Our Nation in Crisis – An American Vision: Part 2

 

The Big Picture

Next are some examples of contributory factors which often supported bad outcomes. Most were given bipartisan support.

We now face a struggle for our future and quite possibly a struggle for the future of our world. While environmental issues are among those at the core, the problems go well beyond. And it is important to realize that failures of vision and perspective are not the province of one idealogical group. In general we have been inattentive even when it may not be a matter of ideology.

Here is a short list which demonstrate bipartisan errors:

The War on Drugs/War on Crime

In the 1980s we declared this war. Stop and frisk escalated and mandatory (long) sentences were imposed even for nonviolent crimes often involving very small quantities of drugs. Rather than going into extensive details, it is sufficient to say it was excessive and our prison population swelled to one of the highest in the world. We went from 1 million to 2.5 million. We seem to have recognized our error and the population has been reduced, but part of the support comes not from a belief in justice, but the perception that it cost us too much money. We have alienated and grievously stressed minority communities and ruined countless lives and families.

The Second Prohibition 

The first prohibition related to alcohol. It was assumed it would benefit society. But what we did was to help build crime syndicates. Their profits were huge and, once established, they branched out into many other criminal enterprises. Finally we recognized our error and resumed legal sale of alcohol with appropriate regulation. But we had already built criminal enterprises which continued.

And then, much later we instituted a prohibition of recreational use of marijuana. We failed to see that it would have a similar effect like that of alcohol prohibition. But this time we helped build international cartels. Of course, there are other drugs involved, but marijuana made a significant contribution to cartel profits. Many in government and law enforcement recognized the error and there is an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) made up of senior law enforcement officials and even heads of states which supports reform. We are making progress and many states now accept medical marijuana and steadily some are legalizing “recreational” use. In all cases there is regulation as with alcohol.

Globalization of Trade

Of course, in the world as it is, we must engage in global trade. Questions revolve around how it is done. Again, I won’t attempt to delve into a complex issue except to note one specific effect. The agreements we entered into often had the effect of exporting jobs. And the types of jobs affected the people we refer to as the “left behinds”. Our error was to fail to face the inevitable. We needed, from the beginning, to look at the implications and to plan for retraining and education to help move people into alternative employment. There was a rather large void of attention to the need and also how and to what we should attend.

A Changed Economy

The pace of change has increased and that means jobs must change and the employment face of communities must change. In a prior post I dealt with vision in regard to the future of Appalachia. Politicians claimed they could save the jobs related to coal. Reality and the facts were very different. In Appalachia coal was running out, coal companies were finding ways to produce with fewer employees, other kinds of coal in other areas were deemed more desirable and it was clear that wind and solar were to be steady producers of energy. In short, these jobs would inevitably disappear no matter what politicians claimed. We have yet to face the future in terms of what this beautiful area might have for its employment needs which very much speaks to the future of their young people.

I’ll leave the list there. There are many other candidates for a list of errors made by many people across party and ideological lines. The basic issue is vision and commitment.

Next we will go into discussing some lessons learned about issues which affect our viewpoint and outcomes.

What errors of vision would you note?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Chasing El Chapo

Now that the election is over, how about another change of focus. Now that the shouting is over for awhile we need to focus on many ongoing needs

How important did you think El Chapo was?

Stay Tuned!

El Chapo was a celebrity drug lord. In the news constantly, he showed the extent of his power by who he corrupted and how he escaped. A long television program was devoted to his most recent escapades and recapture. At the conclusion of the show I did not feel like celebrating. All I could feel was “what a waste”.

Chasing Illusive Suppliers

Once again we had wasted huge resources chasing a criminal. Year in and year out we spend billions in this form of “The War on Drugs”. And right behind El Chapo stands a long line of men ready to take his place. We did nothing to stop this trafficking. It makes headlines but little more.

Lack of Vision

It seems we have learned nothing. And it all demonstrates a monumental lack of vision. Our first prohibition was a failure. The supposedly noble effort to end the use of alcohol led to the creation of a large network of criminal gangs which then metastasized into many other illegal enterprises. Then we did it again with the second failed prohibition of the more recent war on drugs. We decimated vulnerable citizens with invasive searches to find small quantities of drugs, gave them long sentences  and swelled our prison population for 1 million to 2.4 million while we destroyed the future of young minority men and the hopes of their families. At last we are bringing that under control and must now contend with healing the wounds created in police/community relations.

Facing Reality

So what are we to do? Drug use is a complicated matter whether you look at the numerous suppliers and profiteers or the victims in the form of users. We do not spend adequately to create the range and levels of treatment programs. What I learned as a clinical consultant in a drug program is that there needs to be a range of flexible options to help move people toward stability. They are probably not mentally ill but more likely disadvantaged in many different forms. They need help rebuilding lives, fighting addiction, gaining job skills and on and on.

It Isn’t Dramatic

But there is a broader front which is often called prevention and includes social intervention. We had  another very damaging drug called tobacco which we fought and it taught us lessons. These kinds of problems do not lend themselves to short term or easy solutions. 

It Is Multilayered

Anyone who has been through addiction knows the complexity. I wrestled with my nicotine addiction and was working on quitting (for the umpteenth time) when I received painful and unexpected help. Someone drove his SUV in my driver’s door and I was flown into Shock Trauma. They do not pass out cigarettes in the intensive care unit. I don’t recommend that solution but it helped.

Overall addictions in general represent a long road including prevention, incentives to quit, changes in social attitudes. We spent decades in campaigns against smoking and the results are interesting. We have decreased usage and have in place social restraints and legal restraints regarding availability of purchase and acceptability. We are now beginning the same process with marijuana. 

Social Commitment

Where are the ad campaigns regarding all forms of drug use and abuse? They are few in number and rarely heard. Where are the social sanctions and attitude statements about not using drugs. Television is flooded with ads for big pharma products with notations of often terrible side effects but the campaign to reduce drug abuse is almost nowhere to be seen or heard.

The lessons from the war on drugs, from our interdiction efforts and what happened with tobacco is clear. We need a great deal more efforts on prevention, treatment and tending to social attitudes. It will not stop overnight but we can make a significant difference. 

What have you found to be effective?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt