Thursday, January 21, 2016

Compassion, Drug Abuse, and Violence

This morning, listening to news coverage of how different the Republican candidates of today sound from Republicans of the past as it relates to drug addiction has me thinking and wanting to write. (My point here is about compassion and drug abuse, not so much politics.)

The coverage compared comments made by President Bush (1) and Jeb Bush, the candidate, as well as Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina. The President, in the 1990s, was very hard core about convicting and imprisoning drug offenders. He sought an additional $1B+ in funds to build more courts and prisons. The candidates today, however, all have very personal experience with drug addition affecting family and friends.

The result is compassion. Personal experience leads to compassion. That old saying "we want mercy for ourselves and justice for others" came to mind.

When drug abuse and addiction was not hitting very close to home for the politicians of decades past, it was much easier to call for harsh treatment. I haven't gone back and checked the record, but I think it is safe to bet this approach was common across the political spectrum.

Now that drug abuse has become epidemic across the socioeconomic and geographic spectrum, the conversation is changing. I am glad it is changing.

But it leaves me thinking about the importance of compassion, and relationship. It also leaves me thinking about the power of human denial.

I am a child of the 1970s & 1980s and a young adult of the 1990s. I thought of the movie Boyz in the Hood (1991). Near the end of the movie, after the violence of the inner city has been portrayed as the subject of the movie, is this scene. Ice Cube and Cuba Gooding Jr. are sitting on a porch after the character portrayed by Ice Cube looses his brother to drug related gun violence. He turns on the news the next day, and sees coverage discussing what a violent world this is. All of the coverage is about foreign locales. No coverage of his brother can be found. No mention of the hood. Ice Cube laments "Either they don't know, don't show, or don't care."

That has always stayed with me. I am the product of an upper middle class upbringing, with no personal knowledge of violence or drugs in inner cities.

I am also a disciple of Jesus Christ. By the grace of God, compassion is one of the spiritual gifts God gives. By the grace of God, I haven't needed a personal experience with addiction and violence to believe deeply in the need for a compassionate, humane approach.

Denial is also a choice, the product of free will. So often, our human response is to erect walls of denial around issues that don't personally touch us. We allow compassion fatigue to overtake God given compassion.

I am glad that the walls of denial are coming down around the issue of drug addiction. I am sad that for the most part, it requires personal experience to make this happen. Compassion could do this instead, if we would allow God to do this work in us.

May it be so.

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Colossians 3:12New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)