Tons of opportunities for harm reduction

Dear President Biden,

A fairly quick perusal of various articles in the WP this morning doesn’t just suggest, it definitively demonstrates that there are vast urgent opportunities to apply the harm reduction lens to our collective and individual choices. These opportunities run the gamut from police outside of Minneapolis having shot and killed 20 year-old Dante Wright yesterday when he was on his way to wash his car to the thousands of immigrants from Central America seeking asylum and being remanded to Mexico to the recent finding that spanking children is the dominant driver of their later misbehavior rather than genetics

Of course there’s more. What about Guy Frank who spent 20 years in prison after stealing two shirts because of the “three strikes, you’re out” legislation even though none of his offenses were violent and most, including the theft of the two shirts, are now considered misdemeanors rather than felonies? And what about the young woman (presumably young White woman since she was apprehended with no drama and her race wasn’t mentioned) who was driving while under the influence of potent THC and “T salts,” also known as “bath salts” (the active ingredient is methylenedioxypyrovalerone or MDPV, which is associated with long-lasting paranoia and hallucinations) when she swerved onto the sidewalk and killed NY Federal Judge Sandra Feuerstein in Florida? In the latter case, I would argue that there is no percentage in trying to use T salts moderately – they need to just be avoided altogether. Then there’s the school shooting in Tennessee. This is only the tip of the iceberg from just one day.

There are so dang many opportunities for us to reduce harm we’d probably end up tripping over each other if we decided to seriously address even a tenth of them. But how about it? We could figure out a way to manage all that harm reduction – I’m sure of it.

Here’s an example of a harm reduction strategy that our city is putting into place that’s pretty good: crews are grinding down the trip-ridges in the sidewalks. It’ll probably take a hundred years to get to all of the messed up sidewalks in town, but there’s definitely not money to replace all the shitty sidewalks so it’s nice that something useful is finally being done about some of them. Yes, there are trip-ridges that are too cliff-like to grind down, but where the work has happened the walking experience is greatly improved. It’s a small thing and lord knows Seattle has ginormous issues where harm reduction is most definitely not happening (our housing stock is priced sky high and there are thousands of people living on the streets and our police force is scary and needs to be defunded to name but two of our big issues), but it’s a tangible example of a harm reduction strategy that is genuinely helpful.

It would be lovely to be able to feel confident that with so many opportunities for harm reduction that in five, ten years we will be able to look back and point to a bunch of tangible harm reduction accomplishments, like so many Seattle city blocks with the sidewalk trip-ridges ground down. We’ll see. Maybe. But I think we need an actual Truth and Reconciliation process around systemic racism and misogyny before we can really get down to what’s what and make true headway on reducing harm. So, no breath holding going on here….

May we all be safe from harm.
May we be willing to be real about our harmful ways, past and present.
May we collectively redefine strength so that we can all be healthy and well.
May we accept that our nihilism is only serving the 1%.

Tracy Simpson

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