If President Trump had his way, I think he would have liked to execute a drug dealer on that New Hampshire stage Monday afternoon.
Trump was announcing his long-awaited plan to combat the opioid crisis, but it was clear where his priorities lay.
He could have spent 45 minutes talking about the more promising proposals in his plan (yes, I was as surprised as you, but there were some that found their way in): expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, cutting back on prescribing opioids, and flooding the country with the overdose-reversal spray naloxone.
But discussing lifesaving, evidence-based solutions is boring. That does nothing for the crowd. That doesn’t excite the base. Or, apparently, our president. When he pulled his Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar, to the stage Monday, the guy blurted a reference to medication-assisted treatment into the microphone as if he were crashing the school principal’s speech before getting escorted out of the gym. He knew he had only seconds to make his point.
No, what we need is to start putting drug dealers to death.
That’s what Trump talked about most, the proposal he’s clearly most enamored with, because it matches the image he has of himself: a strongman, a tough guy, like his buddy Rodrigo Duterte, who, as president of the Philippines, has literally overseen the extrajudicial murders of thousands of drug dealers and users. “Some of these countries where they don’t play games … they don’t have a drug problem,” the 45th president of the United States said, to applause.
This is where we are now. We’re a year into his administration, and six months since his opioid task force recommended solutions that could save lives, and nothing’s changed.
The plan’s more of a memo, really. It mentions no funding mechanisms, and in many cases, no clear path to completing these initiatives.
How can a person maintain hope, especially in this city with 1,200 dead in the last year, that this administration will begin to make a dent in the crisis, because even when some of his underlings say the right things, the man at the helm is a megalomaniac moron who cares only about the appearance of strength?
It’s especially insulting to hear that kind of talk in Philly, a not-so-shining example of exactly why we should never have another war on drugs. Swaths of the city were abandoned during the crack epidemic and generations of young men were locked up at the drop of a hat, a stain on our history we’re only beginning to address.
And on top of that, Trump talks about defunding us as punishment for our “sanctuary city” status, blaming immigrants in cities like Philly for the spread of fentanyl.
On Monday, the White House sent out a list of what the administration has done so far to combat the crisis. Philly officials said they’ve seen almost no effect.
Our president has shown utter disdain for the kind of difficult work it will take to solve this crisis. He’s bored by his own task force, while our city is pursuing cutting-edge, lifesaving solutions, like safe injection sites and other harm-reduction measures.
Doing the right thing is an uphill battle. You could see it at a community meeting Monday night in the Northeast that deteriorated into shouts amid residents’ fears that a safe injection site would land in their backyard. The debilitating perceptions fueled by the war on drugs linger still: the stigma and shame that surround drug use. It’s a lot to ask the average person to unlearn those ideas. It shouldn’t be a lot to ask of our president. But Trump is Trump.
Philly is going to have to go it alone, just as we have learned to do in the age of Trump. We have to engage one another. We have to push forward with our plan to save lives, and we have to convince more people that it’s the right thing to do. And we have to do it in spite of this man, this embarrassment, who boasts about stemming the deaths with more death.