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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

You Cannot Remember "When We Were Here Together"

When We Were Here Together

Kenneth Patchen

When we were here together in a place we did not know,
nor one another.

A bit of grass held between the teeth for a moment, bright hair on the wind.

What we were we did not know, nor even the grass or the flame of hair turning to ash on the wind.

But they lied about that.
From the beginning they lied.
To the child, telling him that there was somewhere anger against him, and a hatred against him, and the only reason for his being in the world.

But never did they tell him that the only evil and danger was in themselves; that they alone were the prisoners and the betrayers; that they - they alone - were responsible for what was being done in the world.

And they told the child to starve and to kill the child that was within him; for only by doing this could he become a useful and adjusted member of the community which they had prepared for him.

And this time, alas, they did not lie.

And with the death of the child was born a thing that had neither the character of a man nor the character of a child, but was a horrible and monstrous parody of the two; and it is in this world now that the flesh of man’s spirit lies twisted and despoiled under the indifferent stars.

When we were here together in a place we did not know, nor one another.

O green the bit of warm grass between our teeth.
O beautiful the hair of our mortal goddess on the indifferent wind.

It is a revelation to realize the pure innocence and the virtuous existence of being "what we were we did not know." Kenneth Patchen, the poet, speaks of our initial blessed ignorance upon entering this world -- a time of our life before understanding anything really mattered, and a time before experience and knowledge formed our character.

Then, something as simple as tasting a blade of grass between our teeth or feeling the gentle wind blow through our hair was wholly natural and free of human judgment. We were simply living organisms of beautiful existence.

Perhaps, before others taught us lies perpetrated as important truths that formed our consciousness and stuck in our brains, we lived a brief time "when we were here together" peacefully occupying our space in the dependent harmony of a natural, loving community.

Yet, believing they understood the purpose of life, our own people demanded we "kill the child within us" to mature and function as members of the society into which we were born -- a life complicated by dark emotions and a learned distrust: a dangerous place rife with "strangers."

Thus, too soon we became aware of our sworn enemies, those whom all close to us held responsible for our woes and concerns. Ironically, these foes were nothing more than scapegoats of blame for our own human condition of constant, personal struggle and strife. Yet, in many ways, hating those unlike ourselves became so much easier and so much more natural than loving them.

Child to man -- over time we grew into "a horrible and monstrous parody of the two" with the flesh and the spirit of a twisted, manipulated creation. And all the while, we recklessly wandered beneath the "indifferent stars" whose existence depended absolutely nothing upon our murderous human vanity and senseless fears.

Yet, no return to an earthly Eden exists for such a human form. Our own mortality prevents such a visit to a place so innocent and so perfect. The indigenous harmony has been lost forever. Not even so much as a sufficient memory exists to remind us of unbridled simple and natural acceptance because then we were just too young to remember. Still, a mysterious longing haunts our souls. We beg and we pray for the beauty we no longer have.

"O green the bit of warm grass between our teeth.
O beautiful the hair of our mortal goddess on the indifferent wind."

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
and cometh down from the Father of lights,
with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."

James 1:17, Holy Bible

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Casting Dark Shadows: Evil Exists in the Hearts of All Humans

Allow me to preface this blog entry by saying I am not a minister, a psychologist, or a philosopher, and I don't profess to have the quick-and-easy answers to important questions. I am merely a writer who reserves the right of expression concerning my own beliefs.

Opium poppies, opium, heroin, syringes, money -- none of these things are inherently evil. They are all benign creations, both natural and man-made, that exist in our world. On the other hand, all people possess free will and a sinful nature.

Within us, we harbor tendencies toward expediency, selfishness, ignorance, lust, pride, greed, neglect and many other negative and even deadly behaviors. In other words, we are creatures who struggle with our own God-given, antagonistic duality -- we constantly must decide whether to do good or to do evil.

I think that when we go against the will of God, that action, thought or attitude becomes "evil." And, I strongly believe evil is real, alive, and destructive through its strong hold on human beings.

What is evil? Many, many definitions, philosophies, and religions tell of the nature of its existence. Without an exposition of book length, I would like to relay my own understandings of evil in an effort to put something largely debatable into words that others may comprehend.

The root meaning of evil is rather obscure; however almost all the known etymology for the word defines evil as akin to the basic idea of  "transgressing" or "committing a sin, a crime, or an offense against a social norm."

Carl Jung, famous psychiatrist founder of analytical psychology, depicted evil as "the dark side of the Devil." He believed it is dark because it tends to consist predominantly of the primitive, negative, socially or religiously depreciated human emotions and impulses like sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger, or rage. Jung considered transgression against God as evil and sinful. Here is a quote affirming his beliefs:

"I find that all my thoughts circle around God like the planets around the sun, and are as irresistibly attracted by Him. I would feel it to be the grossest sin if I were to oppose any resistance to this force."

Jung differentiated between the personal shadow and the impersonal or archetypal shadow, which acknowledges transpersonal, pure or radical evil (symbolized by the Devil and demons) and collective evil, exemplified by the horror of the Nazi holocaust. Literary and historical figures like Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson, and Darth Vader personify the shadow embodied in its most negative archetypal human form.

Jung said people tend to believe that evil is something external to them because they project what might be called "their own shadow" onto others. He interpreted the life of Jesus as an account of God facing His own shadow.

(Stephen A. Diamond, PhD. "Essential Secrets of Psychotherapy:
What is the 'Shadow'?" Psychology Today. April 20, 2012)  

I agree with Jung in that we human beings can choose the dark "shadow" side of our character, and we do possess the ability to determine how to ignore or use all the material things we encounter; thus, we can employ objects and substances to abuse ourselves and others. In doing so, evil is manifested in its human hosts and also set loose to cause irreparable harm to others.

I believe far too many humans choose evil by free will. These decisions feed their greedy desires for pleasure, wealth, and power. The dark, but tempting shadow of evil causes people to develop insatiable appetites, and despite the potential for harm, these people make many risky decisions they perceive will facilitate the acquisition of their own unhealthy needs. Through their evil thoughts and actions, these hedonists spread their shadows to influence others to become members of an evil "Shadow Army."

Evil, indeed, casts a spell on its victims and prevents them from seeing who they really are. Hannah Arendt, German-American political theorist, once said,  "The sad truth  is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil." Even one or two personal bad decisions that evoke overpowering evil that, once beckoned, serves to master the mind and body in which it exists.

I have seen evil devour souls and lives without as much as a single care.

As we read about the temptation of Christ as detailed in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we understand that Jesus revealed himself as God's Servant, one person capable of being totally obedient to the Divine will while defeating the most powerful of evil forces. Jesus refused all temptations as the lamb of God. This is proof that Christ expects us to fight with all our strength to vanquish the Tempter -- the evil -- be it a personal shadow or an archetypal shadow.

How are we simple humans supposed to face evil and prevent it from overtaking out lives? Phil Zimbardo, lead scientist of the “Stanford Prison Study” provides a comprehensive definition of the composition of evil in his book The Lucifer Effect:

“Evil consists in intentionally behaving in ways that harm, abuse, demean, dehumanize, or destroy innocent others – or using one’s authority and systemic power to encourage or permit others to do so on your behalf. In short, it is ‘knowing better but doing worse.’”

Notice the words "intentionally behaving." I don’t believe that Hitler, perhaps the most evil man in history, was possessed by the Devil. He did evil in the shadows of his wicked intentions. The idea of spiritual oppression existing in all of humans makes more sense to me than demonic possession in that it seems that everyone is imperfect, incomplete, insecure, inadequate, and likely tempted to do harmful things on occasion.

So, is there some kind of genetic predisposition toward evil or good? Does an evil environment promote generations of further evil? I would say "yes" to both of these propositions, but, to me, free will and conscious choices that evoke evil are to blame for nearly all sins against God and humanity.

In addition, I do strongly believe in the eventual triumph of good over evil. This is the hope of mankind based on religious faith. To me, a person without faith is dead to this world and nonexistent in the next. No one can be a warrior against evil without faith.

For now, we must ignore temptations like heroin and greed that would seem to promise pleasurable physical and mental releases as promising avenues to "the good life." In his book Evil, author and social psychologist Roy Baumeister provides an exhaustive review of the actions that promote evil. The factors that Baumeister most emphasizes include the following:

(1) The use of evil as a means toward some end (such as material acquisitions, sex, status, or power),
(2) Threats to a fragile and overly inflated ego,
(3) Idealistic fanaticism, and
(4) Conformity or obedience to others engaged in evil actions.

("The Psychology of Evil." The Quest for a Good Life. Wordpress. August 7, 2010)

We are all sinners, yet life presents us with a Heavenly challenge of avoiding evil each time it rears its ugly head. Playing with certain things readily found in our environment can be totally destructive and lead to living in permanent shadows, dark places that consume the soul of the abuser and the sanctity of others. It is human evil that ignites the insatiable appetite of sin and causes people to employ ordinary tools of destruction to perpetrate these horrible transgressions.

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as
he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without
protesting against it is really cooperating with it."

 --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ohio Human Trafficking: A Scioto Concern

Human Trafficking

Do you even know what human trafficking is? The legal definition of human trafficking under US federal law is: "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery."

"Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises worldwide. A preliminary report into the scale of sex trafficking in the state by the attorney general’s office found that 50% of victims were under 18 when they were first trafficked.

"A recent study on sex trafficking in Ohio showed 1,078 children were trafficked each year and another 2,879 were at risk of becoming victims. Of those children, about 64 percent of young sex trafficking victims lived in a home where at least one parent abused drugs, according to research from the University of Toledo."

(Taken from a report issued by the Attorney General of Ohio)

In 2012, Governor Kasich formed The Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force to marshal the state’s resources to provide wraparound services for victims and punish the perpetrators of this horrible crime.

Across the state of Ohio, the drug trade and the sex trade go hand in hand, said Jeff Orr, president of the Ohio Task Force Commanders Association. Women will sell their bodies for money to get their next fix, and criminals are eager to take advantage.

Violent criminals such as Ali Salim and Rashaune Ramsey used heroin and other drugs to lure women into sexual abuse. Salim, a former doctor, was sentenced to 36 years in prison for killing a pregnant Pataskala, Ohio, woman by injecting her with heroin. After she was incapacitated, he recorded himself having sex with her, according to The Associated Press.

Salim apparently used Craigslist to meet sexual partners and frequently referenced exchanging drugs for sex, according to the AP report.

"In a world where gift cards, food stamps and stolen products
are exchanged for drugs, it shouldn't be surprising
that sex is turned into currency as well."

(Kristina Smith. "Sex and drugs: A dangerous combination."
The Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum. October 22, 2014)

Keturah Schroeder, managing director of Freedom a la Cart, a nonprofit organization that helps survivors of human trafficking by teaching them catering skills, reports, "Sex traffickers or pimps will groom young women, many with troubled pasts, by providing them with drugs and treating them like their girlfriends. Then, the tone changes. After a few months of grooming, (it becomes) now you owe me and you have to work it off."

Some drug dealers will attempt to move up the ranks by offering "party packages." They will send women to deliver the drugs and offer sex as well, Schroeder said.

Rashaune Ramsey, who conspired crimes with another man, was believed to have sexually or physically assaulted as many as 30 victims. He traded drugs for other services as well. For example, a man would pick up dry cleaning or buy groceries for Ramsey in exchange for drugs.

"He told this guy he wasn't free to leave," Mansfield, Ohio police Chief Ken Coontz said. "He'd been there like a month. He became a servant."

Eventually, Ramsey was sentenced to 25 years to life for raping a 31-year-old woman who was trying to get clean from narcotics.

(Kristina Smith. "Sex and drugs: A dangerous combination."
The Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum. October 22, 2014)

Christopher Hisle, 45, was arrested on April 8, 2014, in Louisville, Kentucky after authorities said he drove a young woman from Cincinnati to Louisville to engage in prostitution at a nearby Red Roof Inn.

An FBI investigation later revealed Hisle was involved in forcing and compelling the women to engage in commercial sex for at least two years. He held the women at his Avondale home. It is unknown how many women Hisle held at one time and what their ages were, yet authorities said at least 12 women were victims of his human trafficking operation.

Hisle reportedly assaulted several of his victims. Authorities said Hisle locked the women in his house by boarding and locking all the doors and windows. Only the front door was capable of opening, and only Hisle had the key, agents said.

Hisle created escort advertisements for some of the women and directed one of them to post the advertisements on websites like

(Maxim Alter. "FBI: Man locked women in Cincinnati home, used them as sex slaves."
WCPO Scripps TV Station. November 14, 2014)

Jennifer Kempton of Columbus, Ohio, used to display a tattoo on her neck -- a crude black crown and the words “King Munch” – the insignia of the dope gang that sold her for sex out of boarded-up houses in a poor suburb of Columbus. Men had also tattooed their names on her arm and her back. Just above her groin another announced that she was “Property of Salem," marking her as her pimp's possession and money-maker.

She has recently had tattoo artists cover up and alter these markers that once labeled her as human property. She is free and sober.

Kempton says once she was "branded like cattle" and forced into a journey that led to the darkness of human trafficking. She was one of many women who work the sex trade on the streets of downtown Columbus.

Approximately a year and a half ago, she was, in her own words, "exhausted, starved, addicted and barely alive." She survived an attempted suicide and managed to escape the streets into sobriety and recovery.

Yet, even after she freed herself of the gangs and the drugs, the tattoos on Kempton's body kept her trapped in that life, unable to move on. Read her own words:

“Those tattoos to me meant betrayal, because I went from thinking I was in the first loving relationship of my life with a guy who treated me like a queen, to becoming an addict and being sold by him to supply his drug habit,” she says. “And then he sold me again for financial gain to a known gang that put me on the streets and took me to the darkest point in my life.

“And after enduring this, being raped and beaten and abused, and after getting clean of my addiction, every time I took a shower or tried to look at my body I was reminded of the violence and exploitation I’d suffered. I was so grateful to be alive, but having to look at those scars, seeing those names on your body every day, just puts you in a state of depression. You begin to wonder whether you’ll ever be anything but the person those tattoos say you are.”

(Annie Kelly. "'I carried his name on my body for nine years’: the tattooed trafficking
survivors reclaiming their past." The Guardian. November 15, 2014)

So, after maintaining her sobriety; juggling her 50-hour work weeks; going to trauma therapy and church; in addition to seeing her daughter, Jennifer decided to try to help other women in Columbus marked by addiction and trafficking brands such as she had.

She launched Survivors Ink, a grassroots project that runs a tattoo scholarship program in which women who have lived through human trafficking, and have been clean and in recovery for more than six months, can apply to get their tattoos covered up. So far she’s given out seven scholarships, raising the money through local fundraisers at churches, universities and community events.

How Extensive Is Human Trafficking?

Those in the field estimate hundreds of thousands of women and girls – the majority of whom are U.S. citizens – are sold for sexual exploitation in America’s $9.5 billion human-trafficking industry. According to the US Department of Justice, 300,000 of those at risk are children.

Pimp-led prostitution is widely considered one of the most brutal and violent of all forms of human trafficking found in the States. Brad Myles is chief executive of Polaris Project, an influential US anti-trafficking organization.

“When you look at this particular type of trafficking,” Myles says, “where you have thousands of self-labeled pimps selling hundreds of thousands of women and children for profit in every state across America, the branding is all part of the extreme nature of the ways they control and profit from this trade.”

Full of Misunderstandings

CC Murphy, who runs Ohio's Catch program, which offers women facing jail terms for soliciting and prostitution an alternative in the form of a three-year residential recovery and reintegration program, reports that huge misunderstandings exist about the nature of sex trafficking, particularly in relation to street prostitution and drug addiction.

“I think the majority of people still think of trafficking as all foreign or all overseas, but it isn’t what normally happens,” she says, sitting in her small office in the Columbus courthouse. “Trafficking is right next door. It can be very small and very local. It can just be a woman in a relationship with another drug user who is ordering her to solicit to support both of their habits. It doesn’t have to be a giant syndicate or some huge crime ring. It’s normally just Joe down the street who is manipulating and profiting from his girlfriend or children.”

“There is a huge misconception about the choices women make,” Murphy says. “There are always men waiting for the girl whose father keeps hitting her or coming into her room at night, or whose mother is not present, or drunk, or high. These men often give them the first hope of love and protection they’ve ever had, and once they’re inside their heads – especially if addiction is part of that dynamic – then the psychological and emotional manipulation is often more powerful than the physical stuff.”

Victims of human trafficking often feel as if they have no options and no hope.

The National Runaway Safeline (click estimates that one third of all teenage run-aways will be approached by a potential exploiter within 48 hours of leaving home.

(Annie Kelly. "'I carried his name on my body for nine years’: the tattooed trafficking
survivors reclaiming their past." The Guardian. November 15, 2014)

Of Local Concern

"In Plain Sight! Human Trafficking Awareness" is an awareness event sponsored by Jeremy and Kadie Lancaster on February 28, 2015, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the New Boston Community Center.

It will be hosted by Private Investigator Lilly Swartz-Paisley and Audra Wofter Ladd. Please attend this local gathering to learn more about trafficking. I encourage you to become informed and involved. Thank you.

You can check the Facebook information by clicking here and expressing your desire to attend:

Stick a Needle In My Eye: An Appalachian Experience

Appalachia is home to one of the world's oldest mountain ranges. It is also a place with a rich history of diverse peoples who have inhabited the region -- the hilly lands have forever shaped the people who settled there. The Appalachian mountains and the all the groups of humans who called them home have had a unique, dynamic interaction rooted firmly in both natural and human history.

Historians found evidence that the first humans arrived in Appalachia as early as 12,000 B.C. As they settled, they developed a complex and sophisticated relationship with the natural world. They were also likely to be the first people to discover that the geology of their home was linked to their ultimate destiny. No one really knows the fate of their sizable civilization. Without written or oral confirmation of the actual names of their cultures, later European Americans dubbed them "Mound Builders" for the mysterious earthworks they constructed that survived both time and future human expansion to attest to their storied existence.

Appalachia’s principal people at the time of European contact -- Native American tribes such as the Cherokee, Shawnee, and Iroquois -- forged vibrant, adaptive cultures with their intimate relationships to their environment. These groups existed in complex ecological communities with amazing biological diversity.

Then, of course, the arrival of the Europeans signaled vast cultural and biological upheavals in the mountains and foothills of Appalachia. The Native Americans and Europeans collided in a monumental struggle for control of the land. As Europeans forged west, surveyors and mapmakers came first to mark the land followed by road builders and cabin builders who served to help open new colonial horizons.

History speaks of ecologists, anthropologists, and geographers witnessing vast differences between the Native American and the European perceptions of the land and its bountiful resources. It was soon evident that those bent on property ownership could not share resources with Native peoples.

As these pioneers carved out a life on the Appalachia frontier, they too came to terms with the vast wilderness while creating a way of life unique to the mountains. New strains were put on the land. Virgin timber, an abundance of wildlife, rich soil, and precious natural minerals such as coal attracted huge waves of immigrants who used primitive roads and river freeways to reach all points of Appalachia. The pioneers eventually forced the Native Americans from their beloved lands.

Sociologists and ecologists have pointed to something they call "Appalachia’s own inner eye," the ways in which trouble and pain, discovery and self-discovery fortify the region’s soul and backbone. This "inner eye" is linked directly to the mountains and the rugged, beautiful nature of the land.

(Jamie Ross and Ross Spears. Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People. Film Series.
The University of Tennessee.

From prehistoric native inhabitants to early European settlers, these traits -- pain, endurance, and self-discovery -- have been vital parts of the character of Appalachians. Without significant appreciation of nature, environmental interactions, and frontier spirit, people living there now suffer a kind of "natural soul damage" as their minds and lives show indifference to their land and even to their own genetic make-up.

Losing the ability to love and to protect the environment, many Appalachians lack the backbone to realize the strength in the ancestral fabric of their true identity. In short, they rebel against their isolated homeland by cursing the land and even by abusing themselves. Lost appreciation for nature and lost respect for human life lead to a quickly decaying existence for any culture.

Ross and Spears say that the land has been "romanticized, maligned, discovered, rediscovered, exploited, redefined, but only vaguely understood." They conclude, "In fact, more is known about Appalachia that is untrue than about any other region of the country."

Although Appalachia is a treasure, the modern struggle of its people to find a true and proper relationship to the natural world has led to the self-destruction of the Appalachian inner eye. Once the prize of America, Appalachia is now characterized -- even by most of its own inhabitants -- as distinctly backwards and disturbing: a backwoods of "silly and ignorant hillbillies."

Residents blame outsiders for the stereotypes while outsiders find the residents living up to the conception of many negative characteristics. Ignorance and indifference breed more ignorance and indifference in a land with no clear direction or future. Struggles only mount.

I strongly believe it is time for residents of Appalachia to find the common denominator for change and success in the fabled history of the past -- our ancestors knew it was the mountains, the natural beauty and abundance, along with the loving harmony of the inhabitants that mattered most. Just as a resident of the American coast cannot ignore the impact of the vast ocean, Appalachians cannot dismiss the rich topography and a need for a renewed, cherished relationship with their home: a relationship grounded in respect and in pride, not in shame.

So, you ask, "What is a resident to think or to do to accomplish the roots of his present existence?" Let me suggest a look at what some historians and sociologists consider to be important Appalachian values. Perhaps it would behoove us Appalachian residents to follow some old values while seeking important change.

Ten Values Common to Appalachians
by Loyal Jones, scholar and co-founder of the Berea College Appalachian Center

1. Individualism: Self-Reliance, Pride - most obvious characteristics; necessary on the early frontier; look after oneself; solitude; freedom; do things for oneself; not wanting to be beholding to others; to make do.

2. Religion: Values and meaning to life spring from religious sources; fatalistic (outside factors control one's life, fate, believe things happen for a reason and will work out for the best); sustains people in hard times.

3. Neighborliness and Hospitality: Help each other out, but suspicious of strangers; spontaneous to invite people for a meal, to spend the night, etc.

4. Family Solidarity or Familism: Family centered; loyalty runs deep; responsibility may extend beyond immediate family; "blood is thicker than water."

5. Personalism: Relates well to others; go to great lengths to keep from offending others; getting along is more important than letting one's feelings be known; think in terms of persons rather than degrees or professional reputations.

6. Love of Place: Never forget "back home" and go there as often as possible; revitalizing, especially if a migrant; sometimes stay in places where there is no hope of maintaining decent lives.

7. Modesty and Being Oneself: Believe one should not put on airs; be oneself, not a phony; don't pretend to be something you're not or be boastful; don't get above your raising.

8. Sense of Beauty: Displayed through folksongs, poems, arts, crafts, etc., colorful language metaphors, e.g. "I'm as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs."

9. Sense of Humor: Seem dour, but laugh at ourselves; do not appreciate being laughed at; humor sustains people in hard times.

10. Patriotism: Goes back to Civil War times; flag, land, relationships are important; shows up in community celebration and festivals 

The list of real things lacking to stimulate progress in Appalachia is as long the range of mountains itself. But, without people building respect in themselves, nothing significant will be accomplished.

And, how can anyone feel self-respect without improving the very nature of his or her existence. The trees, the hills, the woods, the air, the water, the soil -- these are the precious components that allow human beings to live, to thrive, and to love. We cannot afford to ignore or to abuse Appalachia or Appalachians.


up on the hill
the view of the ohio
river is magnificent
in the rising sun.
below a rusted barge
is puffing against
the current
working hard
to meet its
this is the rigid life
of this small
Appalachian town:
fighting the current
or stepping in
and drowning.
everyday choices
have to be made.

the barge chugs along.

June 27, 2011
Jim Brewer

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Saturday Night Live Hillbilly Exploitation

I watched some of Blake Shelton hosting Saturday Night Live last night. In a span of fifteen minutes, I witnessed so many stereotypes of hillbillies being exploited that I really couldn't continue to view the show. The words "grossly overboard" came to mind. I thought this content was particularly ironic considering Shelton's country roots and rural upbringing. I guess since he was hosting, NBC thought it was open season on us, the folks of Appalachia.

Shelton was born in Ada, Oklahoma and moved to Nashville when he was 17 to become a country music songwriter. He is now a very successful country music singer, and he is also known for his role as a judge on the televised singing competition The Voice. I would say he qualifies as a hillbilly and profits from doing so. That is fine. I have nothing against Sheldon or his success.

I fully understand that Saturday Night Live survives through its satire, and the show is renown for poking fun at practically every sacred institution, lifestyle, and belief in existence. I love so many of the Saturday Night programs past and present and their talented casts of comic personalities in classic skits. I think we should and we must laugh at humorous characterizations of ourselves. We need comic relief to endure reality.

Nevertheless ...

Overemphasis on cornball residents of Appalachia sometimes offends me. Watching Saturday Night, I couldn't help but wonder about how many viewers do see Appalachia as an area in which these comical, hackneyed judgments realistically define the people. To me, there is no doubt that we, the people who live here in Appalachia, suffer from being viewed by a relentless stereotypical image fueled with oversimplified opinion and prejudiced attitude.

More than any other area in America, our home is considered a backwoods, backward embarrassment to the rest of the nation. We do endure the pain of many who laugh "at" us, not "with" us.

Granted, some of the negative regard is well-earned. As poverty, health problems, drug abuse, and poor education are common to Appalachia, outsiders have difficulty understanding how we can't just "grab our own bootstraps and pull our own lazy-asses out of trouble." They seldom consider we lack the necessary resources so prevalent in other thriving areas of the country -- jobs, caring and concerned leadership, strong economic support, and... dare I say it?... a large number of lack an absolute belief that a positive attitude and hard work will produce any long-term change that will elevate both our national standing and our depressed standard of living.

You have to live in Appalachia to comprehend the common threads that both bind us together and hold us back from greater prosperity. The people that comics and denigrators love to call "inbred hillbillies" are actually a composite of proud, stubborn people steeled by generations of hardships. We have become sufficiently hardened to our environment and used to existing in unfortunate circumstances. Survival is not a silly game or a reality television show here -- it is daily life in a hand-to-mouth struggle for existence. By the way, the influx of television shows portraying us as moonshining halfwits and feuding hotheads are bothersome, indeed.

In many Appalachian communities, the glory days of the past provide no additional promise for a better future, and those who do preach that happy days will soon return are regarded as either politically motivated liars or wild-eyed dreamers, largely for good reason considering their abysmal track record.

Most of us would have no idea how to find a good, full-time job in our communities, much less how to believe in a bright tomorrow, so we construct a "hodgepodge, hardscrabble" means of living and remain in the hills and valleys we love so much -- the places our parents and our grandparents and our great-grandparents called home. And, we do this as we continue to watch so many of our brightest sons and daughters leave the area for greener pastures, knowing full-well they will never return to establish residency and help uplift our depressed area.

Scholars argue that the term hillbilly originated from Scottish dialect. The term hill-folk referred to people that preferred isolation from the greater society and billy meant “comrade” or “companion." It is suggested that “hill-folk” and “billie” were combined when the Cameronians fled to the Highlands. This is a storied, bloody, and noble history of those who resisted attempts by the Stuart monarchs to control the affairs of the Church of Scotland.

Cameronions followed the teachings of Richard Cameron (1648-1680), a militant Presbyterian leader. Cameron had called for war against Charles II and was eventually hunted down for his part in the murder of Archbishop Sharp of Saint Andrews after a significant reward was placed on his head.

During a bloody engagement at about four o'clock in the afternoon Cameron's followers, who had become known as the "Hill Men" were overwhelmed by superior numbers. Bruce's dispatch reported, "The dispute continued a quarter of an hour very hot; the rebels, refusing either to fly or take quarter, fought like madmen..."

(M. Grant. The Lion of the Covenant. 1997)

Cameron was killed in the fray. His head and hands were severed from his body and taken to Edinburgh where they were shown to his father who was already imprisoned in the city.  Cameron's head was displayed aloft on the end of a pole, and then his head and hands were affixed to the Netherbow Port for public display.

Known also as "Society Men", "Sanquharians," and "Hilimen," the Cameronions initiated a separate church after establishing a religious settlement in 1690, taking the official title of Reformed Presbyterians in 1743.

Word connotations do change ...

You see, the word hillbilly is most often employed now as a derogatory term for our poor subculture. It is believed hillbilly first appeared in American print in a 1900 New York Journal  article, with the definition: "a Hill-Billie is a free and untrammeled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him."

The stereotype is two-fold in that it incorporates both positive and negative traits: “Hillbillies” are often considered independent and self-reliant individuals that resist the modernization of society, but at the same time they are also defined as backward, violent, and uncivilized. Scholars argue this duality is reflective of the split ethnic identities in “white America."

(Anthony Harkins. Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon. 2004)

We "hillbillies" of Appalachia live with constant exploitation. In truth, Appalachians do not subscribe to a single identity. Yet, since stereotyping is profitable, entrepreneurs continue to open ever wider the window for potential revenue. The media often supercharges negative connotations as it benefits financially in promoting the cultural distortion. 

Fun is fun, and, of course, we often laugh at ourselves while joking about stereotypes; however, we have become the poster image of the genetically deficient, Deliverance people -- inbred, racist, toothless, and ignorant to the core -- as lampooned by anyone who believes in social assassination for the sake of profit.

I hear you. "Thompson, get off your soapbox and don't take it so seriously." OK, OK. So, just consider these comments from an old hillbilly who rankles when contemptible people buy into putting us into unfavorable pigeonholes.

I am a hillbilly who believes in giving proper respect to fearless folks who endure hardships the rest of the nation never know. At the same time, I abhor those who live in Appalachia, who call themselves "hillbillies," and who believe that sloth, abuse, and ignorance are admirable birthrights. They make their own brand of refuse that litters our natural beauty.

If you feel as if you must defend yourself against stereotypical "hillbilly" beliefs, you understand my actions when I turned off Blake's Saturday Night Live show. It really gets old considering yourself a member of a geographical group considered by others to have the intelligence of a cardboard box. I bet no one has the audacity to criticize the rigid Appalachian character of common sense, ingenuity, and rawhide tough endurance.

One thing is certain: a true hillbilly will fight opposition to his last breath. Born of the pioneer spirit, hillbillies cherish freedom and liberty while defending their natural homeland and their long beliefs. Some have faults they still battle, yet battle they will. You see, living with considerable outside opposition all their lives, they remain a clannish lot quick to question a gifted horse and just as quick to accept an honest, trustworthy friend.

If you don't know Appalachia, really know Appalachia, you don't understand the difference between outsiders who poke a little fun and outsiders who wield a diatribe of abuse. By the way, America, now most of us do have running water, inside bathrooms, and husbands or wives who aren't first cousins. We even take baths and graduate from colleges and universities on occasion. And, we're working on figuring out why the rest of you have that funny accent we hear so frequently on the two channels of network television we can receive.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Meth Arrest Poses Poisonous Terror Threat In Portsmouth

"Carlos A. Harr, Jr., 42, of West Portsmouth, was arrested and charged with possessing chemicals to manufacture methamphetamine, and Maria J. Mynes, 37, also of West Portsmouth was charged with possession of chemicals to manufacture methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine and possession of Suboxone, a Schedule II narcotic."

(Frank Lewis. "Two arrested with meth chemicals. Portsmouth Daily Times. January 21, 2014)

These two idiotic criminals have been arrested on drug charges after a truck they were in was found to have a tank of anhydrous gas.

Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers found the tank in the passenger compartment of the vehicle while conducting a traffic stop around 3:24 p.m. Tuesday (January 20, 2014) on Chillicothe Street at Ninth Street in Portsmouth. The officers said the occupants admitted to having knowledge of the tank and that it contained anhydrous, a chemical used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.

An approximate one-square-block perimeter was established until the tank was neutralized. One local business was evacuated during the process for the safety of the employees. Members of the Portsmouth Police Department cordoned off the area and told those who remained in their offices to keep doors closed and outside ventilation shut off.

My wife works at Stakers Drugs, and the stop was made in their parking lot. The business had to close because of the extreme danger posed by the criminal. Not only can exposure to anhydrous ammonia (pure ammonia) cause difficulty breathing, pulmonary edema, and burns, also it can be fatal at high concentrations.

I detest Harr and Mynes for their apparent meth production, but I abhor them even more for the mindless peril they presented to my wife and to so many others as they recklessly drove around our county with a tank full of a potentially killer chemical. This behavior should be considered an act of local terrorism and subject to very stiff penalties. I hope the ignorant pair is prosecuted to the fullest.

I believe it is unspeakable to consume and to manufacture meth. Only those desperate for highs and greedy for profits would expose themselves and/or others to the drug. Most of meth’s key ingredients are toxic and highly flammable. Meth "cooks" use many other chemicals that come with warning labels telling the consumer not to ingest the product. Of course, meth manufacturers don't include such warnings on their finished product.

Here are some common substances used to make methamphetamine:
Gasoline additives
Rubbing Alcohol
Ether (starting fluid)
Paint thinner
Camp stove fuel
Anhydrous ammonia
White gasoline
Rock, table or Epsom salt Red Phosphorous
Toluene (found in brake cleaner)
Red Devil Lye
Drain cleaner
Muraitic acid
Battery acid
Lithium from batteries
Sodium metal
Cold tablets
Diet aids
Energy boosters

I want to thank the OSHP in addition to the Portsmouth Police Department, the Portsmouth Fire Department, Life Medical Response and the Scioto County Drug Task Force for their vigilance and for their dangerous work that helped protect so many innocent lives this Tuesday. In particular, on a personal note, I want to thank them for coming to the aid of my wife, Cindy, who was working so close to the stop of the vehicle.

In closing, I want to implore you meth cooks (And, there are many in our small county.) to stop the manufacture of your poison. However, if you insist on continuing your criminal activity, do so in locations far away from human inhabitation and visitation. If you must mix this acidic cocktail while addicting yourself and others, do so where you are the only morons in danger of explosions, fires, and chemical leaks.

And, last of all, you uncaring, meth-cooking SOB's, I hope you all suffer the ugly impairments of your hellish business. As you pour the chemicals into yourself and sell them to others, I want you to realize you are destroying precious bodies, minds, and souls. As you commit your slow, tortuous murders of addiction, you create ugly zombies who lurk among innocents and prey upon the citizens of our communities. We do not have to stand for this mindless intrusion into our lives. Period. If you must, go ahead and destroy yourselves, but present no harm to anyone else.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr. Said Gandhi Was "Greatest Christian of the Modern World"

"It is ironic, yet inescapably true that the greatest Christian of the modern world was a man who never embraced Christianity."

--Martin Luther King, Jr., 1962

Martin Luther King, Jr. was referring to Mohandas K. Gandhi in this quote. King's remarkable ability to transcend religious sectarianism enabled him to deliver a universal message through the language of Christianity. Although he had deeply rooted Baptist religious beliefs, King was similar to Gandhi in his rejection of religious intolerance and fundamentalist understandings of religious texts.

In the statement above, King was responding to the criticisms he received from some Christian supporters who were disturbed when he agreed to serve as honorary chairman of the Gandhi Society, which had been established in New York to educate Americans about King's civil rights activities.

When Did King First Embrace the Preaching of Gandhi?

Scholars believe King's strong kinship with the principles of Gandhi may have began on a Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia, where in 1948, he attended a lecture by Dr. Mordecai Johnson, who discussed the teachings of the leader of India's non-violent, non-cooperative independence.

Gregg Blakely states in Peace Magazine ...

"After hearing Dr. Johnson speak about Gandhi, Martin Luther King became extremely enthused about the Mahatma's ideas. He felt compelled to expand his knowledge of Gandhi, and after reading a number of his books, began to lose his skepticism about the power of love. King himself states in Stride Toward Freedom, "Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale." King continues, saying, "It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking. ...I came to feel that this was the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom."

"It was Gandhi's doctrine of satyagraha ("truth force") which had the most powerful influence on King. At the time, however, King was still in the seminary and lacked a clear idea about how it might be applied effectively. Still, the whole idea of satyagraha developed a special meaning to him.

"For King, agape was at the heart of the teachings of Jesus. After discovering Gandhi's thought, King felt he had found the key by which oppressed people could unlock social protest. Gandhism was a way to fight the oppression of black Americans - a method that was consistent with the Christian ethic of love. Martin Luther King now saw that Gandhi proposed a method by which Jesus' concept of Christian love could be set to work on the problems of those fighting to achieve freedom and justice."

(Gregg Blakely. "The Formative Influences on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."
Peace Magazine. April-June, 2001)

King began thinking about love as an engine for social change. Then, he realized nonviolence was a cohesive force for those within the black struggle. The Gandhian idea of the "Beloved Community" went on to become the central goal of King's spiritual campaign, for he now believed in nonviolence as a viable option for black Americans. The nonviolent civil rights movement was born.

What if Martin Luther King, Jr. had not opened his mind and expanded his Baptist Christian views about world religion and its new application to the civil rights movement? What if he had stood rigid in his strong beliefs, refusing to change his stance and modifying the wisdom of Gandhi to fight racism in America?

You know the answer to these questions already. Our country would have been robbed of the incredible accomplishments of one of the greatest leaders of history had not King committed himself to truth and to peaceful resistance. He was able to incorporate true religious understandings of other world faiths in parallels with his own Christian beliefs. His open-minded approach proved to be universally respected and ultimately accepted as proof of the power of love.

What are the implications for us today, more than a half century after Dr. King spoke words that rocked the world of many Christian fundamentalists? I believe denominations and religions must be open to working together to solve social problems. Despite differences in interpretation and in principles, all worthwhile faiths ground their hopes and dreams in unconditional love. In order to compromise and realize full potential, the faithful must follow their commitment to love all, above all.

In many ways we are experiencing a hateful uprising of prejudice in America. Recent tragedies in Ferguson and in New York have fanned the flames of white and black bigotry. Evil ISIS terrorists in Iraq and in France have caused death and disorder that threaten a continuous religious war. In response, citizens of the United States seem increasingly unsure of their own freedoms and alliances.

As irresponsible news media spin predictable responses to incite the anger of their intended audiences, divisions of thought grow wider and wider. And, no respected leader seems capable of mending problems through bipartisan guidance.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to see love inspire all faith-based communities -- Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and others -- to find benefit in a peaceful, tolerant human existence? That could all begin by the many faiths in America finding common ground and celebrating a new companionship. Stagnant minds lose the ability to create new and better societies.

"The greatest Christian of the modern world was Mohandas K. Gandhi," stated Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1962. It was a surprising, direct statement based on contradiction but inspired by an incredible truth supported by the power of love. For this belief, King gave his life in 1968 just as Gandhi had before him in 1948. These are two of the greatest leaders the world has ever known forever tied in spirit and in mind.

by Ralph Waldo Emerson 

THOUGH love repine, and reason chafe,    
There came a voice without reply,—    
"'T is man's perdition to be safe,    
When for the truth he ought to die."