Two major candidates for president are now in rush towards election day. They are filling their days with each covering the other in mud. Each is trying to find the cultural sub-group they need to turn out on election day to get the maximum votes.
Trump says the world can be saved if only the southern border can be shored up against an influx, in effect an onslaught, of foreign immigration. While mostly Hispanic now some are from Africa being smuggled up north by the people smugglers in Central America and Mexico. Here in Appalachia, the culture is floating like so much flotsam on a sea of sadness, unemployment and meth. The unemployment is the reason for the sadness and the meth.
We had methamphetamine makers 15 years ago. That was when laws were passed in almost every state making it difficult to pseudoephedrine medications to make methamphetamine. In fact, 30 years ago a young man from Alabama who claimed to be an environmental investigator was captured in our local tanning company trying to roll out barrels of silicone acetate. Turned out after a search of his car he was a meth maker to.
At any rate we have always had meth in the mountains and in the plains. Anywhere there was privacy and a place to put a 5-gallon bucket you could make the stuff from out of a sack from Walmart. We have had a lot of people killed with it, a lot of people hopelessly addicted to it. And it is, like former U. S. Magistrate J. P. Johnson said, the only junk I have ever seen that nobody survives.
It must be a real strong rush because there is a strong demand for it here in the mountains. That demand is being met, not so much by local manufacturing anymore. It is being met by pure, white crystal meth made in Mexico for export to the United States. It is very profitable to sell the stuff and that, now, is what the cartels are fighting over. They are murdering each other to corner the market on the free flow of pure death called meth.
Just this past month several policemen and soldiers have been murdered in Mexico and whole towns, down towards Central America, are held hostage by the cartels. These factory cities, not unlike the mining towns of Appalachia, are owned by a few and run by a strong man. All the production goes where he says it goes and that is to America.
How, do you suppose, they get it here? Well, I am sure we have a few enterprising Americans who make the trip to Mexico on a regular bases and bring it back. But for the most part, it is coming in through immigrants legal and illegal many who are restaurant workers.
Think about it, there is a ready made network of people who know each other, have reasons to be here and places to go. Why not make a few tens of thousands of dollars bringing in
crystal meth to supplement your meager earnings. It is a capitalist system. A capitalist system that has gone wild.
Appalachia has its problems and the rise in population in the 1970’s and 80’s is the only up tick on the graph of human habitation of the mountains since 1940. There were, in essence very few people in Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia prior to coal being discovered there in 1880. The income to boom-towns began and the one I live in, Middlesboro, was founded. Since that time coal has become mechanized it is easier to mine a lot with a little and now, the demand has been reduced by fracking natural gas wells for cheap heat to the point that there remain very few active efforts to mine at all.
This has thrown an entire region out of kilter and out of work. When I came to Middlesboro over 30 years ago there were sewing factories, plastics factories, food processing, a tannery and a lot of coal mining. Now, there is a little coal mining, a little plastics and food processing still going on.
In the mean time none of the presidential candidates are talking about the unemployment problem and only one is talking about the influx of people carrying meth. It is as if people who carved an entire century of American industry have been forgotten and relegated to the dumpster.
The mountains and its people were there when the country needed them. Now that they are no longer needed, politicians talk in suave tones about changing to an economy were all the jobs have been shipped overseas so that the large corporations which manufacture things for consumers in America can make even more profits than they did with American labor. Unemployment and meth. Huge companies and Mexican cartels. They all seem to go hand-in-hand in the exploitation of the poor and, meanwhile, nobody running for president really notices.
A View From The Mountains is a column for print and online media written by Bill Hayes for over 20 years. Hayes is a trial lawyer and former prosecutor practicing law in Kentucky and the Eastern District of Tennessee with an office view of the Virginia mountains. He is a former member of the Kentucky Democratic State Executive Committee. Hayes lives in Middlesboro, Kentucky, with his wife Charity and their two children.