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|Beyond The Politics Of Addiction||10/16/2003|
Rush Limbaugh dealt himself his own verdict years ago when, in 1995, he passed judgment on closet drug abusers, saying that law enforcement should "find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them, and send them up the river." Most of his audience agreed wholeheartedly with him. My how times have changed!
Now the Al Frankens and John Kerrys of the political left smugly celebrate the revelation of Rush's addiction to prescription pain medication following his painful back surgery. A few seem ready to send him up the river for life, not so much for the cause of justice, but to just shut him up. On the other side, many Republican hardliners have suddenly embraced President Bush's "compassionate conservatism" and stand behind their "Doctor of Democracy", as Rush frequently calls himself.
But Rush's situation, while shocking and saddening, should not serve to further divide us, but rather to unite us behind a common goal: finding a solution to all drug addiction, whether it's in the office suite or on the ghetto street.
Some of President Bush's faith-based initiatives enjoy remarkable success rates when dealing with drug addiction. Teen Challenge, established in 1958 by David Wilkerson, is the oldest, largest and most successful program of its kind in the world. More than 150 centers in the United States and 250 centers worldwide offer an array of services to the community, many times free of charge. Their drug prevention and drug treatment programs reach out to people where they live, including juvenile halls, jails, and prisons. They teach criminals and drug addicts how to completely turn their lives around.
Yet many people place partisanship and religious bias above real results. Because faith is a part of Teen Challenge, some would exclude them from consideration when it comes to funding. Others would require them to recant their faith for money -- something they would never consider. So our prejudices and politics prevail over the real needs of those entangled in addiction.
Rush will face the consequences of his crime and hopefully justice will be blind to his celebrity. But with Rush, as with any addict, we should punish for correction, not destruction. Redemption must be the goal. Addicts need mercy and understanding even as they face the consequences of the law.
But instead of crucifying Rush or rallying around him to protect our cause, we must use the occasion to raise awareness about the issue and seek long-term solutions. We must join hearts, heads and hands to alleviate the pain and suffering of our fellow man. We must find ways to implement programs that have proven themselves to be effective. It can be done. For those in need, it must be done.