When I wrote about my negative reaction to the KOMO-TV documentary “Seattle Is Dying” last week, I did so knowing that many of you would disagree with my take on its depictions of homelessness and open drug use — and with its framing of the public’s discontent over them.
I argued for us to remember our capacity for compassion even as we fight, bitterly, over what to do about street encampments, drug addiction, mental illness, trash buildup in public spaces and threats to public safety, all issues explored in journalist Eric Johnson’s reporting for his often inflammatory, sometimes thought-provoking film.
Since we banned anonymous online comments on this column several months ago due to hateful and otherwise rule-breaking behavior in that forum, many readers have lamented the lack of a public way to engage in a civil discussion about my writings.
You’ve given me an earful about my “Seattle Is Dying” column over the last week — pro, con and somewhere in the middle.
Many of you offered solutions. Some of you thanked me for emphasizing compassion. A lot of you said my column failed to advance the conversation because it was off-the-mark, naive, pointless, partisan, uninformed, “snarky,” too righteous or a combination of these things. A few of you questioned my intelligence and choice of profession.
I’m dedicating space this week to reader responses sent to me by email, which are still allowed and welcome, however you feel.
Here are excerpts from what you wrote about that column, lightly edited for grammar and punctuation, with an emphasis on dissenting views:
— “Your column in this morning’s paper is both intriguing and unsatisfying. It seems to take two positions without supporting either. Coming to the conclusion that compassion is the answer to what our city faces and what Eric Johnson described so well leaves us at the current position of do nothing but sit back, feel compassion, and throw a few more millions at it.”
— “Well written. But if we continue not competently solving drug addiction (rehab, forced if necessary), we will wind up (eventually) with every one in a house HIDING the issues of mental illness and drug use. Isn’t there some merit to a different approach? Do you really think the current methods are working?”
— “1st… I totally agree with the video. I’ve lived in Seattle for 64 years and have never seen the city being run so poorly.
“Liberals always make the same mistake on every issue. You guys confuse Compassion with Leniency. You’re like bad parents letting kids go wild because you’re to afraid to say ‘no.’
“2nd… Please don’t call yourself a journalist. You are a liberal Democrat posing as a journalist; don’t insult our intelligence.”
— “It will be up to the more compassionate citizens of Seattle to devise a step-by-step approach as to how best to provide solutions to address the needs of our at-risk population.”
— “The reality is that ‘our compassion’ in this case is moot. This is because homelessness is a growth industry in Seattle. It is nurtured, fed honey and nightshade, and grown. It is immune to compassion, as we all can see. This correlates exactly to what everyone sees with their own eyes.”
— “You speak for many who consider themselves compassionate and yet ‘feel at a loss,’ sometimes with a lot of guilt attached.”
— “Every time you write a column on the subject and use the lazy term ‘the crisis’ like you did multiple times today, try this — Force yourself to describe what you TRULY think we have a crisis of. That way your reader can tell if you really do ‘get it.’ Hint: It’s a drug crisis. It’s a law enforcement crisis. And most significantly, it’s a municipal leadership crisis.”
— “There is nothing compassionate about letting a small number of people with troubled lives trash the place. Go ask someone who has had to kick a family member out of the house over drugs about how the absence of tough love just multiplies the trash.”
— “No amount of compassion or money on the part of citizens can help drug addicts if they don’t want help. The percentage who don’t want help is very high. I know of one guy who had a drug problem who was finally jailed. He served his time and is now a released felon. In prison he finally made the decision to clean himself up and now owns a profitable business, is happily married and has a family. It took prison to make this happen and he will gladly tell you that. If it had not been for prison he would have continued the drugs and be dead by now. Eric’s article was long overdue and until the good folks in Seattle wake up and deal with the drugs nothing will change.”
— “Compassion is great. But action is what matters. Seattle needs to stop amalgamating the issues of affordability, drug abuse, mental health and those who are just playing the system. For those who are homeless due to economic hardship not of their making I have much compassion, and have been a longtime supporter of affordable housing options. For mental-health and severe drug-abuse issues compassion needs to be combined with tough love, just like we would do with a close family member. Seattle totally fails here. And for that portion who prefer the life of substance abuse, or just the freedom of the street, while rifling through our cars and undertaking other petty and not so petty crimes, Seattle needs to send a strong message that it is unacceptable. If Seattle were to deal effectively with this last segment of the homeless, the compassion for those who deserve it would shine through more brightly.”
Editor’s note: We are not allowing comments on this column because comments on Tyrone Beason’s columns often violate our Terms of Service.