Pubdate: Thu, 23 Aug 2001
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: The Hamilton Spectator 2001
Author: Judi MacLeod


I had just sat down to read my paper after dinner. It was late and I had 
worked a long day. But after reading this Spectator editorial, I was so 
enraged that I had to respond immediately. I am a nurse practitioner at an 
aboriginal health access centre as well as a volunteer with Burlington's 
Miriam Group which provides support to children and families infected and 
affected by HIV/AIDS. I was also on the committee that advocated and 
obtained a needle-exchange program for Halton.

Anyone with knowledge of this subject certainly would not paint such a 
simplistic picture as The Spectator has.

Drug addiction is not a choice that anyone makes. Arriving in that 
"dangerous and disease-ridden alley" does not happen overnight and is a 
complex web -- usually of poverty, abuse, mental illness, and inadequate 
health and social programs. We who are fortunate to have been born to a 
life where we have the opportunity to be educated, to access the health 
care we need, and to have incomes that allow us to live in places that are 
comfortable, clean and healthy, have the responsibility to serve our fellow 
human beings. That is the expectation that comes with privilege.

What The Spectator calls "surrender" is, in fact, compassion. We are all 
equal in the eyes of the creator and that includes "junkies." Maybe, just 
maybe, if we can meet these people halfway, set aside judgment, and focus 
on keeping those who "use" as healthy as possible, true compassion will 
encourage some who are ready to seek healthier lifestyles. In the meantime, 
perhaps we will prevent someone else from succumbing to a fatal or chronic 

It's easy to be "virtuous" when we have the arrogance to be able to 
separate "them" from "us." It's important to our survival as a human race 
that we be humble enough to say: "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

- -- Judi MacLeod, Burlington.
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