Saturday, September 6, 2008

What I Hope For

When discussing issues the media usually refer to the more popular ones—the meat, as they say. And sure, I get why everyone’s always talking about the economy. Things are still rough out there. I was one of the new numbers on the recently released unemployment figures. Then there’s Iraq, and National Security which, of course, is very important—something We can get back to when our Boys (& Girls!) come back from Iraq. However, you shouldn’t forget that even seemingly smaller issues can mean a lot to many of us.

Take Our drug policy. I know, we don’t really have much of one. The number of impoverished crackheads and heroin addicts I see everyday on my way through Lexington Market in the heart of Baltimore hasn’t dwindled much since the beginning of The War on Drugs. (Funny how throwing the word war around has become the standard way to show Us how to solve Our problems.) But Our government has been fighting the same War for a generation now, and other than making a few small dents in the supply and warehousing a lot of people in jails that continue to overcrowd, not much has changed—at least not on the federal level.

At this point I should make it clear why this issue means so much to me—other than the fact that I live three blocks away from Lexington Market. Those of you who might have read My Letter to the Superdelegates, which I wrote when it looked as if things might come down to them, or my flash fiction Bus Stop, or many of the other things I’ve blogged already know that my family has been ravaged by drug addiction. For those of you who don’t know, I lost my mother to AIDS in 1991. Although a loving and courageous woman, a woman who helped new arrivals from Puerto Rico and other Latin American areas settle and adjust to life in Baltimore, she battled with heroin addiction most of her life.

A few years later, I lost my uncle. He was a character, in and out of jail for a lot of his life, hustling when he was out. But sometimes he was the closest thing I had around to a father. He was usually very good to me. Like my mother, he was a heroin addict and ultimately succumbed to AIDS.

My baby brother was barely 17 when my mother died. Although he became a hard worker and a loving father, he suffered greatly after the death of our mother. He also turned to drugs—crack and heroin. On the day after Christmas, 2006, Joe became the latest in my family succumb to AIDS.

The rest of my family has been more fortunate, but I see the ghosts of what my family has been through every day I step out for lunch. And it’s not just the poor. I’ve been privy to the same sad excesses within Our wealthiest families; and other than more and better recovery facilities and less law enforcement scrutiny, their stories are no less tragic than mine.

So when it comes to drug policy, perhaps it’s not as much of a priority as National Security, but certainly should be close behind when you stop to consider how drug abuse continues to destroy Our lives, Our families, Our children, Our schools and Our neighborhoods. What else has to be destroyed before drugs do become a matter of National Security? Bottom line: one of the myriad of reasons I will NEVER vote for them is because that would mean my lunch breaks will never change. The faces will, but the same problems will still haunt me, along with the memories of everything drug addiction has taken away from me.

Maybe a President Obama will not be able to fulfill my dream of a nation where addicts are getting whatever treatment they need, and where we initiate programs to eliminate illegal drug trafficking intelligently instead of with the brute force that has been so ineffective for so long. There’s a lot of work to do and to undo to get there. However, he is the only hope I see of getting Us on that path.

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