Who To Blame?
On my way home a few days ago, I noticed a bumper sticker on the back of a burgundy jeep near my rural home. “SHOOT Your local heroin dealer” it declared. When I walked in my front door, my 14 year old child ran up to me immediately, brandishing their phone with photo of said sticker and said, “Hey mom, can I show you something?” “What, the bumper sticker on the jeep down the street?” “Yeah…I posted it on Facebook…” they said “Of course you did.” I replied.
This bumper sticker may seem benign to you, but to me it is an obvious threat of violence and it caused discussions in our house for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, because I have made it known to my kids, that EVERY life is worthy of respect, regardless of behavior or occupation. This may be an unpopular opinion, but it’s a value I hold close.
My kid actually asked me; “If it’s ok to say “SHOOT the Heroin dealer” can I then make a t-shirt saying “Shoot all the priests” since there is a history of sexual abuse in the churches and all the harm that churches have caused?” My children are familiar with a variety of ways the church has utilized their power to harm others; and the discussion that followed is a topic for another article. But certainly if such a t-shirt was made there would be a back lash of “Not ALL Priests” of course not, but my kid had a valid point. If we make any threat of violence acceptable then where do we draw the line? And who gets to judge who’s worthy of a death threat?
The truth is NO ONE deserves to be threatened with violence; PERIOD. There is actually a law against it in Canada:
But I’m certain there won’t be any court cases soon since no heroin dealer is waltzing into a station to file a complaint.
Statements such as these however, can be reasons why someone active in their addiction may not seek help. How eager do you think people would be to seek support, if they believe those in their community would rather see them dead then get help?
I’ve supported people with substance abuse disorder for almost 20 years, in a variety of capacities, and the only thing I’ve ever seen work, EVER, is an accepting and loving environment where they can be completely accepted for who they are; within a community where the people are open to hearing what happened to them which caused them to want to use drugs in the first place.
There are many studies and scientific data to back this up. The work of such doctors as Gabor Mate and Bruce Alexander are just two easy references; https://www.brucekalexander.com/ https://drgabormate.com/ these two doctors have years of research and experience identifying that compassion not judgement is the solution to substance abuse disorder.
But I’m curious, to those who agree with the bumper sticker, when you hear of a drinking and driving accident do you then blame the bartender or maybe the clerk at the Liquor store or the cashier at the Beer store for the accident? Seriously, I’m asking. Because if it is the dealer we blame for the heroin overdose it stands to reason that we blame the distributor of the alcohol. Perhaps you’re not comfortable blaming the clerk or cashier, as they’re just doing their legit jobs, then maybe it’s really the government we need to blame, as they are the actual distributors of the legally controlled substance?
Just a something to ponder….
Since I’m such a curious individual I did some research on the bumper sticker and its origins. Thanks to my kids Facebook post, a friend offered a link to a brief 3 minute video of a man who uses the term “Shoot your local heroin dealer” in a war against local drug dealers. https://www.hipdaily.com/pa-dad-declares-war-on-heroin-dealers-with-the-slogan-shoot-your-local-heroin-dealer/ This led me to an episode of the Inside Edition, and an article from the NY times, and down the internet rabbit hole I went.
John Cramsey, unfortunately lost his 20 something year old daughter to a heroin overdose. This caused him to become vengefully angry and start vigilante efforts against drug dealers. He apparently attempted on more than one occasion to save active addicts and help them start on the road to recovery. During one of these attempts he and 2 others were arrested when the police found firearms and marijuana in his vehicle. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/nyregion/guns-holland-tunnel-john-cramsey-pleads-guilty.html
This man lost a child and that sucks. I watched a few videos and read a handful of articles about him and his experience, and I have a ton of empathy for him. I understand where the anger comes from, and how that spurred his desire for a personal mission to minimize the damage of drug overdose; but anger doesn’t need to equate violence.
With further research I discovered that his ex-wife identifies him as an absent father and had no relationship of any substance with his daughter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxfTft7EcCw
From this video and my knowledge and experience with absent fathers and neglectful parenting, it didn’t surprise me that Alexandria Cramsey ended up using opioids. I would speculate that she may have experienced some neglect with an absent potentially abusive father.
Cramsey’s “Shoot your local heroin dealer” campaign started in 2016, just months after his daughter’s death, it begun, in my opinion, due to misdirected grief. I’d be devastated as well if I lost a child to a drug overdose, this is reasonable, and I imagine just as reasonable for grief to come out as anger. John decided to turn his anger towards the drug dealers; certainly likely culprits.
However, it may serve him better to look at his own behavior and what influence he may have had in his daughter developing a drug habit rather than allowing his grief to turn into violent slogans.
According to the Adverse Childhood Experience Study, the fact that he was a neglectful parent had an impact on his daughter’s potential of becoming someone with substance abuse disorder. The ACE Study is a test that assess an individual’s traumatic childhood experiences, and attributes the more traumatic experiences a person has when young the higher the likelihood of a large array of ailments including heart disease, cancer and substance abuse.
For more information on ACE : https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/acestudy/index.html
There are many factors at play for someone to develop a substance abuse disorder, and an abusive or absent parent is only one, so please don’t misunderstand this commentary as me pointing the finger at all the parents out there who’s kids struggle with addiction. Not at all, what I am suggesting is that if we find ourselves in such a state of grief that we are lashing out in threats of violence perhaps we need to stop and turn the attention back on ourselves.
No one is immune to substance abuse disorder; it affects about 6 million Canadians a year according to stats Canada, and includes a large array of substances, including tobacco and alcohol.
My point in this rant is that we can be as angry as we want at the substances or even the dealers of the substances, including the government, but it’s not helping the situation any.
- would help is an understanding of why people use drugs to excess and compassion and support in trying to stop. Just to be clear, I’m not angry at John Cramsey and I certainly hold no vengeance against the person who so proudly displayed the bumper sticker; I understand and empathize with their anger.
Perhaps, if I see that vehicle again, I’ll just slip the card of a good therapist onto his windshield.