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An Open Letter to Appalachia’s “Generation Y” – By: Kyle S. Hall


I feel this article can be applied to many places in this country.


FOREWARD

      First off, I want to thank Courtney for lending me her soapbox for a few minutes. She has been asking me to a post for quite a while. However, I wanted to stay in the background and watch her feed this blog and watch it start to blossom into what I know it can be. I’ve interjected here and there with a short sports post and a brief comment on my personal experience with the post on my family, but now I am going to use her microphone to voice a concern I feel strongly about. After reading the recent article about this blog in the Hazard Herald, I fully agree with her purpose: to acknowledge that we the people of this area have a voice that needs to be heard. Therefore, she is my inspiration.

INTRODUCTION

 Dear “Generation Y”:

     This will not be a call for a Ghandi-esque sentiment of “be the change you wish to see in your home town.” I would love that to be the case, and to some extent, that idea will apply. However, we can not attempt to rebuild a solid house on a crumbling foundation. Our attitude needs to change. I praise Courtney for shining light on the positive aspects of our community, through her blog, and for encouraging other to do the same. I also believe that we have an obligation to create more positive aspects to highlight. The first step is for our age group to realize the heritage we have and the principles, values and integrity in which our area once took pride. This allows us to understand that work needs to be done in order to restore our prior level of community and to potentially improve our area to new levels. I don’t need to reiterate how great this place used to be and still is, Courtney does a fine job with that. Instead, I aim to comment on our road to improvement.

     This letter will have an obvious flaw, in that it will address only two (seemingly polar) groups. I do not mean to make the over-generalization that our group falls only into these two classes. They are not acute, and readers should understand that the lines are blurry and will also not encompass every unique type of person from this area. These are just rising issues that I wish to address.

PART I:

     If you were ever to get the chance to sit down and watch a local law enforcement evidence video pertaining to prescription drug trafficking, you would likely be surprised. No back alleys, no boarded up windows on a house where people are dropping money through a hole in a front door in anticipation of a hand to appear with their drug of choice. Instead, the scene looks vastly different. Wooden porch, screen door, work boots by the door. Hell, someone is usually cooking dinner.  A household where everything would be required, impossibly, to run on a measly $700.00 social security check, if not for the supplemental income. That income would be that from the incredulous profits that come from selling the last fifteen days of a monthly supply of pain medication, needed or not. The point is not to justify an illegal act. The point is to show people that the problem is supplied from all directions and all walks of life. The point is to show that cutting of supply is not the total answer.

    The requirement to face prescription drug addiction has already been slated on the governmental agenda. Recent action, including Governor Beshear’s signing of House Bill 217 (“Kentucky Pill Mill Bill”), has already began showing effects in the amount of the supply prescription medication in the area. The hand of the government is often slow and often lacking in providing the best resolution to a local problem in an area that most know little about. In this case, that has been especially true. Addiction requires the want and will to improve. I admit that I was always wary of classifying addiction as a “disease.” I felt that no one chose to have cancer, so how can you say that a result of a known choice is a disease? After dealing with the issue first hand, my view has partially changed. The choice is still a terrible choice, unless the need for the medication leaves no choice. However, somewhere after the initial decision to partake in these substances, people change on such a fundamental level that I now understand the classification of “disease.”

     I believe that our area has the resources to provide a recovery to people struggling with this issue, but none of them will be effective without the will to use them. Perry County Drug Court has been an exceptional example, in my opinion. The problem is that I would love to see the same results occur from desire, instead of “door 2″ being a large jail sentence. If a greater sense of want to recover is not acquired, the alternative path is quite grim. If you are an optimist, not only are you in the same class as our state legislature, you are of the opinion that the supply of prescription medication will reduce to a level that is proper for those who actually need the medication. You are also of the opinion that the persons who can no longer pay the premium price for such substances will quietly experience withdrawal in their bedrooms and come out a changed individual. You are also uninformed and wrong.

    In reality, without the drive to recover, our area will experience increased crime levels. Theft, violence and murder are already in our midst, and the outlook won’t make you happy. Worse yet? The addiction will change from prescription medication to other cheaper, and therefore, more deadly substances. Methamphetamine is not just in documentaries and on A&E anymore, chances are, it’s within a ten-mile radius of where you live. Heroine isn’t staying in big cities, it’s on its way. The end of the road is one where the bottom falls out of property values, and we risk losing our heritage and area altogether. Am I crazy? Detroit would agree with me.

   I honestly have no clue whether or not a change can actually be made. I’m not naive enough to believe that this letter will inspire struggling Appalachian people to wake up tomorrow with the will to seek recovery. I don’t have the answer to make that happen. All I can do is hope that someone smarter than me may read this and find a way to help.

PART II:

     We are no strangers to poverty. It’s in our counties, it’s in our streets and it’s in our living rooms. This is not breaking news. This has been the story of rural Appalachia since settlement. Things are undoubtedly bad, as of late. Poor economy, rising unemployment and a general lack of opportunity are all issues deserving of complaint. Who do we expect to change this? The people we have relied on to fix the problem for the last one-hundred years? I’m telling you that it needs to be us.

     If you are skilled in a classroom, please pursue an education as far and as ambitious as you can. Expense is an obstacle, but our area receives good educational funding, and it is worth the monetary price. An education is an incredibly valuable asset, but all to often those of us who are lucky enough to acquire such a great gift decide to use it elsewhere. I may be asking victims of addiction to tackle a seemingly impossible obstacle, but I am also asking a hefty request of you, as well. I am asking you to stay here in Appalachia. Even if a classroom isn’t your forte, I am still talking to you. We Appalachians have a long lineage of skilled individuals. If you have a skill, use it, and use it here. We also receive great governmental funding for small businesses.

     I am asking you to contribute in any way you can. I am asking you start here, struggle here, persevere here and to succeed here. I am asking you to sacrifice. It is easier to move to opportunity. I thought about it strongly myself, at one point. I decided that this area needed to create its own opportunity. I believe we should all try. I agree that the decline in coal production in our area has left a gaping hole in our job market. Nothing would please me more than to see a revitalization of the industry, but we do not have to wait on it. Appalachian people do not have to pigeon hole ourselves into the trade of packing coal from the mines to the bank accounts of people who don’t live here. We’ve done that for a long time, and we are still the ones losing our income two weeks before Christmas, in the year 2014. Create local and buy local, if you can. Set out to be successful here in these mountains, and keep the future of your home in mind, while you do it.

Kyle S. Hall

Original can be found here: The Bourbon Soaked Mom