October 01, 2023

COLUMN: Plenty to embrace

Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said last week U.S. families were to blame for the fentanyl overdose problem because “they don’t hug their kids enough” according to the Associated Press. We had the story Monday.

I wish he would have been more specific, or someone would have asked, if the kids not hugged are the ones dealing the dope or are the ones taking it, but may not even know what they are taking.

The comment was based on stories and statistics about fentanyl, a synthetic opioid wheeled-and-dealed by Mexican drug cartels that has been blamed for some 70,000 overdose deaths per year in the United States.

I admit I can’t relate much to this story. I have never been involved in social circles that included illicit narcotic drug use of any kind. As an adult, I am afraid to take Tylenol. The last prescription I had was, uh, um, give me a minute....

But I do care for my kids. Both are in their college days and are learning how to be adults as they should when someone reaches their 20s. Sometimes it’s younger.

Last week, a story broke of a 16-year-old Texas girl who died of fentanyl poisoning after taking a pill laced with the opioid. A junior at Plano High School the girl got the pill from a friend she thought was a prescription painkiller she believed could help her relax. But when the girl’s mother went to check on the girl and her friend, she found her daughter pale and the other gurgling on the bed. The friend survived and claimed they did not know what was in the medication. There are other similar stories in Texas and across the country.

Yes, taking another’s prescription is a problem. But even if the person possessing the prescription does not know what is in it, the problem gets worse. So Mr. Obrador, who should have received the hug? Both? Would it still have prevented that incident?

There are years of stories of incidents where innocent people, mainly females, had their drink spiked to put them in a highly vulnerable condition. And there have been plenty of frat-drinking-stories gone bad. (other things I’ve also avoided) Having a daughter go off to college has enough stress on its own, let alone the social events and surroundings she may encounter. But there is something about watching your children prepare themselves and leave home with confidence and purpose. (See Hodel in 1971 “Fiddler on the Roof.”) I hug my daughter for what she has become with her confidence.

I’m cautious, Mr. Obrador, for you to say having children stay longer in the home brings additional benefits and qualities. Mostly anecdotal, I’ve known of families who had children stay close, and not necessarily in the house, and see the child continue dependence on the parents. That dependence was also fueled by some of the parents. Some things I was responsible for when I was 21, and I was renting my own place then, I’ve seen other “kids” wait until past 25 to take on. They take advantage of their parents. The parents don’t want their kid to grow up taking on certain responsibilities potentially harming the kids’ development.

All of that makes up the beauty and diversity of American families. It’s not done the same way by every family everywhere. No family is perfect with or without hugs. There are two types of families; ones that know their dysfunction and the ones who don’t.

“There is a lot of disintegration of families, there is a lot of individualism, there is a lack of love, of brotherhood, of hugs and embraces,” López Obrador said of the U.S. crisis. “That is why they (U.S. officials) should be dedicating funds to address the causes.”

Don’t get caught up just in the negativity Mr. President. There are American families who have annual, extensive family reunions. Some families need the whole week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to celebrate Christmas because there is so much family to love and hug.

Obrador has said Mexico’s close-knit family values are what have saved it from the wave of fentanyl tragedies. Drug researchers say Mexican drug dealers are making so much money now from the U.S. they have no interest to do business at home.

I appreciate your support of your residents, Mr. Obrador. I’ve known people who have been to various places in Mexico and some had good experiences with the natives. I ask you why the number of people leaving your country is causing constant conversation and debate about who and what happens at the Mexico-United States border.

Some of the people I know who are experienced of those leaving Mexico say, “America is a better place.” So I ask you Mr. Obrador, what are you not doing to make those people want to leave? Are you not “hugging” them enough?

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.