Missouri is my home and birthplace. I was born in Saint Louis and lived in a number of places in the state, sticking close to the points that make up the triangle of Saint Louis, Poplar Bluff, and Springfield areas—central east, southeast, and the southwest. For the most part, my childhood was made up of living in either mostly rural or sometimes suburban locations with a short amount of time living in Saint Louis city for a while in my later grade school years. I moved around a lot as a kid and probably attended roughly nine to eleven schools before I was a junior in high school. Though I live in Pennsylvania now, I will always consider Missouri “home.”
The bigger problems I started to hear about after leaving home in 1988 was the rise of the drug epidemic in my home state and crime in Saint Louis. During my time in the Marines, I would visit home sporadically. Visiting home wasn’t always an annual event. There were a number of times during my six years in the Marines where two or three years would separate visits because of operational commitments or lack of money to buy an airline ticket. I wasn’t paid very much when I was in the Corps. In the past fifteen years, I try to visit annually; but sometimes get besieged with work or other commitments and can’t make it back. During the methamphetamine explosion of the late nineties and early aughts, Missouri became the meth capital of the United States. My stepfather being in law enforcement at the time told me stories of meth trailers being setup on rural properties in literally every county of the state. Every time I would go home, I would hear more and more about meth and its impact on my home state. Since 2013, Missouri has slipped to third in meth busts, behind Indiana and Tennessee. So I guess that is a good thing, but the drop in busts might have been short lived or have little to do with the epidemic itself.
This last time I went home over Christmas, there were two things that troubled me. The first being that everyone was talking about heroin problems like they used to talk about meth. Almost every single person I talked to brought up heroin. It was weird that the state’s heroin epidemic would come up so casually in almost benign conversations. It was slightly alarming how heroin had eclipsed meth as the topic of concern. The Leftie press seems to think there is a link between Trump becoming president and the opioid epidemic. This may be true. I really don’t know. I hypothesize that if there is truth to this, then maybe it has something to do with Obama demonizing law enforcement and people feeling helpless and being frustrated with the Democrats. Who really knows? Not me. I do know that the opioid epidemic was something that Trump campaigned on and he has been keeping his word in regard to campaign promises. So maybe this is a salient issue to the suburban and rural electorate.
The other thing that bothered me was how meth has impacted people I know. I know this is anecdotal, but a few people I know and keep in touch with have had their lives sidelined by drugs—specifically meth. This has impacted not only them, but their families as well. These people were lost for a long while, and even though they are on the straight and narrow now, they are in ill health, unemployed or underemployed, and have issues supporting themselves and their families. These aren’t drug fiends and criminals. These are good people, once lost souls, who are trying to do the right thing after getting caught up in something bigger than themselves. It saddened and affected me.
It makes me sad that my home state, the place where my mother still resides, is such a mess with drugs. I like the idea of marijuana being legalized or decriminalized, but I truly think that drug enforcement, treatment, and education has to be either maintained, if not stepped up.