It’s sad, bordering on disturbing, to read the vindictiveness of some of our population. You know, when the news of each overdose death is greeted by applause rather than condolences. For some reason, there exists a mindset among some that those people whose misadventures lead them to drug use are beyond redemption, of no current or future use to society.
Overdose deaths happen to “other people”. When it’s just a blurb in a news article, without anything to go on but a victims face and the simple bio that some traumatized family member put together, onlookers too often let their prejudices get the best of them.
One reason that it’s so difficult to generate sympathy for these unfortunate deaths is that people don’t exactly promote their struggles with drug use, heroin use in particular, for good reasons. Aside from scorn, drug users are essentially forced off the grid. It’s not easy to stand up and be counted when what’s in your pocket is grounds for a felony conviction, which could then be used to deprive you of work, a place to live, or, in the age of Google and Facebook, ostricization by anyone who hears wind of your situation.
Rather than struggle to get sympathy for people who are now, lets see how applying the “no second chance” rule would work if applied to people we all “know”.
Obviously, the world would lack the music of not just the Rolling Stones, but Aerosmith, Ray Charles and Miles Davis. Samuel L. Jackson would be nowhere to be found, as he only came into his own as an actor after seeking treatment for heroin and cocaine addiction when he was nearly 40 years old. Dennis Hopper, too, is on this list.
We’d also have to do without the comedy of Russell Brand, as well as the food and adventures that Anthony Bourdain serves up. Josh Brolin, who probably represents the more typical case, having tried the drug when he was young, and then decided it was not for him, but again, under the “you deserve what you get” mentality, he too, might not be with us.
This is only the shortest list of people who evidently have no value to society. If we erase the line that separates heroin from prescription painkillers, then we would have to do without Friends’ co-star Matthew Perry and footballer Brett Favre. I’m no fan of Rush Limbaugh, but I certainly wouldn’t wish death upon him solely because he, too, developed an appetite for painkillers. Did Howard Hughes have nothing to contribute to society?
What about who we have lost? Among the tens of thousands of nameless people who will mostly be forgotten by all but their friends and family, has society been benefited from untimely losses of Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman? What about Elvis Presley before them?
I hope even if we can not agree that we’ve all benefited by each of these peoples contributions to society, we can at least agree that they all deserved having second, third and even fourth chances at life. And if we can agree to that, then hopefully we can agree that we all suffer from the losses of the thousands of others whom we might never hear of.