That’ll Teach ’em

That’ll Teach ’em

Sometimes it’s hard not to hate. The horrid irony of hating haters.

States are passing laws that prohibit cities from opening safe injection sites for users of illegal drugs. Vandals slash water bottles that people leave in the desert Southwest for desperate migrants. Public policy or private action – they both say the same thing: You’ll learn your lesson when you’re fucking dead.

You can write off some opposition to safe injection sites as ignorance. You say “using drugs” and people freak out about their neighborhood, their kids, their safety. Most Americans don’t have the time or interest to dig into the details and evidence around much of anything that doesn’t directly impact their day to day actions or finances. But when politicians (Republicans and Democrats) whose job it is to understand the consequences of the laws they choose to pass choose to ignore the facts, that says to me that they don’t give a fuck or they have chosen to represent the cult of those who don’t give a fuck about people in order to get votes. And to that I say, Fuck Them. To remove a lifeline for addicted people in the midst of a national crisis in which, according to the latest data available, 290 people are dying every day is about as unethical as it gets. Not only do safe, supervised drug use centers keep people from dying, they provide a resource in which many people eventually choose to stop using. But only if they live. Perhaps even worse (it’s hard to rank atrocities), Idaho is restricting funding for Narcan, a drug whose sole purpose is to reverse drug overdoses and prevent people from dying. How can you just not give a shit about people dying unnatural deaths?

Look, I can understand that people don’t get drug addicts. There are probably some people left, somewhere, somehow, who have never known (or admitted that they know) someone with an addiction. But I really thought that things might turn around once the overdose deaths became overwhelmingly, undeniably White. We certainly didn’t go after prosecuting opiate addicts the way we did crack users in the 80s. Maybe we’d learned our lesson. But no. We still consider death a reasonable lesson plan, a responsible way to treat a condition that literally changes your brain. We, some of us, would rather that people die than be provided a safe place to use, or a safe way to recover from unregulated drugs that are more dangerous than ever.

Slashing water bottles in the desert comes out of the same philosophy. You shouldn’t come here without explicit permission, so you should die here. No matter if you’re running from the threat of death, torture, rape, or being forced to kill, torture, or rape others. No matter if you’re a child or a grandmother. We will teach you how to obey “the law” if you have to die to learn it.

I’ve othered people myself. I started hanging out at the Gathering Place because I realized I was othering homeless folks. Not in a way that made me wish them harm, but in a way that nonetheless diminished their humanity. I didn’t like that, so I decided to confront my bullshit by facing reality.

I know not everyone has the time for self-analysis and volunteering that I do. When I cut past the disgust, I have to see these demonic actions as symptoms of a mindset from which almost all of us suffer to one degree or another: the idea that we are separate, isolated individuals or groups, with no impact on the lives of each other. If we could truly accept our interdependence, our Oneness, our mutuality as human beings, at least, though the connection with other living beings is no less crucial, then “inhumane” policies like these would never pass, they would never even be suggested. How do we learn to see our fellow beings as a mirror to ourselves?