I’m not a big fan of controversy or confrontation. I just want to live a purposeful life, do good things, and be a productive part of our local communities. I’d like to think that most of us feel the same way. However, I want to reiterate a point I brought up a couple of months ago: Gov. Peter Shumlin committed the biggest public relations faux pas in the history of Vermont when he spent his entire State of the State address on the heroin problem. Given their druthers, most Vermonters would have simply said "Yup, we have a problem, but let’s not exaggerate it. We will be happy to quietly go about fixing the problem, and we don’t need a bunch of media hype while we are doing it." To quote Nike, just "do it." How difficult would that have been?
Difficult, but not impossible. The Governor wanted to get everyone concerned. However, you can’t simply raise concern and then have nothing for people to do. What we are lacking the most in many serious situations that face our country is a road map for people to follow to make things better. The early days of the war on terrorism were a good example. Essentially the president was telling us "Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it, be happy." Well, caring people were not happy. All they wanted was a way to participate, and nothing was being offered. In World War II the country came together by collectively sacrificing for the war effort with rationing, volunteerism and more. What would you give up to make the drug problem go away? If you could grow a Victory Garden for drug eradication, would you do it?
The good news is that we are not descending into a hellish chaos on our streets. Yet. In Springfield people have gotten together and formed the group "Not in our town." It is a damned good start. Social media is buzzing with talk about the people hanging out on the streets, the suspected drug dealers. If people are willing to form groups and spend the time to type in their concerns and share them on social media, what would you have them do? They are willing, but they have not been enabled. If a clear path can be defined, I’m betting that a lot of people would be more than happy to participate.
Working together is one of the huge strengths that our small towns have in common. We want to help, so what should we do? I can instantly tell you what we can’t do; we can’t become vigilantes and take to the streets. We hire brave people for our local police forces to take on that kind of job. They do it well within the bounds of law, but can they be better supported? If your town’s police force could be tasked to create a wish list, what would be on it? What could ordinary citizens do to fulfill those wishes?
I’ve posed a lot of questions, but I’ve offered no answers. I’m waiting for someone to say, "OK, if we had X number of dollars, we could do X number of things that would address our problems." I can hear some folks now. "Are you serious Mudgett? We pay enough in taxes, we shouldn’t have to pay more or give more!" I suppose it depends on just how serious or intractable the problem is. It also depends on whether your life has been impacted by drugs or not. There are users who fall asleep while their toddlers roam about their homes unsupervised. There are families suffering financial hardship because the money they earn goes to the drug being used. Family members find money missing from their wallets, learn of debts they didn’t incur, or have utilities shut off because someone paid for drugs instead of paying the bill. This is just the mild stuff. The greater price is usually paid much later with the social ills created by neglect.
We don’t hear from the people in various professional and social capacities who are up to their armpits in dealing with drug related problems because of privacy laws. If we could hear their stories we might be more motivated to try and help. However, what we got is a media blitz from our Governor that was a well aimed if unintentional gunshot wound in the foot of our states’ reputation, potentially costing us in tourism and tax income. It’s the ultimate irony of good intentions.
Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.