Excuse me for saying so, but the depiction in Rolling Stone Magazine of a maple syrup can with a Vermonter on it shooting up heroin is not offensive ... at least to me. But I understand why it would be perceived as offensive to some people and I get why they are upset. But to think that all of a sudden people will change their minds about our quaint communities because of an artistic rendering seems a little farfetched. I wonder if folks were as upset when "Super Troopers" (a movie about Vermont State Troopers) was released or when the Chevy Chase movie "Funny Farm" came out? I think that those movies were in a better position to do Vermont more harm than good, but then again they are just movies, so who cares?
But a tin maple can depicting a Vermont sap collector sitting on a stump and mainlining heroin with an ax laying in the snow in front of him ... well that one hits kind of close to home. Now, if you were to ask me if I thought the guys and gals out collecting maple syrup were busy shooting heroin, I would have to say no. That really is farfetched and I guess that’s why folks are upset. But those who are upset should expend more of their outrage on Vermont’s serious opiate problem. Yes, it’s a skeleton in the closet that we really wish wasn’t there and we also hope that it goes away quietly. But it’s not; in fact it’s getting worse.
Vermont, this small, quiet state that is often an escape for many from the hustle and bustle now has some -- well -- big city problems that far outweigh what a New York City based publication uses to drive a point home. In fact, maybe Rolling Stone presenting such a harsh image is exactly what we all need to stand up and take notice. This is not a problem that will go away by itself. It will, however, get worse if not addressed, and that has been proven over and over again. Our very own governor dedicated his State of the State address to this problem, and I don’t think by any stretch that it was easy to admit that our state known for it’s Green Mountains was being polluted with one of the harshest drugs out there.
Some facts you may not be aware of: Eighty percent of people that are sitting in Vermont prisons are there for drug-related crimes; more than $2 million worth of heroin flow into Vermont every week; heroin-related deaths nearly doubled last year; and people seeking treatment for heroin addiction has shot up over 700 percent in the last 14 years. So an artist’s rendering is the least of our problems. But, hey, maybe it gets a larger conversation going, so for that I’m grateful.
When I was growing up as a kid I knew about heroin. I knew that it was a drug for the destitute, for those that had nowhere to turn. If you started taking heroin you were a ghost waiting to die. But fast-forward to today and we see that heroin use, much like violence and swearing in public, is more accepted as a norm in our culture. It has become another thing that unless it impacts us directly we glaze over it and move on. Yet, when we start getting a bad rap for having "big city" problems that can affect our economy, that’s when we start getting offended? Sorry, I can’t get behind that line of thinking. I don’t know how to stop the heroin from coming in, but it’s something we can no longer ignore and it is something that we need to take very seriously. I live in Vermont because we didn’t have these issues here, but I would be foolish to think that if we ignore it, it will go away.
So to Rolling Stone, I would like to say thank you for giving us something to talk about. This is not our ostrich moment; we cannot bury our heads in the sand around this particular issue. What the hell is up with that?