Recent decades have witnessed calls for the cultural and political mobilization of people in addiction recovery as well as the subsequent rise of a new recovery advocacy movement in the U.S. and internationally. Beyond my efforts to document the history of this movement and to offer broad U.S. policy guidance, I have tried to remain silent on partisan political issues, as the constituencies that make up this movement and my readership span a rainbow of political viewpoints. However, there are limits to such silence.
Today, I am troubled by potential shifts in national drug policy and its effects on individuals and families experiencing and recovering from addiction and its related problems. Troubling are the invisibility (not even a functioning website), lack of leadership, and potential elimination of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy--all while the opioid epidemic continues to lay bodies at the nation's doorstep. Troubling are efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, whose provisions facilitated the growing integration of addiction treatment and primary health care in the U.S. Troubling is the appointment of another presidential study commission while virtually ignoring the landmark Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health prepared by the nation's leading addiction experts and released by the Surgeon General in 2016 shortly before his dismissal by the new administration. Troubling is a new Attorney General of the United States who seems enamored by the heady drug wars of the 1980s and 1990s that produced the largest wave of mass incarceration of addicts (and people of color) in U.S. history.
These potential concerns, all that may be resolved via future developments, pale in comparison to what has unfolded in communications between the U.S. President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. By way of background, President Duterte has likened himself to Hitler and expressed his desire and intent to "slaughter" his country's three million drug addicts. To date, his violence-inciting rhetoric and policies are directly responsible for the extra judicial killing of more than 7,000 drug personalities and the related deaths of bystanders (including children) during hundreds off anti-drug raids and attacks by government-sanctioned vigilante groups.
Following a highly criticized initial call between the two presidents, President Duterte reported "He was quite sensitive to our war on drugs and he wishes me well in my campaign and said that we are doing, as he so put it, 'the right way.'" This past week, President Trump invited President Duterte to visit the White House to discuss the improving relationships between the Philippines and the U.S. Such an invitation should not have been extended, and such a visit should not take place.
The systematic killing of members of any stigmatized group by a government (the very definition of genocide) is morally reprehensible and should be resisted by any and all means necessary. The actions and policies of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte should be publically condemned by all Americans, and President Duterte should not be welcomed by our leaders to walk the halls of the White House.
Evil incubates in the soil of silence. Even facing sure death, non-violent resistance groups like The White Rose* organized to resist the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Perhaps it is time for formation of The Purple Rose--recovery advocates, their allies, and other Americans of conscience who will not passively and silently witness the abomination of President Rodrigo Duterte being warmly embraced by the President of the United States at the entrance to the White House. There is a time for silent reflection and a time for active resistance. The time for resistance has arrived.
*I wish to acknowledge the Florida Repertory Theatre and playwright David Meyers whose provocative play, We will Not Be Silent, brought the inspiring story of Sophie Scholl and The White Rose to my attention.