(BRANDON HANSEN/Managing Editor of the Chewelah Independent)
KOMO recently came out with a striking documentary called “Seattle is Dying” which highlights the homeless and drug issues that city is currently facing. It didn’t take long for the Spokesman-Review to bring out their own “dying” article since the Lilac City has definitely had its fair share of homelessness and drugs.
A crazy itch in me wants to trot out an “Is Chewelah Dying?” article, but that would just be throwing fuel on a fire that doesn’t need to be fanned. There is this weird energy around the topic of homelessness and where our society is headed; it amazes me how people are more apt to complain and proclaim the end of things instead of rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.
Is Seattle dying? No. It has one of the fastest growing populations and economies in the country as does the State of Washington. Now, many of us around here probably aren’t thrilled with the influx of taxes or other issues of population growth. Heck, I remember the traffic on Highway 395 being manageable 15 years ago. Now I feel like that road is akin to something from the movie Death Race. I’ve nearly been run off the road by every manner of Winnebago, even the one from Space Balls.
Does Seattle have a homeless issue? You bet, as would any city center with hundreds of thousands of people. So does Portland. So does <insert large city here>. The problem is we frame homelessness like someday, some pied piper is going to come along with a magical solution and all the homeless people will disappear. It is like eagerly awaiting the day for war to be stricken from our society, no one to get sick and everyone to be rich.
Homelessness is an inherently complex and serious issue. You can’t put a blanket statement on why people are homeless and why something is the way it is unless you’re willing to write several hundreds of pages on it. But we’ve got two camps that are in the mindset of “let them do what they want” and “it’s a scourge of society and they must be eradicated.”
It amazes me how many people say they support the troops and our military but in the very next breath bag on the homeless without realizing that 40,000 homeless people in the U.S. are veterans. We can also go the mental health route, which is something criminally ignored in the U.S. If you ask me, everyone should be in counselling as preventative care. We should be more concerned about the suicide rate in this country, and we have to stop ignoring the mentally ill. More institutions for the mentally ill is greatly needed.
And third, the drug crisis. I don’t think I need to draw a very long line to show how pharmaceutical companies are responsible for the opioid crisis in the country. There’s already been several court cases nationally over it, and the rise in heroin and other heavy drug abuse is disheartening and chilling.
While we will never “solve” our drug problem, the current trajectory we’re going in looks like it’s doing little to put a dent in the issue. I would even go so far as to say our country doesn’t want to solve it since there is plenty of money to be made from it. Our prisons are full, people are getting hooked hard and drug cartels are still making money hand over fist despite our “War on Drugs” since the 1980s. Meanwhile good police officers like the ones in our Chewelah Department are expected to do more with less, sometimes unable to take offenders to jail, only to see them back on the streets and committing crimes.
But… are we dying? By sensationalizing a problem and comparing it to some kind of dark force, we’re doing our own society a disservice. If you focus on the positives of something, things tend to be positive, if you focus on the negatives of something, things tend to fall apart.
Compared to 40, 50, 70, 100, 500 years ago, we are doing fantastic as a society. We’ve never been more free, we’ve never been better when it comes to fighting off diseases, we’ve never had this many people out of poverty, we’ve never been this connected and able to access the entirety of human knowledge with our cell phone.
It’s a false narrative to insist things are horrible in Seattle when, while it does have a homeless problem, it’s a beating economic center.
Same with the advances in Spokane.
By just portraying doom and gloom, you’re presenting to people that the jig is up.
Pack up your bags. Expect Mad Max to become reality at any point.
If we had some smart government policies, actual social movements that helped those in need while preaching self reliance and a myriad of other techniques that could help with the problem and help people.
But right now it seems like we get to the complaining stage of things, but never want to get to the solution part. I’d rather hear people argue over the solution than the problem.
Instead of saying Spokane or Seattle is dying, let’s focus on how we can make things better. Homeless people will probably always be there, but we do need to take a long look as other countries in the world bring thousands out of poverty while the homeless population in the U.S. seems to be growing. This is in a booming economy, too. Stop with the hyperbole, it makes people give up on wanting to help or solving the issue. Hope dies out long before the actual subject or matter at hand dies.