I am having several random thoughts this morning. This is what happens when I sleep fairly well, which it seems as though I did that in separate iterations last night and early this morning. Goodness knows I needed it…I worked hard these past few days, doing things not ordinarily in my daily regime. I filed my 2020 taxes. That’s one of those adult things I have been avoiding, holding onto the doorframe of juvenile irresponsibility with all of my strength, leaving claw marks in the wood. I do still wonder if I completed the forms correctly, but they can’t say I didn’t file. It seems irreconcilable with logic and reason to receive a tax refund when I have no income and have paid no taxes. But…the logic and reason of the income tax system is way beyond my job grade, so…small wonder. Very small.

The status of my 2020 income tax is not really a random thought, but…there are other blips on my brain scan this morning. One is…Hunter Biden has written a memoir of his battle with addiction. I applaud that, without hesitation. It takes real courage to come forward about that, to take a look at your own behavior and to admit your powerlessness over some chemical that makes you do things you don’t really want to do, makes you lose track of who you are, makes you become someone you don’t even know. It’s not simply a question of will power, or choice. It’s a chemical reaction in the brains of some people, who have brains that don’t handle mind-altering chemicals very well. As my recovery program has always preached, we are not bad people trying to get good, we are sick people trying to get well. I do not tolerate people making a moral judgement on addiction and substance abuse. It’s just not that simple.

The book that Hunter Biden has written has received praise and a big thumbs-up from several commentators and reviewers. As I said earlier, I applaud his willingness to write this very personal and vulnerable account of his journey through such a condition. The reviewers, however, did a so-so job of offering critique, at least so far. This morning, one said something to the effect that Hunter’s journey is the one thing that has brought Joe Biden to his knees. Um, first of all, you don’t know that…and second of all, I have no doubt that it humbled the President, as it would just about any parent when they realize they can’t wave some magic wand and bring their child out of such a deep hole of despair. But, the President has also been very honest about the pain of losing his first wife and children in a car accident many years ago, and about losing his oldest son to cancer many years after that. This is one of the more relatable things about Joe Biden, his demonstration of living through such tremendous pain and loss with dignity. Evaluating which tragedy is the more painful, the single one that has caused him the most despair, is irresponsible. Pain is pain is pain, and you don’t get to rate one painful incident above another when you’re on the outside of that. It’s his pain, and I don’t think he would choose to keep one in favor of eliminating another. His life would not be what it is today without them all, and they ALL hurt.

The other random thought I’m having about the Hunter Biden book, which is titled Beautiful Things, is the inevitable discussion of the nature of addiction. Neil Young said, in “The Needle and the Damage Done”, that “every junkie’s like a setting sun”. That rings true to me. We don’t all make it. I don’t know if that’s fair or not, but it’s reality. The outcome of Hunter Biden’s addiction journey is not written in stone, only the pain is persistent. And the pain radiates beyond him – it touches anyone and everyone who loves him, who interacts with him, who depends on him. That’s how addiction works, whether it’s substance abuse or sex or gambling. I believe he went to treatment more than once, and the addiction persisted despite those efforts. His father is a public figure, and now he’s a public figure. They have money. They have resources. He wrangled, or was given, a high paying job despite his battle with addiction. This is not the case for the vast majority of addicts.

George Floyd and his girlfriend were addicts, as she testified in his murderer’s trial on Friday. He was also a very nice guy, an attentive father, not a domestic abuser. She enjoyed his sense of humor. He was a big guy, who had some athletic skill, and he was an addict. His girlfriend attributed chronic pain for both their addictions, as they sought relief in prescription and non-prescription opioids. These were not public figures, these were not wealthy people. There was no repetition of treatment efforts for them, but there was judgement, profiling, and labeling from law enforcement. That put them on a specific path of non-tolerance, and that is the path that intersected with Derek Chauvin on the day in May a year ago. That crossroads ended one life, and has put the other into a battle for its soul. Addiction, once again, radiates beyond the addicts themselves – two families in agony, one life ended, one life in limbo. Systemic policies in turmoil, witnesses plunged into the questioning despair of questioning themselves – should they have done more? Should they have done less? What should they have done? What is the truth?

So, Hunter Biden’s addiction and George Floyd’s addiction are the same disease, one of powerlessness and inconceivable loss of self-preservation. The outcomes, were so very different, however. That is painful to see, and painful to admit this is where race and ethnicity bring us…to the crossroads of class and moral judgement. At that crossroads, I find it even more unacceptable that some who enter the same experience have absolutely NO consequences, NO judgement. Hunter Biden had judgement only because his father is a public figure. Otherwise, we might never have know his name, seen his face. He would have been one of millions who go through treatment, or not, and who battle the addiction silently and in futility. If he didn’t have the misfortune of breaking the law, he would have had absolutely no public consequences, only the certain personal misery of the disease.

George Floyd, however, had a radically different outcome, because the “system” put crosshairs on him. As one of the witnesses testified, after watching him struggle with the police to avoid being placed into the squad car (he said he was claustrophobic and begged them not to put him in the car), he told Floyd, “You can’t win. Just go with it, don’t fight. YOU CAN’T WIN!” This is the crux of systemic racism, systemic oppression, poverty, all of it – you can’t win. When you’re an addict, you understand that you are powerless, against the substances, against what your body does once you ingest those substances. You understand that, whether you can articulate it or not. Layer that on top of everything else about your life circumstances in which you are powerless – you cannot be granted grace, or the benefit of the doubt, or even dignity once you are branded as undesirable. This was true of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, and so many others. It’s been true of thousands of others over the past 400 years as well – once you are labeled as “other” as “less than”, as not human, as an object…you have no right to demand anything. You are entitled to nothing, including humanity.

This is why the George Floyd murder is so monumental; as his daughter said, “Daddy’s gonna change the world.”. And so he is. We will never be the same after this trial is over, no matter which verdict is rendered. Are we not all guilty of making these same selective judgements against people, often judging Hunter Biden as a “good” addict and George Floyd as a “bad addict”. Was a counterfeit $20 bill – if it was, in fact, knowingly counterfeit – the price for a human life? In George Floyd’s case, it most certainly was. In Eric Garner’s case, a human life cost the price of single cigarettes. In Hunter Biden’s case, the cost of a human life had no ceiling. And Hunter Biden is still here, still capable of telling his story. I have no issue with Hunter Biden doing that, but I have no choice but to point out the difference in outcome of his story when compared to that of George Floyd.

When I look at this discrepancy, I also look at an even larger picture of a mosaic of other things going on in our country. Voter suppression bills are making their way across the landscape of 43 states, all of them intent on minimalizing absente/mail-in voting and pushing for photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Georgia is not the only state engaged in voter suppression, but they are one of the first and their bill is particularly robust. All of these bills seem to have the express intent of keeping voter turnout low, which nearly always benefits one political party. This is so contradictory of the intent of a representative republic, of democratic principle, where the voice of the people is supposed to make the decisions. The voice of ALL the people not just the ones who can get to the polls, who can get a photo ID, who can avail themselves of the factual information they will need to cast an informed vote. ALL the people seems to be a real bone of contention in certain quarters, however. That needs to change.

The game of voter suppression, which is not really a gam, of course, strives to negate the existence of millions of people. If you can’t vote, you don’t really exist in the system. The census is only once every decade, and even those results are up for debate. It’s truly pitiful that some partisan viewpoints dictate that if you don’t cheat, you can’t win. How about you come up with a compelling agenda, one that people can see will help them. Simply being the opposition party is not helpful.

At this point, all of the political and legal wrangling just makes a person tired. It’s emotional, and it’s exhausting because just when you think you have gotten all the facts, a new batch emerges, some of which are entirely contradictory to the first batch. My nerves are jangling, and nobody should tell me to calm down. Maybe I should calm UP, because going any further down in anything isn’t where my instincts resonate. Today, it’s sunny, and close to 70 degrees, so I think I’ll go out and soak up some Vitamin D and try not to give into my craving for another pizza. Gotta stop making the pizza companies more wealthy, and my gut more enormous. The dog will approve.


Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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