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.
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
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
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,
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.
Other Articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.