Kennedy Wants to Liberate Us from Addiction and Self-Hatred

Kennedy Wants to Liberate Us from Addiction and Self-Hatred
Louis Conte | April 16, 2024

By Louis Conte, Headlines Editor, The Kennedy Beacon

My work takes me to communities in upstate New York, through green rolling hills, white water rivers, and serene valleys. The beauty is often framed by rundown towns with impressive, antique architecture – old colonial farm houses with barns. Often, the places are dilapidated and look haunted.

The people also seem haunted.

They are supposed to be MAGA people. Hillary’s Les Deplorables.

In one such town, I talk with David, age thirty-six, in the office of an upstate probation department. My job is to assess him and give the department a sense of this man’s risk to the community and his potential for positive change.

I notice a tattoo on David’s arm that says, “RIP Billy.”

“Who was Billy?” I ask.

“My cousin,” he nods. “Fentanyl. He was the only member of that part of our family who wasn’t a drug addict. Billy died anyway. We’re all still here.”

As I come to know David, I learn his ancestors worked on the Erie Canal in the 1830s. The canal project is one of America’s first great feats of civil engineering. It opened up the flow of goods between the East Coast and the midwest and led to New York City – and indeed all of New York State, becoming the nation’s economic powerhouse.

The Empire State.

As I travel around the state, I note how the empire has fallen. Places like Binghamton, Troy, Delhi, and Cobleskill. I am reminded of renaissance paintings showing Europeans from the late Middle Ages wandering around the magnificent ruins of abandoned Roman temples. The Romans, and their gods, long gone.

The people I meet upstate live in communities that have seen better days. They are survivors who scratch a living out of the ruins of the fallen empire.

The Biden administration’s failure to subdue inflation – “Bidenflation” – triggered a stock market sell off this week. Bad news for people with investment portfolios.

For the people living in upstate New York, “Bidenflation” can translate to starvation. These people have been chewed up, spit out and pushed into the Catskill mud by economic forces over which they have no control.

Matt Taibbi’s recent interview with Les Leopold, author of Wall Street’s War on Workers, provides insight into what people like David have been through. These are the white “rural people,” who are full of “rage” according to authors Thomas Schaller and Paul Waldman, whose bestselling book, White Rural Rage, A Threat to American Democracy, stokes the irrational fear and ignorance of coastal elites.

White Rural Rage received significant attention in recent weeks from DNC-aligned media outlets, which salivated over the opportunity to push people they’ve never met, living in places they’ve never been to, deeper into the mud of America’s political landscape.

I ask David if he is angry or “rageful.” He considers the question and says, “I was that way but not at other people. I was angry at myself. I felt I wasn’t smart. That I’d end up being dead at forty-five like my dad. Like other men in my family.” David explains more. “I got addicted to drinking, drugs, and pornography. That’s why I’m talking to you. It took getting arrested to stop my insanity. It took my probation officer kicking my ass into rehab. Otherwise, I would’ve died younger than my dad.”

David has four kids by two different women. “My first wife left,” he told me. “She’s got mental health issues. Drugs. We pray for her.” He pauses and drinks water from a cup. “I’m with Shaina now. We have two kids. Bi-racial and all that. No one around here really cares about that. We’re just a little different. So’s everyone else, I guess.”

“How are you going forward?” I ask.

David leans back in his chair. “Well, they cut my hours at the warehouse, so I started doing taxidermy at a local shop. I bow hunt. I harvest mushrooms in the woods near my house for restaurants near Ithaca. We grow vegetables out back. My kids like that. We swap veggies for eggs with neighbors.”

Somehow, people like David get on their feet, wipe the mud off and figure out a way to push through. It takes a mixture of community support, brutal honesty, courage, and realizing that maybe God has a plan for you despite what you have done.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has met people like David. That is why one of his central plans is to open healing centers for people recovering from addiction. He understands addiction, understands recovery, and understands the wounded, raw people that the DNC walked away from years ago. Kennedy envisions people engaging in organic farming. Developing job skills. Learning to talk and listen to each other.

Kennedy’s interview on the Jocko Podcast further illuminates his willingness to speak about tough issues like this one that the other candidates avoid.

David says that he has been sober for eleven months. I asked him if he has an AA sponsor yet (an important part of the Alcoholics Anonymous twelve step program). He nods, “Yeah, his name is Mike. Sometimes he kicks my ass over coffee and reminds me of the work I have to do. Sometimes, he comes by with groceries. Last week, he came by with peas seeds.”

David takes a photograph out of his wallet. “Shaina and I got my uncle’s old house,” he says. “The place needs work. Nobody else wanted it. It’s got some land around it.” David smiles proudly as he shows me an old colonial that hasn’t been painted in forty years.

“The other day, I was in the yard with the kids, pushing Mike’s peas into the dirt,” David tells me. “I looked around and I said to myself, ‘this is beautiful.’”

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