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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

Opinion: Mick Dahlin

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

Many, if not most of the folks I write about in the COURIER’s popular Police Blotter feature are addicted to drugs. Many are unhoused, and all of them have been arrested for some sort of alleged crime.

Methamphetamine is the overwhelming favorite these days, among the Blotter’s drug users, but heroin seems to be coming up strong right behind it as the drug of choice for our down and out brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.

I have always endeavored to be kind, and I’d never kick someone when he or she is at their lowest. You would not believe the sad and terrible things I choose not to write about in the Blotter, for these very reasons.

But I don’t always get it right.

On June 4 I wrote flippantly about a 31-year-old unhoused man who has made dozens of appearances in the Blotter over the past couple of years, all for petty crimes and drug possession.

The next week, the COURIER received several letters of complaint from people who know and love this man—including his mother—each objecting to the dismissive tone of my writing. 

And I agree with them.

I know I can, and should, do better.

Each of us has moments of weakness. We humans make mistakes. My grandfather always told me it’s what you learn from those shortcomings and lapses in judgment that matters most.

What you didn’t see on June 4 was my tagline at the end of this man’s second appearance of the week in the Blotter, which was edited out: “If ever there were a more perfect example of why we need robust drug treatment options for unhoused people, I haven’t yet seen it.”

I include this here not to excuse my lapse in judgement, but to demonstrate to you that I do now and always have respected the power of the written word. Even in the modest COURIER, words matter.

Claremont, with its historic architecture, leafy streets and world-class college, is still a small suburban town. People have connections that go back generations, and for better or worse, word travels fast here.

What I choose to write about in the Blotter, and how I write about it, can wound, especially here, where secrets are hard to keep.

So with humility I endeavor to do better.

One thing that has changed is I think three times before injecting humor into a Blotter entry. And that’s good. It’s good to be humbled. It’s good to remember that I got into journalism to do good, not harm.

Another positive by-product of those unhappy readers’ letters is I connected with this man’s mother, Per Dahlin, an incredibly strong and gentle woman, who trusted me to tell her son’s story. That story is part of this issue of the COURIER, as well as the Police Blotter, of course.

My hope is by talking openly about the “wounded walkers among us,” as Ms. Dahlin put it, we might learn a little about kindness without judgement, and in turn help chip away at the lingering stigma surrounding drug addiction and mental illness. 

It’s a good start, anyway.

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