The merchants of misery

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I became angry last week. Really, really angry. That’s unusual for me. Over the years I have tried to learn what is important and what is not, in what to invest emotional energy and when not, and what is worth my anger and what is not. But a headline in local newspapers caught me off guard.

The headline that captured my attention was this: “Dead Baby Tests Positive for Meth; Mom Charged.”

Oddly, I’m not angry at the mother. Truth be told, I feel sorry for her. No one ever starts out to be a drug addict, much less a meth addict — which may be the worst addiction of all. The 22-year-old mother is going to face the legal system and I don’t expect her to find much mercy there. Her 4-month-old infant daughter is, after all, dead.

Reports indicate that the baby “tested positive for a substantial amount of methamphetamine in her system …” Two other children also tested positive for meth and were removed and are in the custody of the state. The kids, ages 2 and 4, were, according to law enforcement officials, “covered in marks and bruises.” Meth was found in the bed where the mother and children slept.

I have had way more experience with drug addiction and the misery that it spawns than I would wish on anybody. I have seen lives destroyed, families obliterated, children neglected and abused, and I have seen people die. My anger is not toward the drug addict whom I see as ultimately stupid. After all, that first hit, or toke, or whatever one took, was a choice. It was a stupid choice and led to years of wasted potential and wrecked lives.

No, I reserve my anger for the self-centered, callous, predators that sell the drugs that ruins lives and destroys families and kills babies.

There is a baby girl, 4 months old, who will never have any hope or life or dreams or future because, somewhere, a predator sold meth to her addicted mother and her life was stripped from her. And it happens every day, everywhere in America, over and over again.

There are a great many very good people working hard to rescue addicts from their dilemma. Rescue missions, rehab programs, faith-based in-house ministries are among those fighting the good fight. Progressive and enlightened jurisdictions, such as Coweta County, Ga., have established drug courts and veteran’s courts that are trying to deal with the victim-addicts and set them on a course for a restored and renewed life.

But it takes more. Law enforcement is leading a valiant effort to root out and incarcerate those who profit from this misery. In my area, almost every week, local law enforcement announces that a number of arrests have been made and that dealers and traffickers have been jailed. They have my full support and endorsement.

But the public needs a new attitude. Drug marketers are not people just trying to eke out a living. These people are not out to help people “have a good time.” They are in the business of making enormous sums of money by preying on pitiful people whose lives they care not one thing about.

Some people argue that marijuana is no worse than alcohol. Well, the same cannot be said about cocaine, heroin, crack, meth, and a host of other poisons. In this society, when a person kills a number of people, as in Oregon recently, the authorities go in to end his actions.

Drug dealers, whether they ever pulled a trigger or not, are dispensers of mass misery, and some of them are killers, just as surely as if they had shot this baby in the head.

The public needs to speak up and demand that these merchants of misery be jailed. Now. Before another baby dies.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.