Commentary: The big picture
The American "crisis du jour" is the opioid epidemic. Drug addiction problems have been plaguing this country for decades, but now politicians are finding places to lay blame and now that it has been determined that too many people are dying there is some degree of public outcry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted there has been a pattern of increasing deaths from drug overdoses since 1999. If we lived in a society that actually cares about solving problems we would have addressed this issue years ago and tried to figure out what is going on and made an effort to deal with it.
Instead, our society does what it usually does when there is a complex problem to be dealt with. We try to blame it on factors over which we have little control or we throw up our hands up in frustration because we say it is too complex to deal with. To be fair, a number of practical strategies have been developed to slow down the opioid juggernaut.
Then there is the problem of the increasing number of deaths by firearms in this country. The statistics are alarming and every time there is a shooting that grabs national attention there is political posturing on both sides. The bluster subsides and nothing gets done.
A lot of people are dying while our society bickers and fails to deal with real problems. Over 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, nearly double the figure from 33,000 in 2015. The situation is only getting worse, while we have a government that is helpless to act and a president who doesn't have a clue about anything.
So what is the solution to all of these crises? There is not one solution but there are multiple strategies that could help us to start dealing with the multitude of ills that our society is facing. The first thing that needs to happen is that we all have to make an effort to be honest with each other.
If that is going to happen it means that we have to bypass the political process and stimulate the formation of a grassroots effort to transform society. Washington politicians will never be able to solve big social problems because they are too mired in their own waste to step away and see what is really going on.
Ordinary Americans have the ability, and can surely muster the power, to force politicians to listen to them. But too many Americans are lazy and not enough of us are risk takers. We have to be willing to risk the consequences of civil disobedience and we have to learn to develop a core set of principles based on human decency before we can even create a problem solving plan. The drug overdose crisis and the gun violence crisis did not happen overnight. It took decades for them to develop and it will probably take that long for them to be dealt with in any meaningful way. But we have to find the will to start.
The first thing we have to do is to have a national dialogue about what kind of society we want America to be. The Constitution was a good start, but it was created a long time ago and we have not updated it enough to keep up with the world as it is today.
Perhaps a new constitutional convention should be convened where ordinary people come together to first talk about what kind of country they want to live in. After a few years of discussion and debate we could end up with guiding principles and a plan to enact those principles. It sure would be a lot better than what we are doing now.
It will not be easy to redefine and restructure American society, but if we do not look at the big picture we will only experience further decay and destruction and we will become a society moving closer to ruin.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.
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