I was asked to comment on my experiences with the drug culture in Stanton, KY.
This article in no way is meant to promote a negative stereotype of the Appalachian people or the culture of Eastern Kentucky. I am simply reporting my own experience and putting forth a “snap shot” of how the drug culture is destroying the real meaning of what traditional Appalachian is living all about.
The year 2000 not only marked the beginning of a new millennium but opened up a chapter in my life I never could have imagined. The saga began when, from the beginning, I was misguided as to where I should set up my new mobile home. I naively ended up in, according to the State Police, “one of the worst pockets of drug abuse in the state”.
Having just left Minnesota, I was totally unaware of the “drug culture”. I tended to assume the innate goodness in neighbors and individuals until proven otherwise. Even as my trailer was set up in the lot the neighbors were open and friendly. Little did I know what the real hidden motives would be behind this apparent “friendship”
As the first months went by it became obvious the culture, education and mind-set of these people was very different. I was not cautioned or prepared; after all, was I not in the middle of the United States? Was this not the beginning of the 21st century? Had we not sent people to the moon and explored the stars? Did not people believe in the sciences, and good education? Was not ancient medievalist thinking in the past? As experiences began to unfold I began to wonder.
As for education; most of the people, including the youth, were high school drop outs. The parents did not discourage even their own high school aged children from dropping out saying,” you don’t need education, school education is not necessary, it won’t help you get any better job than you can get without it. School teaching could even lead you astray from Jesus,”
As the locals became aware I was not one of them and was brought up in a middle class well educated neighborhood far to the North, there seemed to be an element of suspicion but the open camaraderie continued. They began by asking if I would help the younger elementary children with school assignments. Soon this escalated to needing money to buy clothing and food for the children.
During this time I was invited to a Pentecostal church. The service was very different. There was “calling upon the Holy Spirit” to descend where members would stand, wave their hands while reaching upwards in chant. Later came a remarkable scene where people, coming up to the alter to be healed, would be gripped by the minister, told they were healed by the power of Jesus, and then pushed hard on the forehead causing them to fall backwards seemingly in a catatonic trance. People standing directly in back would catch them and lay the unconscious believer on the floor.
The hallmark of the end of the service was a marked increase in “speaking in tongues”. Although sporadic at first, it reached a crescendo. Soon more members were lying on the floor between the chairs. Shaking and/or speaking in tongues all the while seemingly unaware of the outside world.
Needless to say, my Midwest educated mind was not prepared for this. I truly was confused and uncomfortable with the whole situation. I wanted to leave but since I had driven my neighbors to the church I had to wait for them. At this point I began walking around the perimeter of the sanctuary and, while carefully stepping over people lying on the floor, proceeded to say my own prayers for guidance. Almost immediately the preacher hurriedly came up to me asking in a firm tone,” who are you praying to,” I answered,” God,” Then the minister asked,” are you praying to Jesus,” I replied simply,” I am praying to God,” At this the minister said,” in this church you can only pray in the name of Jesus,”.
It was soon after this surreal experience (where I had also been approached to be saved through “laying on of hands”) I learned that these people are so suspicious of anything new or different because it might be an attempt of a satanic spirit to mislead them. The preacher apparently thought I was conjuring up the devil!
As time went on the neighbors (who were continously asking favors from “Minnesota Man”) approached me to see if I would exorcize a demon from a wooden peace symbol that had a history of being used in Witchcraft Coven Ceremonials. They said,” We have been hearing voices and felt strange powers from this log. Our Pastor told us it was full of demons which had to be driven out. We know you don’t believe in this sort of thing so would you burn it? We are scared but we know you are our friend. Would you help us?” They gave me some kerosene, and, fearfully backing away, placing both arms as a shielding cross across their breasts.
All this time there was an inordinate amount of traffic coming in and out of the trailer park. Once, during a visit one of two friend’s speech began to slur. Within minutes she was unable to communicate and was flaccid and drooling. She had just taken a “Soma” Before she came. Soon a cop came by wondering if I had knowledge of or had seen a young man who had just died of a drug overdose. ,”Yes, I had seen him earlier today. He came to look at some chameleons I was selling,” The officer told me,” this was just a routine investigation. He was found dead in his trailer,” Then the officer stated,” You know, you don’t belong here.”
It was now clear to the drug dealers I knew what was going on. They offered to let me in on a deal if I would drive them to Beattyville, loan them $200 dollars for the Doctor’s fee (which was the cover charge for writing them prescriptions for drugs they would sell on the street). I of course, would have to pay the pharmacy bill as well in order to get a ten percent cut of the street sales profit. I could not believe what they were asking and backed away saying,” I want nothing to do with this”
The grand finale was yet to come.
About a year and a half after moving there I left to visit Minnesota. Upon my return, the homecoming scene was a horror. The trailer home was vandalized to the point of needing major repair, checks from a blank checkbook were embezzled and somehow, they had gotten my credit card number and charged a large total on the account through the internet.
The local Police were of little help. It seems, back in the year 2000; most of the Law Enforcement was corrupted by drugs, favors and nepotism. Threatening phone calls from people impersonating police officers and lawyers we common. So much else was going on I cannot recount them all. This writing could easily become a book! Suffice it to say a car given to me by my parents was rolled down a hill and totaled. My total losses added up to about $60,000 dollars.
One nice young officer came to my door saying,” We can tell you are not from here. We know what is going on with the drug dealings in the neighborhood and are gathering evidence to stop it. I strongly suggest you move out.” Indeed, it was time to leave.
My misadventure caused me major disillusion about humanity. Even as I write this nearly seven years later it is an emotional experience.
I went bankrupt, yet my overall faith in supreme goodness came to my aid. I see God as far larger than any single creed or doctrine. I am, thankfully, in comfortable housing and have met some true friends helping me to recover. This was a great lesson.
Thanks be to God, the Lord of all the worlds!
Feel free to visit “serving the case for world unity” http://onenessbecomesus.com and you will see where I am coming from.