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Emmitsburg Coalition To Prevent Drug Abuse

Jack Deatherage, Jr.'s

A drug problem in Emmitsburg? Ridiculous! Drugs have seldom been a problem. Why, I bought cigars at the drugstore when I was 15 and alcohol from a variety of sources before I was of legal age. Marijuana was scarce a time or two when I used that drug, but I recall "speed" casually set out in candy dishes on living room coffee tables. (For those who drank too much, too fast and wanted to stand up all night with we serious alcohol burners.)

Of course prescription drugs are always available, whether for pain, sleeplessness or just nerves. Some parents hand them out to the kids because life is just too tough.

Oh, I almost forgot caffeine, that drug of choice for nearly every American! A cup can be had at any fast crap drive through. And Ritalin- the drug of choice for schoolteachers, daycare providers and harried mothers!

Loving Mom and Dad (more likely Step Mom or Step Dad, or even more likely- Unmarried Mom), harassed at work, irritated by life in general, never getting a break- are ready for a stiff, relaxing drink… a joint, a snort, or a pill at the end of a day. Or in the middle of it, or better yet before it begins.

The kids? Hey, we parents use drugs and we're all right, aren't we? Of course we are. And if we aren't? Well, another sip, a toke and life's little problems drift away. The daycares, the schools will take care of the kids. We're tired. Another sip. They'll be all right. We're all right. Drift away.

Roll roll roll your joint,
Take a sip of wine.
Take a toke
And hold the smoke,
And really [blow] your mind.

-author Unknown

So who shows up for the first couple of meetings of the Emmitsburg Coalition to Prevent Drug Abuse (ECPDA)? Federal, state and county paper shufflers looking for someone to dangle money in front of to justify their salaries? Media people with their cameras, microphones and notebooks? Citizens, concerned, but without a clue- hoping to be told the problem is minor and can be nipped quickly, easily? Local politicos because it's their job to appear caring and snag dangling tax money? Victims of: break-ins, harassment and threats from out of control dopers? Officers representing the Law, useful decorations to be changed soon enough as promotions and better jobs come along? Parents, who know the beast, have been fighting it, and losing? Me, because I need a chuckle and know the joke is on Emmitsburg, because we don't have a drug problem? (Well, some days it's harder to get drugs than others, but that is a supply side problem.)

And a crusader? Someone willing to drag Emmitsburgers out of their habit of ignoring what has been ruling this community for at least 100 years. Someone willing to disrupt the status quo, willing to stand up to the beast he has found in his chosen community. Someone dangerous, willing to bring grief to a community of people long grown use to the beast that lives among them. Someone who can bring all those "concerned, helpless" citizens together with the paper shufflers who think cash is the solution, with those who make the laws and enforce them. Someone willing to be a backbone for a community that's been lacking one as long as I can remember.

Uh oh. This coalition might actually change the way people live in Emmitsburg. This is what comes of growth. Of new blood moving into the town. Of new ideas, new lifestyles, new people. People who were not raised with Emmitsburg's beast grinning at them from birth. People who do not look away when the beast snarls. People who do not accept as normal what everyone in Emmitsburg believes is normal. People who will not allow Emmitsburg to continue to be Emmitsburg.

Or so these newcomers think. The beast is old. Wise and very powerful. It eats strong men and women. It presses against their resolve until they break, or flee in despair. It eats their children and their children's children. It has ruled here as far into the past as any can look. It is Emmitsburg. And it will eat the ECPDA.

How do I know this? Because I've watched this town eat its own for more than 30 years. And I've listened to the stories of those who were young before I was born and they tell me the beast has always been here, eating the people of Emmitsburg. I've watched groups of "do gooders" slam their heads against Emmitsburg's beast. I've watched many people grapple the thing, and lose. I've listened to preachers implore their god, and still the beast lives here while its adversaries have moved on, defeated.

The ECPDA will have minor victories. Emmitsburg will appear to roil and change, but time is on the beast's side. It will survive and slowly, or quickly, depending on the strength of the crusader's back, reclaim its place- as Emmitsburg.

Emmitsburg is the beast. Not heroin. Not tobacco, pot or alcohol. Emmitsburg, its people. We are the beast. We allow the drugs to exist here. We prepare our children for the drugs; sometimes we give them the drugs. We create a mindset that encourages our children to accept the drugs (with the damage they do) as part of life. We may agonize behind closed doors if a child consumes a drug not to our liking or in quantities dangerous, but we try to keep it from public view. People with problems are weak, inferior, to be pitied, avoided and ignored.

My mother endured the beast when it began to consume my dad. And Dad and Mom endured the beast when I walked eagerly into its maw. What could Mom and Dad say to stop my idiocy? Had they not shown their children the way? Didn't they put us near Emmitsburg where the drug, alcohol, is a way of life? Did they not teach us to accept the beast as their parents taught them? As everyone in Emmitsburg taught them and us? How dare they challenge us when we took to alcohol and marijuana?! How dare they try to curb us when we had heard the stories of our uncles, and cousins, and family friends and neighbors?! How dare they try to make us confront the beast!

I guess there was a spark of sanity, of "rightness", in my parents. They knew something was wrong. Terribly wrong, but they didn't know how to deal with it. And because they couldn't deal with the beast, neither did I. And I became the beast, am the beast and will die the beast.

For 38 years I've had my defenses stripped away. Family scattered, friends consumed or moved on. Religious beliefs proved lies and stripped away. A loss of faith in the Law, in government, in people. A distrust in every "do gooder", in every disciple who points to a Way.

When a friend from the late 60s tells me in the 80s he is prepared to kill me if I speak his name and mention his dope dealing in the wrong circles, and he says this calmly, firmly, seriously- I know I have no one between me and the beast. I am alone. Not even friendship has meaning.

There is only me, and mine. And mine are being stalked now. My instincts are to take up weapons and make war. Brutal war. Bloody war. But that's part of the beast.

So I sit to one side of the Coalition to Prevent Drug Abuse and I hope (I can't pray- all gods are false) that these people (who are just beginning to feel the touch of the beast) can prove strong enough to beat the monster back. To cage it. To take its death grip from the throat of Emmitsburg.

I hope. But I've already begun collecting my weapons for war. And the beast smells new blood.

Read Other Articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.