Each month, The Oklahoman's editorial board recognizes a contributor to Your Views for a letter to the editor that exemplifies a timely, fair, accurate and cogent viewpoint. Tommy J. Rutledge of Guthrie is the honoree for letters that appeared in Your Views last month. His “Build lives, not buildings” letter was published March 16.
Meet the writer:
Tommy J. Rutledge is a retired petroleum title analyst. His March 16 letter was inspired by the discrepancy he sees in state priorities. We devote resources to aesthetic projects and new buildings, he says, yet we often forget about our fellow human beings in need. Rutledge was concerned when he heard about a friend of a friend who would never get the drug treatment he needed because the waiting list was too long. Rutledge, 65, has lived in Oklahoma since the age of 4. He and his wife, Amanda, live in the country near Guthrie. They have two sons and four grandsons. In addition to his career in the independent oil and gas business, Rutledge served in the military for six years.
Most of us know of someone affected by alcohol or drug abuse, or by mental illness. Many mentally ill people in our state are in prison today because we don't seem to care enough to adequately fund facilities and personnel to treat people who were unfortunate enough to be afflicted with something over which they have no control.
Regarding addiction, some will argue that the situation is about life choices. There's certainly merit to this thinking; nonetheless, the afflicted are among us and they need help. If we don't change our thinking and divert much-needed resources to this problem in Oklahoma, the next large buildings we'll construct will be prisons.