A nice guy I knew while growing up could spend his last days in prison.  I came home from work last Friday night to learn he had been arrested and a meth lab discovered in his house.  Friends who haven’t seen him in years are plainly in shock.  He didn’t seem the type.  He was bright and personable and everyone who ever met him liked him.  My initial reaction was times are tough in Appalachia and in desperation people who are struggling turn to illegal but often highly profitable alternatives.  But then this isn’t Bryan Cranston doing slapstick with a recreational vehicle in the desert.

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Sunday afternoon I spotted a Facebook post from his younger brother, a fellow I also consider a great friend from the old neighborhood.  He pointed out the family had long been concerned and worried about his older sibling’s newfound acquaintances, however.  Now the older brother can get some help.  It made me happy.  For a short while.  Then the comments started flowing and I watched the guy be lionized.  Sure, we all fall down at times in life and most of us are commanded by God to forgive and, yet.

Methamphetamine is a serious, serious public health and safety threat.  I’m mostly a libertarian.  If some guys want to grow some weed on a hillside they own and then smoke it on a Friday night I’m O.K. with their actions.  As long as they don’t sell or give the smoke to kids and they don’t drive while stoned I don’t believe it threatens any Puritans.  And 30 years ago I thought it was fine to get a snoot full and then drive drunk across two counties.  It was immature, stupid and dangerous.  At 54 I wised up a long time ago.  In the last 30 years I’ve also known the same desperation during job changes, pay cuts and unexpected catastrophic costs we experience in life.  So instead I got a smaller house, canceled cable, took the bus to work, stayed home weekends or found second jobs.  About 25 years ago a man I knew approached me and explained he could make all my monetary woes a thing of the past.  It just required I make a few “deliveries”.  “No, thank you,” I replied.

This drug we call meth is dangerous in many ways.  It can kill you or hasten the end of your days.  It can blow up when being cooked.  In some places the explosions have leveled the better part of a city block.  The fumes could contaminate whole swaths of a small town.  The people working with you are often cutthroats and to protect business and keep themselves out of jail are sometimes willing to kill.

While we talk about how far our friend has fallen let’s consider as well the damage he may already have done to others and could well have done to neighbors.  I grew up in the house next door to the lab.  If you cross the street and walk four houses west you’ll be at my sister’s place.  She’s my last surviving sibling and lives in a large and drafty old house with her only child, my niece.  In the event of an accident while cooking product they could be dead.  My sister is a severe asthmatic.  She would die a slow and painful death from the fumes.  My niece is a cancer patient and while in remission deals with immune issues.  Meanwhile my old neighbor was cooking up this brew encircled by his own family.  One of his sisters lives in one-half of my old house.  Across the street he has more family in the home where he was raised.  In the other half of my old house lives his daughter.  Not long ago one of his nephews lived in the very same apartment.  The nephew is the Chief-of-Police.  During an interview I watched Saturday the Chief explained State Police had been conducting an investigation for several months.  I’m not sure the Chief/nephew was in the loop.  He did have a potential conflict of interest.  Until recently the nephew lived in the apartment where the daughter of the accused now lives.  A good record or not as a cop there are legitimate questions.  What did he know and when did he know it?

I’m told there may be associates in the methamphetamine ring.  People from back home keep me apprised via e-mail.  It appears some witnessed the accused often meeting strange men in a parking lot between the bank and the Family Dollar.  If witnesses could identify these men would the strangers kill to ensure silence?

Forgiveness can be given and I know many people redeemed after hitting bottom but let’s not forget there are potentially hundreds impacted and dangers still possibly lurking in shadows.  He isn’t the victim here and it says much about modern culture when everyone is showering him with pity.  His actions bordered on monstrous.