Seven Issues Americans Should Find Disgraceful
Many pressing issues need people’s attention
Every country in the world has important issues to deal with and the United States certainly has it share. This article lists only a few such issues and does so in no particular order. So if you’re interested in subjects of concern and suggesting possible solutions, please keep reading and maybe we can enlighten each other:
1. Opioid Crisis
Opioids are synthetic drugs similar to opiates such as morphine, codeine and heroin. Common opioids are Percocet, Vicodin, Oxycontin, Oxycodone and fentanyl. Of course, for a long time America has had a major problem with opiate use and abuse, but the 2010s has seen an alarming rise in addiction to opioids.
In 2016, 62,000 people died from drug overdoses, two-thirds of which were caused by opioids, compared to 16,000 total overdoses in 2010 and 4,000 in 1999. (Perhaps the worst drug crisis in US history was the crack scourge in the 1980s, which killed 94,000 people per year from 1984 to 1987.) And this opioid crisis is mostly an American problem, since 80 per cent of the opioid supply is consumed in the US. Heroin use has greatly increased as well, because, noticing a great increase in the use of opioids, Mexican drug cartels have flooded the US with heroin, often a much cheaper option than opioids and doesn’t require a prescription to obtain it!
What can be done about this so-called opioid epidemic?
Well, since as much as one-third of America’s population suffer from chronic pain, none-addictive drugs and therapies need to be established throughout the country. Also, massive amounts of federal money need to be allocated to prevent opioid addiction and provide for the effective treatment of addicts. Passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, passed in 2016, addresses this critical issue.
2. Sexual Assaults against Women in the Military
In recent years many women in the U.S. military have reported being sexually assaulted. As of April 2011, one woman in three has reported some form of military sexual trauma (MST) when leaving military service. By the way, MST can include incidents of sexual harassment. In contrast, one in six civilian women has reported being the victim of an attempted or actual sexual assault during their lives.
For perspective, during the war in Iraq one in ten people in the military were women. This means many thousands of American service women could have been sexually assaulted during that military campaign.
But, by the Pentagon’s own estimate, as few as 13.5 per cent of sexual assaults are actually reported. It appears many women don’t report these crimes because they’re afraid of receiving negatives marks on their service records. They also fear having to associate with the alleged perpetrator while continuing their military service. For the most part, reporting such incidents often ends a woman’s military career.
Military service is difficult enough without women dealing with the trauma of sexual assault. The U.S. military and Congress should do everything possible to assure women in the military they will not be sexually assaulted while serving and – if they are – that everything will be done to punish the men or women guilty of committing these crimes.
Please keep in mind that thousands of men have also reported being sexually assaulted while serving in the military!
3. Sale of Tobacco Products
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 443,000 deaths per year in the U.S. are caused by the use of tobacco products, not including millions adversely affected by secondhand smoke. Bearing this in mind, isn’t it time to make the sale of all tobacco products illegal?
Perhaps tobacco would be made illegal if it weren’t for the revenue gained from state and federal taxes on tobacco sales. In 2009, federal and state governments reaped over $15 billion from tobacco excise taxes. This amount does not include revenue from sales taxes.
Of course, outlawing the sale of tobacco products would eliminate the revenue generated from selling them. Is the country ready to lose this tax revenue during times of massive budget cuts?
Be that as it may, within five to 10 years a prohibition against the growth and sale of tobacco products could be accomplished, as long as enough people are committed to making it happen. Allowing the sale of tobacco products is bad enough, but benefiting from the sale of such products condones their usage! Is it time to end the hypocrisy?
4. Homeless Veterans
In early 2011, According to a report published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veteran Affairs, as many as 16 per cent of all homeless people are veterans. (Please keep mind that veterans make up about 10 per cent of the population.) It seems the rate of homelessness for veterans has always been higher than that of civilians, perhaps because many veterans have suffered trauma of some sort while serving in the military.
But the problem could be considerably worse. Based on data compiled in 2005, the National Alliance to End Homelessness reported in November 2007 that one in four homeless people are veterans. The non-profit organization estimates that around 744,000 people are homeless on any given day and that about 195,000 of them are veterans.
Regardless of how many veterans are homeless, even one homeless veteran is one too many. Any person who has served in the U.S. military deserves every entitlement possible, as well as a place to sleep every night.
Please note that the Obama administration has pledged to end homelessness for veterans by the end of 2015. Let’s hope they attain this goal!
5. Young People Using Heroin
By the time young people have graduated high school they should know about the danger of using drugs such as heroin, often considered the most addictive drug on the planet. Well, apparently they haven’t gotten the word.
These days heroin is cheap, plentiful, powerful, and many young people are succumbing to its allure. No longer a drug of America’s inner cities, heroin is flooding into American suburbs, where its usage among the young has increased by as much as 400 per cent.
Why are young people using heroin? There are many possible reasons: heroin use could be considered chic; problems at home could spur its use; young people get hooked on painkillers such as Oxycontin and decide to switch to heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to get; and, as terrible as this seems, some children may have a death wish.
Perhaps the main reason young people use heroin is that parents, teachers and many other people who could make a difference are not teaching children about the dangers of drug use. There seems to be an epidemic of drug ignorance in this country among young people, and if something isn’t done about it, addiction to drugs such as heroin could skyrocket in the coming years.
Are you ready for the consequences?
6. Suicide Rate in the Military
The American military is beset with numerous problems, and perhaps its worst is the suicide rate, which stands at an all-time high. According to an article in the Huffington Post as of the middle of 2012, about one person on active duty in the military commits suicide every day, an 18 per cent increase from the prior year. The suicide rate had dipped somewhat in 2010 and 2011, so this recent bump is very disturbing.
On an episode of 60 Minutes entitled “The Life and Death of Clay Hunt” aired in March 2013, journalist Byron Pitts reported that 22 veterans commit suicide every day in the United States.
Please keep in the mind, suicide deaths in 2008 and 2009 surpassed combat deaths both of those years during the war in Afghanistan.
What causes American soldiers to commit suicide? Nobody knows for sure, but many think soldiers who ask for help are stigmatized by the military.
Now is the time to give traumatized soldiers all the help they need rather than criticism or ridicule. Perhaps what this high suicide rate shows us is that the recent wars in which Americans have fought are the kind of wars nobody should have to fight. What’s worst than fighting a guerrilla war lasting years in a foreign country filled with hostile elements? Would we wish such a fate on our worst enemy?
Perhaps the problem is the nature of war itself. Maybe it’s time to end all of those right now! We’ll do what we can about that, won’t we?
7. Wasted Food
Since 2013, about half of the food produced in the world is wasted, according to the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers. And the country that wastes most of this food is the United States, which, according the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, wastes about $165 billion worth of food per year – that’s about 40 per cent of the total food from “farm to fork,” as its often described.
How is food wasted? Well, many vegetables grown never leave the field, because at least some of the crop is often considered inferior; it's edible but it simply doesn’t look good enough to market, so farmers leave it to rot in the field. Grocery stores often throw out vegetables that don’t look good enough as well; they’ll also dump food that's past its expiration date. Some of this food is given to the poor, while much of it goes to the dumpsters.
Restaurants throw out lots of food too, because they buy more food than they need and simply throw out what they can’t sell. For example, McDonald’s throws away French fries that aren’t sold after seven minutes. In fact, one-tenth of fast food gets dumped in this way.
American households waste lots of food as well. According to estimates, Americans throw out from 14 to 25 per cent of the food and beverages they purchase. Again, much food gets dumped because of confusion regarding expiration dates. (In many states, it’s legal to sell food past its expiration date.)
Also, much of the food people dump ends up in landfills rather than composed. Composting food would at least recycle some of the wasted food and also reduce the greenhouse gases vented at dump sites.
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© 2012 Kelley Marks