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Sunday, November 13, 2016
opioid and heroin use in white, middle-class usa
As my own recounting of “pain,” after knee surgery in 2014 reveals there is sometimes good reason for pain killers such as OxyContin and other powerful drugs. And most Americans, some doctors have indicated, have a difficult time with such pain, particularly long-term back pain and serious bouts with arthritis—pains which I endured for many years before the surgery. Today I still have a daily stiff knee, although, strangely, my left knee—where the bones are still literally rubbing against one another—no longer hurts. I also have a strong aversion to drugs, so, as I reported, I insisted that I receive less powerful painkillers immediately after the first week, despite my continued suffering.
Thank heaven! For in the years since, it has increasingly become clear that millions of Americans—particularly in the rural areas of New Hampshire, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan, as well as in parts of California and elsewhere, are now addicted to such pain-killers, and, unable to afford the high costs of their addictions, have turned to slightly cheaper drugs such as heroin.
Even during my operation word had begun spreading about such problems. But in 2016 and into 2017, it became even clearer that the US was suffering a kind of mass epidemic of serious addictions.
On August 19, 2016 the small city of Huntington, West Virginia, according to the Los Angeles Times endured 26 overdoses in just a few hours, sending the small police force and emergency servers in chaos. At one location, police arrived to one house where they found seven people passed out, 4 within the house, and 3 outside. Throughout Cabell County, in which Huntington is located, police report that they see from 18 to 20 cases of overdosed people each week.
Earlier in the year Sacramento, California saw 11 deaths from opiate mixes in one short period. New Hampshire has one of the nation’s highest number of people addicted to opioids, resulting in a suit from that state against OxyContin’s maker, Purdue Pharma.
The New York Times reported that on September 18, 2016 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, that in a local Family Dollar store, police discovered an unconscious woman lying on the floor from a drug overdose, while her 2-year old daughter lay next to her, attempting to tug her mother into consciousness. The local police force commented that at about 10% of the drug calls they receive, children are present. There has been a 7.62% increase in child neglect investigations in that area in 2016 alone.
According to the Associated Press, there were 3,050 people who overdosed during the year, most from powerful painkiller fentanyl. And on September 15th, in the Western part of that state, a couple was found parked on the street, passed out from a heroin overdose, with a toddler in the back seat. The 8-year old boy who discovered them went running off to his parents living nearby, screaming for them to come help. The pictures that were taken of this event have become something close to poster statements of the serious of what is happening throughout the US.
Similar problems have been discovered among the homeless in Los Angeles who, unable to afford even marijuana are consuming a cheaper, man-made drug called “spice,” which is often sprayed with chemicals that cause deadly results. In LA’s skid row, 38 people had to be transferred hospitals in one August Friday after consuming a batch. And the very next Monday 14 others were found with similar symptoms. The Los Angeles City Council has now requested an ordinance to ban the substance, which can also kill. Perhaps the recent legalization of marijuana, at least in this particular case, will help with the problem.
But the above reports represent just a few of the numerous stories that reveal that we are slowly turning into a kind nation of zombies, formerly hard-working men and women who, facing pain and aging becoming hooked on devastatingly power drugs, often by over-prescribing doctors and clinics. If job-loss can account for much of the private suffering faced by so many individuals in the poor areas of the country such as upstate New England and the midland’s rust-belt—areas where, incidentally, Donald Trump did very well in the election—drugs has clearly contributed to our cumulative pain instead of relieving it.
To say something needs to be done is an understatement, as thousands of our citizens are everyday are succumbing to a fate that can only lead to their early deaths and the destruction of their families.
Los Angeles, January 21, 2017
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
behind the wall
I woke up this morning terrified. I now live in a country I no longer know, run by a man with no humility, boundless ego, utterly no experience and, evidently disinterested in learning anything about the job.
Our President is not only a bully, but a demagogue who would, so he claimed several times, send millions now living in this country away from it and would bar people based on their religion and ethnicity. Our new President is a compulsive liar, who has refused to be transparent about his own international dealings and his personal taxes.
He is a man who has proudly proclaimed that he will get rid of many of the checks and balances by selecting only conservative Supreme Court justices. He and his followers have repeatedly demanded that he arrest his presidential opponent. He and his followers have loudly insisted on constructing a costly and unbuildable wall between my country and another, Mexico. He is opposed to most international trade deals, and wants to undo many of our military and political alliances with other countries. This man highly admires, so it appears, one of the world’s most dangerous dictators, Vladimir Putin, and has even jocularly praised the most brutal leader of all, Kim Jong-un of North Korea.
Our new president jokes loudly and openly about having groped women and getting away with it because of his celebrity. He and his Vice-President have spoken out against gay marriage and a woman’s right to abortion. Although he has boasted about giving many a woman a chance to serve in his operations, it is also has become clear that he sees them as objects incapable of truly competing in the male-controlled world. Although the press has been quite quiet about it, there are rumors that he raped a 13-year girl.
Our new—my new president—would take away affordable health care and “reconsider” social security. He is a man who, apparently, believes that if we have nuclear weapons we should use them, that only he can solve world crises such as the rise of ISIS and other international terrorist groups. He wants to return us to water-boarding terrorist suspects and restore other inhumane methods of torture. He knows more than the generals, he proclaims—although it’s been clear all along that he knows very little about international politics, and that, in fact, he knows very little about American politics except for his great displays of bluster. It may be that this president has never read a book—except, perhaps, for his own, written by others.
Several newspaper journalists have repeatedly described this new President as the least self-reflective person they have ever encountered. In his hate of the media he has banned journalists and entire newspapers criticizing him from attending his conferences and even public gatherings.
Trump is not a man who truly believes in global warming, and we can surely fear that he will not support further attempts at working against environmental problems in our country or elsewhere.
He has denigrated nearly all his Republican opponents, and continually mocked others for illness or any other disability. In his business affairs he has shown that he is racially bigoted, and has, in this campaign, attracted—without rejecting—the worst of racists, including members of the Klu Klux Klan. It is important to recall that he, personally, led the “birther” movement in an attempt to disqualify the black President, Obama, and then, tried to pin that viewpoint on Hillary Clinton. Many of his statements have given evidence of strong anti-Semitic sentiments. His own religious convictions are scanty at best, relating primarily to the “Power of Positive Thinking” tenants of The Reformed Church in America touted by Norman Vincent Peale.
Although he claims to be a wildly successful business man, it is also apparent that numerous of his business endeavors have been poorly managed and fell into bankruptcy. He is currently facing charges, in fact, for having defrauded mostly poor people in connection with his “Trump College,” a made-up institution that was neither a true educational system nor actually disseminated any knowledge to the so-called students Trump might have been able to provide. He has sued and been sued by more people than any President in our history.
As Harry Belafonte astutely wrote in yesterday’s The New York Times, Mr. Trump argues for “making America great again,” without really even trying to comprehend what America is, or what he might truly make greater, “reducing all the complexity of the American experience to a vague greatness…a promise that we will return to ‘winning’ without ever spelling out what we will win.”
Mr. Trump has shown time and again that, in his self-centric world view, he is a borderline sociopath, if not worse. Esteemed commentator, Fareed Zakaria, has described our new President as a “cancer on democracy.
Today, I now live in a country where basically the uneducated decided for and against the better educated citizenry. Certainly the very fact that they have been left uneducated and are permanently angry about their denigrated conditions ought to have been taken into better account by the left and even the more moderate of our voters. Historically, we know that it was precisely such rich-poor, educated-uneducated, urban-rural dichotomies that helped contribute to the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Hitler’s fascism in the mid-20th century. And it is sad that we never remembered that fact. But now, I am terrified by what lies ahead.
Yesterday, many journalists spoke of healing, but now the wounds have been so completely revealed. As Dana Bash reported on CNN soon after I finished this piece, Trump has ripped off the Band-Aid of American politics. Now we must face the fact that the infection may possibly kill us.
Los Angeles, November 9, 2016