Opinion: Patriotism means loving your country enough to call her to a higher standard, says Massena resident
Friday, October 4, 2019 - 7:53 am

It saddens me that anyone would seriously take issue with "Treatment of Opioid Addiction is Example of White Privilege," which appeared in the Sept. 21-27 issue of North Country This Week, and yet, "Do not make addiction an issue about race," which appeared in the Sept. 28-Oct. 4 issue, does exactly that.

First, a few factual corrections: Susceptibility to addiction, and not addiction itself, is genetically determined. Many people with a family history of addiction can and do use a variety of evidence-based skills to not fall prey to the tragedies often suffered by their ancestors. Genetic vulnerability is not destiny.

Moreover, the author of the first letter sounds neither "bitter" nor "pathetic" nor "divisive" to me. Instead, she used the irrefutably stark difference in responses (local, state, and federal), to addiction among minorities and addiction among whites, to provide a powerful example of white privilege. Scientific advances notwithstanding, the persistent baseless assumption of moral failing and the resulting criminalization of addiction -- instead of compassionate responses to people with a serious illness -- drove policy and resulted in countless lives wasted in prison.

The original author properly celebrated the recent shift to prevention and evidence-based treatment. Recognizing the shift, i.e., recognizing the history, is crucial, and I laud her for doing so.

Further, telling a fellow American to "return to the country you identify with" is a racist trope unworthy of an educated adult.

As the late George McGovern reminded us, "The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher standard."

Scott Bennett, LICSW (MA), BCD