By R Carter
To borrow a term from Battlestar Galactica, you know what I mean. I’m a native Oklahoman and lived there most of my life up until about three years ago, so I feel I have some latitude here to voice an opinion.
Back in the 80’s when someone got into trouble with drugs or alcohol, they were accused of having a lack of personal constitution or no will power and Nancy Reagan’s campaign of Just Say No, was a big deal. Clearly back then, the idea of personal responsibility and accountability was very much on people’s mind. It used to be, you have a disease, the disease of addiction and you have to learn to accept that for the rest of your life or face a relapse. The choice was yours, there was no one else to blame, you had to be personally accountable for all your choices and actions.
The fact that there were liquor stores and bars on practically every corner and buying crack, meth or heroin was as easy as buying beer for a minor, had nothing to do with anything. You were personally responsible for getting yourself in the bind you were in and only you; could get yourself out. People in recovery heard this from everyone, from their treatment counselors to the ideological rhetoric spewed out by talk radio shows, it was this way everywhere.
It’s now forty years later and the concept of personal choice and responsibility with regards to drugs and alcohol seems to have evaporated. At least it has for those who have been diagnosed with that disease. Having retired from healthcare, I’m not as close to those in recovery circles as I was then, but from where I sit today, I don’t see a whole lot of conversation around taking personal responsibility for personal choices.
What I do see is a lot of people who are “Not” recovering from an addiction making claims that those who produce and sell such substances are somehow responsible for everyone who’s ever abused or become addicted. This guilt by proxy goes on to say that those producers should pay those who are “Not” recovering from an addiction, to make their lives better for the inconvenience they’ve had to endure. It’s not as if those who are asking for this money have personally lost anything, it’s just been a big inconvenience for them. And oh by the way, they are doing this for the citizens of their state, as if the average citizen will actually see any of that money.
Take for example the Johnson and Johnson lawsuit. J&J contributed less than 1% of the drugs which have been cited as causing the opioid crisis in Oklahoma. J&J manufactured Duragesic Patches, which is Fentanyl in a rubbing alcohol based jelly, applied to the skin through a plastic patch. You wear these patches for 3 days, so they are not exactly a drug which has abuse potential. Yet a judge in Oklahoma decided J&J needed to pay half a billion dollars for the 1% of inconvenience Oklahoma has suffered from that product.
The charge against J&J was for being a public nuisance, which if you’re an individual, is equivalent to jaywalking. So imagine being fined $50,000 for jaywalking, does that sound like justice to you? What happened to let the punishment fit the crime? To me it sounds like robbery, with a State Attorney General playing off the perception of a problem that really hasn’t been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. And isn’t that the standard in a court of law, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?
And that’s just it. Neither the Federal government nor any State Government has been able to definitively connect the dots between prescription opiates and the number of overdose deaths. There is tantalizing hints here and there, but the way this country keeps records on OD deaths, it’s impossible to prove. See my four part series on How Prescription Opiate Overdose Data is Collected. So J&J was convicted on a charge of being a public nuisance with circumstantial evidence and everyone seems to be OK with this.
It seems like we are less of a country built on the rule of law and more like tribal groups with shared ideological perspectives. Maybe the J&J trial should have been held in a State other than the one which was suing them. Does anyone really think a judge from Oklahoma could be unbiased in such a case? Do you think the victim of an alleged crime could rule justly if passing judgement on the one who they alleged victimized them? Ha! Talk about screwed up, this was a joke from the beginning.
To hell with the law, it’s just another damned inconvenience. And if you don’t agree with our perspective, we’re going to kick your ass and show you who’s boss anyway. We even talk that way now; our conversations are laced with military terms as if everyone who disagrees with us is the enemy.
To say I’m worried about our country is an understatement. When standing with our tribe we publically strain at gnats while in private we will swallow the whole cow. Our God is profit and from our pulpits we proclaim a gospel of prosperity, while selling our souls for far less. I often wonder if the generation in power even knows what it’s like to be touched by a power greater than themselves? That something that lets you know you are not alone in the universe, that we are all somehow connected that each of us is necessary for the whole.
But who am I? I’m just that old man that I myself in my twenties scoffed at, for being nothing but an old man. Gone is the spunk and vinegar that made me feel invincible and in its place is simply the wisdom of having paid the price for my many failures and a desire to pass that knowledge along so others may avoid the same mistakes. If only they would.