LTE for Portfolio-Cynicalwordsmith

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To the Editor,

In Ross Douthat’s article, “The Age of American Despair” from September 7th 2019, he encourages the idea that the “deaths of despair” crisis is the most pressing problem today. Douthat comments on CNN’s decision to run a program that educated Americans on the detriments and consequences of climate change, spending a better part of the article arguing reasons why these deaths of despair should be considered top of the to-do list. Although Douthat’s compassion for those who went through a death of despair is admirable, deaths of despair should not be America’s number one focus at the moment. He concludes that the cause of these deaths possibly is a combination of spiritual, economic, or political factors. The solution, Douthat claims, is a renewal of an existential meaning of life for society as a whole.

Douthat states that deaths of despair are classified as deaths from suicides, drug, and alcohol abuse. One problem with placing these deaths as top priority, is that like Douthat says, the cause of them is to be debated. How can there be a plan put in place to stop a problem that has no identifiable cause? While the direct causes of the deaths is one of the three mentioned ailments, in order to stop them, the cause of the ailments needs to be known. However, why people choose to drink, or do drugs, or commit suicide, is not information that victims or families of victims of these deaths always want to share. Therefore, it makes pin-pointing the true cause of these deaths hard to name, and thus, preventative measures to stop them hard to implement.

Tackling a problem with so many unknown variables will only lead to more questions and debacles with trying to fix it. Having no solution to this problem may also turn people away from wanting to help. Another problem with Douthat’s assertion is that addiction is a very hard battle to fight. It takes dedication and hard work to climb the mountain that is addiction. This can be very difficult for those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol or both, and do not want to get better. All efforts should not be devoted to those who are not looking to be helped.

There is hope that, one day, we can eradicate these deaths of despair however, we need more concrete ways of finding treatments for it. And in order to reduce the number of drug related deaths, it is going to take humanity hand in hand changing their lifestyle.

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3 Responses to LTE for Portfolio-Cynicalwordsmith

  1. davidbdale says:

    OK, Wordsmith. Let’s get to it.

    1. In Ross Douthat’s article, “The Age of American Despair” from September 7th 2019, he encourages the idea that the “deaths of despair” crisis is the most pressing problem today. 2. Douthat comments on CNN’s decision to run a program that educated Americans on the detriments and consequences of climate change, spending a better part of the article arguing reasons why these deaths of despair should be considered top of the to-do list. 3. Although Douthat’s compassion for those who went through a death of despair is admirable, deaths of despair should not be America’s number one focus at the moment. 4. He concludes that the cause of these deaths possibly is a combination of spiritual, economic, or political factors. 5. The solution, Douthat claims, is a renewal of an existential meaning of life for society as a whole.

    —There’s a lot of information here from Douthat here, Wordsmith, and one claim of your own. But your own claim is followed by more information from Douthat, so it’s lost in the mix.
    —Sentence 1. This sets the scene but needs explanation.
    —Sentence 2. You put climate change and deaths of despair in the same sentence but without connecting them, so when you say “THESE deaths of despair,” we think we’ve missed the connection.
    —Sentence 3. You say “deaths of despair” two more times, still without explaining what they are, and claim they are not Priority One. [This should be followed by your declaration of what IS our first priority.]
    —Sentence 4. Not knowing what deaths of despair ARE, we’re in no position to evaluate his diagnosis.
    —Sentence 5. A renewed sense of the value of life DOES sound like a good prescription to cure death by despair, but where’s your point of view in this paragraph? We need a reason to follow YOUR argument more compelling than getting a summary of what Douthat wrote.

    I see that we get your own position in paragraphs to come:
    —In order to stop [suicide, drugs, alcohol abuse], the cause of the ailments needs to be known.
    —Victims and their families don’t share that information.
    —Getting and giving help require known and proven solutions.
    —Addiction is very persistent and resistant to cure.
    —Effort should be spent on the most likely cures, not wasted on the hopeless.
    —We need more concrete ways of finding treatments for despair.

    How much of that message can you deliver WITHOUT continuing to reference Douthat, Wordsmith? His opinions seem to be getting in the way of you making your own case.

    And how quickly can you get your own position before readers? They may not spend two paragraphs on your letter if you start with so much summary.

    Ideally, you could dispatch the basic Douthat position in a single sentence, move directly to your primary objection or counterclaim, and THEN fill in whatever else we need to know about the deaths of despair that are the occasion for you to have your say about how difficult it is to cure depression and the addictions it spawns.

    Does that make sense? Do you need LESS advice, or more prescriptive examples, to help you process all that feedback? Let’s keep the conversation going, CynicalWordSmith. I’m still learning what helps you best.

    Like

  2. davidbdale says:

    Wordsmith, you didn’t make a specific Feedback request. I will return to offer feedback, but first I’ll respond to your classmates who gave me guidance about the sort of responses they wanted.

    Like

    • My mistake! And that is understandable. I was looking for feedback on the organization of the letter and the points that I used in the letter. I found I was having trouble with forming my counter claims against Douthat.

      Like

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