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Don’t take a knee on Election Day

When you hear someone say “national defense,” what comes to mind? Myself, I think of standing up a fearsome military, investing in the most modern weaponry, training smart cyber guys, gathering prolific and revealing intelligence, and slamming the border shut to all but legal entrants. Most of all, during this election season, I think of a commander-in-chief — a tough, reliable, decisive leader — one who puts America’s interests first.

And speaking of standing up (instead of vainly taking a knee), the subject of defense also brings to mind our national anthem. When Francis Scott Key penned the lyrics, he was describing the anxiety he felt that morning, Sept. 14, 1814, as he peered through mist, desperately hoping to see our American flag still flying above the battle. Nowadays, the stirring first notes of the anthem prompt every American on the scene — every gender, race, and creed — to reverently rise and emphatically confirm that we all still stand together, ready to defend “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

When I worry about our failing national defense, I sometimes wonder if there is any way that I, an individual citizen, can help. Of course, I can honor our troops: active and retired. I can keep paying my taxes. I can “say something” when I “see something.” And I can vote for people committed to strengthening our defense and closing our borders. The voting choices for strong national defense are especially easy this year; Trump/Pence, Portman, and Johnson. These federal candidates are absolutely committed to closing our borders, fixing visa overstays, and rebuilding our military.

But let’s not assume that national defense is all federal — that it extends only outwards from America’s borders. Our state and county governments must also play a role. For example, we can plainly see that years of open, leaky borders have contributed to the scourge of deadly drug distribution that now threatens our community. Governor Kasich and Attorney General DeWine are ably leading the fight against drug trafficking and overdose deaths in Ohio. They work cooperatively with nearby states to strengthen the region’s battle resources. State Representative Andy Thompson has also been forward-leaning: helping legislate increased penalties for drug dealers, and providing funding for recovery houses. State Rep. Candidate Jay Edwards plans to expand rehabilitation and treatment facilities.

At the county level, we now need a proactive battle plan for the local war against the opiate/heroin epidemic — a plan coordinated among county departments — a plan that complements efforts by nearby counties. News reports show that Sheriff Mincks and his deputies have, for years, been very active against the drug scene, often working with nearby counties and other agencies to get the bad guy. We can’t say “thanks” often enough to our officers in blue.

And we can’t say “goodbye” loudly enough to the death-dealing drug traffickers apprehended, convicted, and sent away for long prison sentences. Poor national defense has allowed these criminals easy cross-border access to an endless supply of heroin.

How do we make Washington county a riskier market for drug dealers to sell into? Elect local leaders who maintain robust law enforcement. Elect local judges who will hand down punishing, long-term, hard time sentences for drug traffickers. Productively publicize those convictions.

How else can we make our county a less lucrative drug distribution target for dealers? Shrink the pool of customers. Judge candidate Mark Kerenyi has years of experience in juvenile court, and he is committed to find funding for a “drug court.” A drug court typically processes non-violent, adult, drug-driven crimes within the court system. A drug court does not necessarily require an additional judge or additional courtroom facilities. But it does involve a state-approved schedule of sentencing and some staffing to supervise offenders’ rehabilitation and compliance status. Such a specialized judicial docket is needed locally now to help beginning users leave the drug market by submitting to the treatment they need to curb their addiction. Our county commissioners could lead others in the search for funding: funding for the drug court and also for adequate rehabilitation services.

Distinguishing the beginning low-level user from the repeating high-level trafficker is not always easy in the courtroom; the gray areas are many. But once a user has been identified as low-level and has been convicted, further investigation may reveal an opportunity to hand down a sentence which includes therapeutically-oriented court supervision and appropriate treatment.

Yes, we need a drug court as an additional key weapon in the fight against local drug-related crime and addiction. Our county commissioners, Ron Feathers, Rick Walters, and David White, must be supported as they help gather the funds, shift priorities, and shift resources to marshal the necessary funding for effective courts and robust law enforcement.

Certainly, our local addiction and drug crime mess stems from many causes: evolving national prescription routines, aggressive pill marketing, highly organized criminal drug traffickers, etc. But remember, our local misery also stems partly from a poor national defense. Drugs have been streaming across our borders for years.

So, the next time you hear the strains of the Star-Spangled Banner, stand up with your fellow Americans — tall, reverent, and ready. And today, as you consider the overwhelming importance of a strong national defense, don’t take a knee. Go to the voting booth and choose leaders — federal, state, and local — whom you can truly depend on to close our borders, rebuild our military, and win the local war on drug crime.

Thomas K. Fenton lives in Marietta.