It’s finally Christmas, a time to be with your family and to also remember those family members and friends who no longer are with us, except within our hearts and minds. It is a time for children; a time for good tidings; and certainly a time to count your blessings. It is also a time to accept reality. Allow me to explain.
Every year I make it a point to watch the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” which stars Jimmy Stewart as the small town guy who wishes he had never been born, attempts suicide, is miraculously saved by his Guardian Angel, and then shown by the Angel (Clarence) just how a whole town’s people would have been affected had he indeed not been born. The ending of the 1946-produced movie in an imaginary town called Bedford Falls never fails to bring happy tears to my eyes.
Stewart stars as the character of George Bailey in a movie originally considered as a box-office disappointment, but now is considered one of the greatest films of all time. For me, the movie depicts the fact that one must always have family and friends who care about your well-being. Accordingly, Christmas is a time to care about others, especially children.
The awful reality is that statistics show that 60% of Logan County’s children are now being raised by grandparents. Mingo County is even worse, with statistics showing 70% of children there raised by their grandparents. Do I really need to tell you why?
Even more heartbreaking is the news the West Virginia Department of Education revealed a few months back — that over 10,000 West Virginia children and youth from kindergarten through high school were identified as homeless for the 2018-2019 school year.
Currently, in Logan County and much of southern West Virginia, I feel like — despite arrest after arrest by law enforcement — we are losing the war on drugs. Illegal and legal drugs are the real reason for parents voluntarily giving up or losing their children. Overdose deaths, of course, haven’t helped matters either.
As a West Virginian, I despise the stereotypes that are directed at us. Even more so, I hate the fact that zillion dollar drug companies, too numerous to fully identify, as well as some pill mill doctors and some uncaring pharmacies, have literally destroyed communities in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.
As an example, between 2006 and 2012, drug wholesale giant McKesson shipped 163 million opioid painkillers to West Virginia. During the same time period, Cardinal Health, another drug industry monster, sold 174 million doses of the pain killers hydrocodone and oxycodone.
As jail bills escalated and people began committing every crime imaginable to obtain a means of purchasing the addictive stuff — both off the street and from pharmacies — it still took thousands of people dying before officials started asking questions. Even then, it took a court order to get the drug companies to release their records. It was as if “Hillbilly” lives just didn’t matter.
Fact is, West Virginia and Kentucky had the highest number of pills administered per resident and the highest number of overdose deaths during the six-year period I’ve previously mentioned. Overall, it has earlier been reported that 76 billion hydrocodone and oxycodone pain pills were dispensed to pharmacies nationwide.
Currently, the drug distributors, doctors and pharmacies have pretty much ceased in the pill mill racket, but they are still to blame for our current drug epidemic that now entails the use of methamphetamine and heroin. It is easily surmised that the addiction problems started mainly with the pills, but now, with the addictive need being satisfied by mostly out-of-state individuals from Columbus, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan and other places, I believe our local society is worse off than before when pills were the curse.
Unfortunately, the “Hillbilly Nation” that exists at least in Logan County is again the easy target for those out-of-state crooks seeking financial gain. By this, I mean that across the county people, most of whom are barely making it in the economic sense, are allowing out-of-state drug dealers to live with them and dispense deadly drugs to the zombielike people who daily seek to unwisely destroy themselves. In return, utility bills, etc., are paid by the uncaring house guests. Local police have made several arrests in regards to this scenario.
I am concerned for the next generation in Logan County. Those millennials willing to work are vacating the area for occupations elsewhere, which means those survivors of the current drug epidemic, who cannot pass valid drug tests to hold even a minimum wage job, are going to eventually wade knee-deep into the economic cesspool that I fear Logan will become because of drug usage.
Logan Countians always come together at Christmastime with toy drives, food baskets, etc., to help those in need, with local fire departments and churches taking the lead. However, it is my fear that 20 years from now there may not be anybody left around here capable enough to carry through with such noble endeavors.
For centuries, our forefathers braved these untamed mountains, fought off Indians, bears and mountain lions to settle in land that others did not want. We have seen devastation from coal mining fatalities and we’ve cleaned up after every flood, including the deadly Buffalo Creek disaster. Now, it’s as if the rest of our nation has forgotten what key roles our people played in the making of this great country — from coal miners to military contributions.
We are basically left alone to take back our county from the Devil himself.
Let us pray that at the conclusion of this great battle, we all can once again declare — “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
May we all enjoy a blessed and Merry Christmas as we prepare to usher in a New Year. Hopefully, 2020 will prove to be a “visionary” year.