fire Department (goodbye “Adam-12”, hello “Emergency”) and it seemed that dad was reluctantly more accepting of this decision.

LONG story short: I became a Fire Department Explorer with LA County Fire…became a Paramedic in my early 20’s and ultimately served 16 years with a Fire Department, retiring in 2003 at the rank of Fire Captain.

Here’s how this ties into law enforcement. As a firefighter/paramedic…I was one of “Us”.

We, along with law enforcement, were on the front lines of saving lives and property and protecting the public. Those that would hinder our efforts were “Them” and they were to be mistrusted and dealt with as the threat to the fabric of our society we thought they were.

In my 26 years in public safety, I witnessed a great deal of illegal and often abusive behavior towards citizens at the hands of law enforcement. And I did nothing. In fact, I supported it. These were “bad” people and they were deserving of the street justice meted out at the hands of the cops. That’s just how it is when you’re one of “Us”…

Then I left that field. Prior to leaving I sensed a paradigm shift in public safety after 9/11. Suddenly public safety folks…cops and firefighters were “heroes”…and what I saw before I left was an unrealistic change in self-awareness in these fields. Cops and firefighters were becoming caricatures of themselves…they began to buy into the invincible, hero-worship syndrome and became increasingly arrogant and dangerous. Not all, but some…and as an institution, for me, the shift was undeniable.

Here’s the disclaimer before I go further: I’m painting with a broad brush here, and my exit from the fire department was the direct result of a (now resolved) problem with alcohol that, while not directly affecting my job, led to my employer asking me to resign. So take that into consideration as you evaluate my thoughts. Not all cops and not all firefighters are bad, or are anywhere near the way I’m portraying some in my experience. They both do an incredibly difficult, and yes heroic, job under quite difficult and anguishing conditions. Sadly, they have become victims on their respective institutions…

Here’s my beef. It’s the culture…the institution. It’s changed.

Us against Them had become Them against Us…

We, as taxpayers in a civil society, create law enforcement institutions to protect our communities. They are our employees and they work for us. At some point, the institution of law enforcement has forgotten this basic fact…

When two NYPD officers were killed, the rank-and-file openly showed their disgust for their boss, Mayor DeBlasio at the funeral services of these officers. They can disagree with the Mayor’s policies all day long, but the level of disrespect they showed the mayor is equal to the level of disrespect they show the taxpayer…their employers.

They’ve become entitled with an Us against Them attitude that literally leads to a “shoot first and ask questions later” mentality. We, as their employers, have allowed it to happen.

To be clear, this is not a 9/11 response syndrome. Police brutality and misconduct has been widespread for generations. The paradigm shift in recognition has been the direct result of technology…specifically cell phone cameras.

The officer that shot and killed an unarmed black man is the sentinel example. Here’s a case where a white officer shoots a black motorist after a traffic stop. The official story, a story that has been repeated countless times for decades in this country, is that the “suspect”…the black man, reached for the officer’s gun/taser. The reality, as caught on video, is quite different. We see the officer shooting a fleeing man in the back, then planting his taser on the man. If not for the video, the officer is back on patrol instead of facing murder charges.

If not for the video…

Law enforcement personnel have for years been allowed to cross the line, break the rules, stretch the truth. They have collectively lost all credibility. They have been allowed to be the alpha dog and escalate otherwise non-violent encounters into fatal and tragic events. A man is killed for selling cigarettes in New York. A 12 year old boy is shot for having a pellet gun in a park in Ohio.

And now this. Feras Morad…an honor student from one of my local high schools and community colleges, decided to try mushrooms one night in Long Beach. A dumb decision for sure, but one which was punished by the death penalty in Long Beach.

The African American community has dealt with this racial genocide for years. And we didn’t listen.

If the cold blooded murder of Mr. Morad doesn’t provoke outrage, then we deserve the fascist law enforcement that we have allowed to exist for far too long.

RIP Mr. Morad. I’m so so sorry, you became one of Us…


Killing the Disease

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The actor and comedian Robin Williams took his life today. Beyond this, I personally know very little of the details of the death or the events leading to the suicide.

There will be (and already is) prolific speculation regarding his motives in ending his life.

I’ll confine my discussion to what I know and how it may relate to this sad event.

Mr. Williams was a self-identified alcoholic/drug addict. Media reports indicate he had over 20 years sobriety before a relapse in 2006. He reentered rehab this year as a maintenance measure to maintain his sobriety, according to his representatives.

If I was putting money on it…I’m guessing he died sober.

Here’s what I do know. The effect chronic alcohol and drug use, particularly cocaine (a substance Robin admitted abusing), has on the neurochemistry of the brain is devastating. It takes at LEAST 2 years of complete abstinence before the user’s brain chemistry returns to a state of being where the individual is able to experience the same level of “happiness” that they did prior to use. Chronic, long-term use further damages/inhibits these receptors.

I know of many in the recovery community that suffer from profound depression; surprisingly, quite often after several years of sobriety. Unless you have been afflicted with this disease, it’s very hard to impart just how cunning, baffling, and powerful the allure of these legal and illegal chemicals are on the biology and chemistry of the brain.

In short: years of alcohol and drug use will cause changes in the structure and chemistry of the brain…often leading to profound depression.

Here’s what I also know. Robin didn’t need to take his own life. There are a myriad of drugs that combat these chemical imbalances and help maintain the homeostasis of emotion needed to…well…live.

Again, I don’t know the precise circumstances. I’m as heartbroken as anyone over the news of his death. He was a beloved celebrity that brought all of us many hours of joy. But I also lost a brother. A brother in sobriety. We lose brothers and sisters every hour of every day to this disease.

And it is a disease…

When Phillip Seymour Hoffman died, I made the argument for the disease model of alcoholism and drug addiction.

It is a disease. Just like depression. Just like heart disease. Just like cancer.

But nobody seems to care.

As long as it doesn’t happen to you or someone you love, it seems much easier to judge…to question the “will”…the “fortitude” of the sufferer. God forbid one did that for someone with cancer, but we do it with alcoholics and addicts every day.

And they continue to die of the most insidious and hated disease in our culture.

And we lose a lot more folks from this disease then we will from the current hysteria over Ebola.

It makes me sick…

Rest in peace brother. I know you are…I’ve witnessed the aftermath of enough suicides in my professional life to know you didn’t kill yourself Robin…you killed the disease.

If only we, as a society, could have killed it for you.

 

 


There is a Time for Censorship…

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This was too close to home. Both literally and figuratively.

The murders at UCSB were committed by a deranged man that went to High School next door to mine. His crime was committed in the campus community of a university that is well known to our area. One of the victims was from one of our local high schools.

Most chillingly for me however, the Facebook post of the older brother of my son’s best friends, and a friend of mine: “IV deli got shot up. People taking cover in Blaze. Stay inside and stay away.”

My friend was working at Blaze (a well-known Pizza place on the loop) when he heard the gunshots and saw the terrified bystanders take cover in his place of business.

I’ve had enough.

We’ve dissected Sandy Hook. We’ve examined the effects of the Reagan era mental health funding cuts.

We’ve talked gun control ad nauseum.

Now misogyny is being introduced into the debate of yet another tragic mass murder.

When. Does. It. Stop?

Here’s a humble suggestion: STOP publishing the names, details, videos, manifesto’s, and psychotic rants of these killers.

STOP IT NOW.

My son asked if I watched this clown’s YouTube video. Of course I didn’t. Why in the hell would I want to watch the pathetic lamentations of a killer. Apparently I’m in the minority though.

If the media would self-censor everything but the basic details of the killers (ie. age, location, occupation) perhaps these individuals wouldn’t develop such a sense of final self-aggrandizement.

They KNOW they are going down in a blaze of glory. Their pathetic lives will be celebrated by the TMZ’s of the world. Their meaningless existences will be broadcast and examined by every voyeuristic media outlet.

They will be famous. Their lives will finally have meaning.

Stop it. Just stop.

Let’s celebrate the lives of the victims. The innocent lives snuffed out by this nameless/faceless madman or woman.

Let’s not give these losers any more type, air-time, exposure.

Let’s leave them under the rock.

If we do this, maybe they won’t crawl out into the pale light any longer.

I’m not looking.

I encourage each and every one of you to do the same.


The War on Drugs and Social Darwinism

 

Courtesy The Guardian

Courtesy The Guardian

In the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin argues that natural selection acts by “rejecting that which is bad, [while] preserving and adding up all that is good”(3). The modern conservative movement has manipulated this theory into a de facto form of Social Darwinism through the imprisonment of non-violent substance abusers. In Jarecki’s documentary “The House I Live In” this is described as “the holocaust in slow motion”.

The term substance abuse encapsulates those suffering from addictions to both alcohol and/or drugs. Specifically, alcoholism has been classified as the “fourth most serious health problem” in the United States (Lee 104). In fact, in 1967 the American Medical Association “would pass resolutions acknowledging the disease model of alcoholism” (Lee 101).  The DSM-V, the American Psychiatric Association’s bible, classifies drug addiction as a primary disease. If we can then accept the linear logic that addiction and alcoholism are recognized as disease by the two most austere organizations responsible for public health policy in our country, to classify sufferers of these diseases as criminals is not only inherently wrong, but a form of Social Darwinism (Edwards 6).

Since the inception of the so-called War on Drugs, despite having “less than 5 percent of the world’s population [the U.S. has] nearly 25 percent of its incarcerated population [and] imprisons more people than any other nation in the world—largely due to the war on drugs” (Charlotte 1). Upwards of one quarter to one half of those behind bars are for arrests related to drug and alcohol abuse. If it has been empirically proven that alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases, why are we imprisoning these individuals? Is it not clear that society must demand a paradigm shift in the “focus from stopping someone from ‘doing drugs’ to helping someone ‘overcome’ drugs” (Mann 12)? This is not to argue that all alcoholics and drug addicts have not committed crimes or that their primary offense was non-drug related. However there is a large number of “offenders who are merely people who have an addiction to illegal drugs, but no other form of criminal behavior” (Mann 2).

The War on Drugs has resulted in a generation of incarceration and a proliferation of the Prison Industrial Complex. The statistics are quite stark:  there “were more than 1.6 million drug arrests in the U.S. in 2010. The vast majority—more than 80 percent—were for possession only” (Charlotte 1).  On any given night “More than 500,000 Americans are behind bars […] for a drug law violation” and in “the last three decades, the adult arrest rate for drug law violations increased by 138 percent” (Charlotte 1).

The disease model of alcoholism and addiction has fluctuated over the last two centuries and has profoundly affected our nation’s drug and alcohol policies. The primary policy solution however has been that “a prohibitive, punitive approach has been emphasized. Racial and socioeconomic disparities have been exacerbated by the inequities of drug laws” (Lee 99).

As Edwards argues in Behavioral Healthcare, “Our society does not like to deal with people who have tremendous needs. Instead of confronting the issues, our response has been to lock up people with chronic medical problems and keep them out of sight and out of mind” (6). From the outset of President Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs, this is exactly what has happened to millions of Americans suffering from a primary medical and mental illness. We have literally locked them up, and thanks to mandatory minimum sentencing laws, figuratively thrown away the keys.

President Nixon’s declaration of a War on Drugs compounded with the Reagan administration’s draconian budget cuts to social programs, effectively removed the safety net for millions of Americans and created a downward socioeconomic spiral for inner-city youth.  The resultant proliferation of alcoholism and drug addiction kept an even pace with the Conservative party’s agenda to eliminate, through imprisonment, an entire “lower” class of our society.

In 1972, President Nixon issued an Executive Order that eventually led to the creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency as to tool in his stated War on Drugs. This “war” flew in the face of the political and medical evidence with regard to drugs at the time. One study “recommended decriminalization of marijuana use, stating:  ‘The actual and potential harm of the use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes with the greatest reluctance’ but Nixon was not deflected from the pursuit of his agenda” (Lee 105).  According to Lee, the War on Drugs was a “thriving business” and in a 1973 speech to Congress, Nixon declared an “all-out global war on the drug menace” demanding the reinstatement of mandatory minimum sentence for drug offenders (105). It is not entirely outside the realm of possibility to imagine that there may still be prisoners serving time currently for marijuana possession charges brought on in this era.

Continuing the conservative agenda, President Ronald Reagan declared that “government is the problem” (Lee 106).  He then promptly spent the balance of his administration enacting some of the most severe budget cuts to social services that our country had seen, while increasing funding for “law enforcement, the penal system, and further military involvement in the War on Drugs” (Lee 107).

To understand how the modern conservative movement has turned the Prison Industrial Complex into a de facto form of Social Darwinism, one only need look back less than 100 years to view the roots of this Eugenic movement. In 1927 the Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in Buck v. Bell said “[t]here generations of imbeciles are enough” and granted the authority for forced sterilization (Tan 65).  An entire class of citizen was disenfranchised by this ruling and it set the stage for the conservative parties philosophy with regard to so-called “inferior” forms of humanity—drug addicts and alcoholics.

The term Social Darwinism was coined not by Darwin himself, but by sociologist and philosopher Herbert Spencer.  He and his supporters “saw society as a competitive struggle where only those with the strongest moral character should survive” (Reich). In fact it was Spencer rather than Darwin who proffered the phrase “survival of the fittest”. This newly christened movement, Social Darwinism, “offered a perfect moral justification for America’s Gilded Age, where […] the gap between rich and poor turned into a chasm, urban slums festered, and politicians were bought off by the wealthy” (Reich). This describes social conditions that are mirrored today:  a vast disparity between rich and poor…the “one-percenters” and the socially exclusive practice of imprisoning an entire segment of society for non-violent drug/alcohol offenses.

The practice of Eugenics, or the social manipulation of reproduction based on desirable and non-desirable traits, is the end result of Social Darwinism. The United States is not alone in this practice. Nazi Germany was the most extreme example of this medical and social manipulation, but the eugenicist Swiss psychiatrist, Eugen Bleuler who created the term schizophrenia,  categorized alcoholics and drug addicts in the same class as “criminals, prostitutes […] ‘immoral’ people, the mentally ill […] ‘gypsies’, and vagrants” and they “were seen to constitute  hereditary ‘threats’ to the Swiss nation” (Gerodetti 40).

As the Prison Industrial Complex has risen, so has the need to fill these prisons. Privatization of prisons has created a cottage industry for an entire segment of the population; from prison guards to the various ancillary services required to keep them running. These businesses operate like any other for-profit business model and must be kept at peak census if they are to turn a profit. The War on Drugs provided the ideal solution to this business model. The implementation of mandatory-minimum sentencing guaranteed a steady supply of bodies to fill the cells. The conservative party’s “tough on crime” mantra and institutional insistence on criminalization of what is factually a public health problem, has created a scenario where a disproportionate number of people with disabilities (addicts/alcoholics) are effective removed from society. Who are these people? The vast majority are low income and people of color. For example, African-Americans “compromise 13 percent of the U.S. population, and [use] drugs at similar rates to people of other races. But blacks comprise 31 percent” of those arrested for drugs and “more than 50 percent of those incarcerated in state prison for drug law violations” and of “those in federal prison for drug law violations in 2010, one-third were Latino/a and 44 percent were black” (Charlotte 2).

That “blacks have been arrested for drug violations nationwide at rates 2.8 to 5.5 times higher than white arrest rates” cannot be dismissed (Charlotte 2).  This is a direct result of the conservative movements efforts, through the War on Drugs, mandatory-minimum sentencing, and criminalization of addiction, to disenfranchise an entire “undesirable” portion of the population—Eugenics and Social Darwinism by definition. The “lifelong penalties and exclusions that follow a drug conviction have created a permanent second-class status for millions of Americans” (Charlotte 3).

Social Darwinism is alive and well today. Eugenic ideologies have “persisted through the subtle influence of cultural beliefs concerning marginalized groups” and society is only seen as safe when “such people are locked behind the walls of an institution or when deceased” (Balcazar 35).

In addition to the morally bankrupt philosophy of criminalizing drug addicts and alcoholics, the financial burden placed upon the United States is immense. While the Prison Industrial Complex is thriving, the self-perpetuating cycle of addiction and imprisonment continues in the vacuum of effective treatment strategies. Even law enforcement is in general agreement that stopping the supply-side is grossly ineffective. Recognizing addiction and alcoholism as a disease and treating it as such is the consensus among professionals in the industry, yet our political framework, the conservative wing in particular, takes a short-sided view of this reality and continues to perpetuate a problem that actually has a solution. As Edwards so succinctly states, our “society can no longer afford to spend billions on warehousing people with substance abuse problems”.

Darwin could not have possibly anticipated the obscene political capital that would be expended in his name—namely the gross misrepresentation of his theory of natural selection into a public policy that disenfranchises millions of American’s each year through the Prison Industrial Complex and the conservatives War on Drugs. It is indeed, the “holocaust in slow motion”.

Works Cited

Balcazar, Fabricio E., Pamela Block, and Christopher B. Keys. “Race, Poverty and Disability: Three Strikes and You’re Out! Or Are You?” Social Policy 33.1 (2002): 34-38. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.

Charlotte Street Films. The Drug War, Mass Incarceration and Race. 1-3. New York. 5 October 2012. Media Kit. 1-3. Retrieved from http://www.thehouseilivein.org/.

Darwin, Charles. (1859). The Origin of Species: Chapter 4—Natural Selection. Retrieved from http://profkev.com/texts/Darwin_origin_Chp_4.pdf.

Edwards, Douglas J. “A Tale of Two Crists.” Behavioral Healthcare 28.4 (2008): 6. Academic OneFile. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

Gerodetti, Natalia, and Veronique Mottier. “Eugenics and Social Democracy: or, How the European Left Tried to Eliminate the ‘Weeds’ from its National Gardens.” New Formations 60 (2007): 35-49. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.

The House I Live In. Dir. Eugene Jarecki. Charlotte Street Films. 2012. Film.

Lee, Dorothy R., Paul Lee, and Philip R. Lee. “2010: U.S. Drug and Alcohol Policy, Looking Back and Moving Forward.” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 42.2 (2010): 99-114. Academic OneFile. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

Mann, Jim. “Substance Abuse Control: How Do We Measure Success?” Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table (2010). 1-13. Academic OneFile. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

Reich, Robert B. “The Two Darwinisms.” The American Prospect 16.12 (2005): 56. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.

Tan, Morse Hyun-Myung. “Advancing Civil Rights, the Next Generation: The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 and Beyond.” Health Matrix Winter 2009: 63-119. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.

 

 

 


Personal Responsibility—this post brought to you by Bud Light!

24 hours have passed since the overdose death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and the lines have been drawn. On the one hand, folks like me (and the AMA and the Supreme Court) arguing the disease model of alcoholism and addiction.

On the other hand, the vast majority of society calling Hoffman a loser, a weakling, a junkie and a man of terrible moral character. He simply made the wrong choices. It was his choice to put that needle in his arm. His death is his responsibility.

They’re only partially right. Once Hoffman was introduced to the disease model of addiction through treatment, he had a responsibility to A) admit that he had a disease and B) treat that disease. For twenty some years, he chose B.

But he then suffered from a medical issue that required a prescription for opiates. Inside his brain, the synapses that had long forgotten the omnipotent pleasure of that neurotransmitter dopamine, were gloriously reawakened. And it killed him. At some point, the seductive allure of that overwhelming feeling of pleasure, of wellness, predictably overtook his commitment to treatment. Opiate (heroin, Oxycontin, Vicodin) addicts are often “taken out” by the prescriptions of well-meaning physicians. They often return quickly to their opiate of choice and often die. I know of several people this has happened to. Often people, like Hoffman, who had long periods of drug abstinence.

So yeah, at the end of the day, he had a choice…throw himself headlong into his recovery, or fall victim to the chemical orgy taking place in his brain. It’s a battle borne out of the disease of addiction…that is too often lost.

Back to personal responsibility. I’ve been reading a lot of comments about his choices…his choice to slam heroin in the first place. I’m going to step out on a limb here and venture a guess that Hoffman’s first experience with mind-altering chemicals wasn’t with heroin. In fact, it was probably tobacco, or caffeine, or the most addictive drug–alcohol.

Alcohol is a mind-altering substance just like heroin. And it’s legal. And it’s deadly. And it’s abuse has filled our prisons in record numbers.

Yesterday’s Superbowl was chock full of advertisements aimed at promoting our ingestion of this mind-altering chemical…all the while being urged to “drink responsibly”.

What a joke.

To the alcoholic, there is no such thing. They MUST drink. It’s what defines the disease of alcoholism. That LEGAL substance, that we are constantly encouraged to consume, is the foundation of the disease.

How is heroin different? Or Vicodin? Or cocaine. Or marijuana? They are all mind-altering substances that are classified as illegal substances that act in our brains, on the cellular level, in the same exact manner as the legal substance alcohol.

But hey, he was just a junkie. He had a choice.

Drink responsibly…and continue to keep your head buried in the sand. They’re just junkies after all.


It’s Pretty Simple Really…

Courtesy Robin Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Courtesy Robin Beck/AFP/Getty Images

We love to express shock and sadness when one of our icons dies of the disease of addiction. I did it here when Cory Monteith died.

It sucks. And it will continue. It’s pretty simple really. Until we…collectively…are willing to recognize facts: that alcoholism and addiction are a DISEASE, not a moral failing, not a weakness of character, these deaths will continue.

We like to laugh at those suffering. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at Amanda Bynes. Or Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Or Dennis Rodman.

Do we treat them as if they had a chronic, progressive and fatal DISEASE. Of course we don’t. We use them as comedic fodder.

And when a guy like Phillip Seymour Hoffman spends his morning slamming Heroin instead of picking up his kids, we self-righteously feign shock and outrage.

I’m sick of it. I’m sick of living in a society that refuses to call this illness what it is: a DISEASE.

So, you’ve got cancer, and all your friends are talking behind your back about what a loser you are or a weakling. Come on man, you can beat this cancer, just get some radiation and be done with it.

Oh, did you hear about Suzie, the diabetic? I saw her buying a pack of candy at the store the other day. If only she’d wise up and start taking her Insulin.

Yeah…it’s what we do to our sick in this country. We jail them, we criticize them and we let them die. Because it’s easier for us to judge them than to help them. To offer a compassionate word or a sign of recognition that they are fighting a demon much bigger than all of us. A demon that no one can handle without treatment.

So in our ignorance, we continue to contribute to a culture of death. When we could have been funding more treatment centers and community outreach programs. Or stepping up and voting out the Neanderthal politicians in the pocket of the prison industrial complex that profit off the suffering of the disenfranchised masses.

It makes me sick to my stomach. Rest in peace Mr. Hoffman. Here’s hoping your death will make a difference…


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