Drugs, guns and politics

Pick your poison.

I got a taste of all three last night and am craving more, fear the worst, but hope for the best.  My drug of choice for the last 35 years has been the high I get from the adrenaline pumping in my veins when the shit hits the fan.  Breaking news, technical difficulties, innovation and moments of enlightenment mix together in a physical and cerebral intoxication.  It’s why I still chase that high every day.

 Working an assignment, at the Ramada, where I have memories that span decades, I listened to our governor conduct one of his town hall meetings.  Say what you want about the guy, but you have to give him credit for speaking his mind, taking punches, punching back and standing up for what he believes.  He needs some upgrades on his verbal filter, and we don’t see eye to eye on many issues, but I do agree with him on a few things he brought up last night.  Especially when talking about the heroin crisis, and whatever the next drug du jour will be.  Everyone with children is afraid. Those who have lost good kids who battled drug addiction can relate.  It is a growing problem that won’t go away unless we take drastic measures.

LePage is against equipping law enforcement with life saving drugs for overdoses.  He cited an example of a Deering High School student that has overdosed three times, but was saved with the antidote.  The third time, he was able to go back to class.  From a high that nearly caused him to die, to being able to go back to class in a matter of minutes.  What lesson does that teach.  It is a reflection of our political and judicial climate. Drastic changes are in order.

LePage wants to bring back the death penalty.  I’m not so sure that is the answer, but am on the fence with this one.  However, he did touch on something that makes a lot of sense to me.  If somebody almost dies because of a drug overdose, they need serious help.  And there is not a substantive system in place to deal with this and so many other atrocities that are becoming prevalent in society today.  Habitual drunk drivers get off time after time until they get behind the wheel and kill somebody.  Spouses that abuse their mates with little fear of serious consequences.  Repeat offenders that time and again walk away with a slap on the wrist.  But a guy growing too much pot goes to jail for more time than a father that abuses his child? Isn’t this absurd?  There are so many layers of bureaucracy that our legal and justice system has become stagnant and ineffective.  Sweeping changes have to be made.  But how?

Photos from Wednesday night's town hall meeting in Lewiston.

One current example that was touched on last night seems simple to fix on the surface.  LePage vetoed equipping public safety with Narcan (Naxoline) because it gives users a safety net with few consequences.  He points out there is no current working system in place to treat and rehab addicts.  There are plans for a new facility, but it is a drop in the bucket.  Instead of wasting time on so many stupid bills that are sponsored each session, why don’t our elected officials work together drafting meaningful resolutions?  How about: if we equip law enforcement with Narcan with the caveat that when the situation is so dire that it must be administered to save somebody, the addict, no exceptions, is immediately whisked  away to a treatment facility.  Sure there will be complications, failures and lawsuits.  But, it is fare better than bringing them back from the throes of death and simply sent on their way to do it all over again.  Or just let them die? How can we deny a proven life saving tool because of politics.  It seems like a simple answer, but like always, lawyers, lobbyists, and civil rights groups will make it impossible to get anything meaningful enacted.  Our jails, hospitals and state run institutions are not currently equipped to handle treatment required at this time. And it would take forever to write bills, equip facilities and train staff.  So it is used as a political football and leverage on other issues with nothing resolved or enacted in a timely fashion.  I think the political quagmire is part of the reason so many Americans are rallying behind a presidential candidate that scares the crap out of the other sector.  A vast majority of Americans are fed up with the status quo and want drastic change at any cost.  It’s a scary situation no doubt.  There are solutions if our elected officials focus on the real issues and not concern themselves with self preservation and party politics.  Our founding fathers must be rolling in their graves.

I was putting together a gallery of photos from the town hall meeting back in the newsroom when a call came over the scanner that a pharmacy had been robbed by a white male wearing a ski mask with a skull or some type of skeleton on it.  I was having problems uploading the photos to the gallery.  I was looking for a workaround and troubleshooting, but nothing was working.  I used to get frustrated, angry and stressed.  Now I see it as a challenge and excited when I figure something out, but was ready to throw in the towel and go home.  If a technical glitch causes me to miss deadline or the print or online product goes without my photos…..so be it.  If it is FUBAR and not my fault, oh well.  Sometimes I screw up, like last night when I lost a memory card with an assignment on it. That one is on me. But life goes on and today is a new day, with new mountains to climb, or a swamp to wallow in.  It’s my choice.  Over the years it’s become a wicked easy decision.

Everyone in the newsroom was hearing the scanner traffic, but were not sure where the robbery was.  I had picked up enough to figure it was either CVS or Rite Aide on Sabattus Street.  It was raining and dark.  I was not worried, my new camera is awesome in low light, especially if nothing is moving.  The guy was long gone and the cops would be inside for a while interviewing staff and customers.  We were on deadline, so a scene setter from the parking lot would suffice.

Police interview customers and staff at the CVS store on Sabattus Street in Lewiston Wednesday night.

Police interview customers and staff at the CVS store on Sabattus Street in Lewiston Wednesday night.

I took the newsroom laptop and boogied out the door.  LaFlamme was on the way I was told. I won’t embarrass him by telling you he went to the wrong location, but when he finally arrived shortly after me, he ducked out of the rain and into my front seat.  He was impressed that I had created a bucket for the story and photos, and was ready to push the photo and his yet to be written story online.  “How are you connecting to the internet, their WiFi?” asked my intrepid colleague.  He was flabbergasted that my phone hat a built in hot spot that I used to connect to the internet.  We cobbled together what we knew and sent the link to the copydesk for them to check over and publish.

I got home in time to watch the  TV news and log on to my computer to see if our stories of the govenah or robbery had generated any social media traffic.  I opened Facebook and did a quick scroll to catch up on what people were blithering on about.  I de-friended a dear friend that I just could not stand seeing any more photos of what she was cooking for dinner ever night.  Had a laugh at another who posted they were going home because a plane circling downtown frightened him.  But was horrified by the scenario that went through my mind when I read a couple of comments on the pharmacy robbery.  Two guys were boasting about being prepared for just such a thing by always having their gun with them.  I wondered what they would do if they were there.  Would they pull it out only if the robber started shooting, but do nothing if there was no imminent danger.  Or would they try to be a hero and accidentally kill an innocent patron?  The what iff’s started.

My son carries a gun.  I have in the past, but choose not to now.  I believe, and am comforted that there are many out there that are trained, of the right mindset, and able to make rational judgement calls that have and will no doubt save lives and stop crime in the future.  It makes many criminals think twice about pulling out a gun.  However, I am just as afraid to be shot by some knucklehead who thinks he is Dirty Harry or Walker, Texas Ranger.  Can of worms for sure.





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