ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: WHAT DO WE ASPIRE TO?

By James M. Decker 

Editor’s note: This is the sixth part in my series on drugs and addiction in our communities. If you have not read the first five parts (“Real Problems, Our Problems,” “They Are Us,” “Solutions, But What Solutions?” “Shine a Light Into the Darkness” and “A Shining City on a Hill,”), I encourage you to do so.

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As I prepare to wrap up this series on drugs and addiction in our communities (for now), I was struck by these questions: what do we aspire to? What do we want our communities to be?

In this series of essays, I hope that I have shed some light on the vague topic of the “opioid crisis” that we hear about in the news. I also hope that I have brought you some harsh but necessary truth, that addiction is not an abstract idea that is the purview of hardened criminals in far-away cities. It is very real and affecting people in our communities, affecting folks in our communities who we might never encounter and those who we meet every single day.

If ridding our communities of addiction was easy, someone would have done it a long time ago. Simply put, this is a hard, daunting task. Anyone who has dealt with addiction or addicts can tell you about the vicious pull that addiction puts on a person and the difficulties of pulling them away from it, which is often a lifelong challenge. Moreover, there are people, maybe local and maybe not, who benefit financially from the addictions of others. Those who put a stop to this money tree are likely to be met with fierce resistance.

But again, I ask: what do we aspire to? What do we want our communities to be? Are we comfortable with leaving our friends, family, and neighbors to struggle without offering assistance? Are we like the priest and the Levite who saw the man beaten and stripped by robbers, who passed him by on the other side of the road, or are we like the Good Samaritan, who, despite being subject to some deep-seated prejudices himself, took pity on the injured man and cared for him?

To those who are profiteering off the misery, suffering, and self-destruction of others, are we to let them continue, because it might be unpleasant to stop them, or are we to take a page from Jesus when he encountered the profiteers in the temple, and shall we cleanse our house and eliminate the den of robbers?

If we truly want our city to be that shining city on a hill, we have to face these harsh realities. That shining city is attainable, but it’s not easy. Nothing worth achieving ever was easy, though. Our alternative is to stand aside and do nothing—the job is too hard, there’s too much to be done, and it might get sticky.

So, in conclusion, what do we aspire to? What do we want our communities to be? Are we comfortable with standing aside and letting the status quo continue? If we do, I don’t care how hard it is, we become complicit in our inaction.

As for me, I want something better. If we want that shining city on a hill, it’s time to get started. To borrow a phrase I have used before in this space, from one of Stamford’s greatest native sons, Ambassador Robert Strauss:

IT CAN BE DONE.

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James Decker is a lawyer, farmer, and mayor in Stamford, Texas, and the creator of the forthcoming “West of 98” podcast and website. He may be contacted through Facebook at facebook.com/james.decker. Listen to our podcast interview with James here.

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