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Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town (Hardcover)

From the allegorical fishbowl looking out....., June 30, 2009
By Nathan Lein

Yesterday I retraced the route I first drove with Nick that first day I met him in 2005. I drove by the houses I identified to him as places where methamphetamine had been cooked or distributed. One has been torn down, one still appears dilapidated or "burned out." The other one I barely recognized because it is in such good shape with obvious care and attention being lavished upon it.
Oelwein, like many other rural communities, has changed significantly since Nick started this book. Our transformation, thankfully has been extremely positive. We have a new library, a sewer treatment plant that is not violating Clean Water Act Regulations, an absolutely gorgeous downtown area, 400 new jobs in the last 18 months, a microbrewery with multistate distribution agreements, new shops and restuarants, and a new community college campus that allows high school kids to take the kinds of classes previously only available to prep school kids or kids in major urban centers and allowing them to graduate with an A.A. degree the same day they get their high school diplomas.
My point is simply this: None of the above listed things were here that day Nick and I went to Leo's for lunch. The town was (and still is in some ways) suffering from all the forces described by Nick. There was a palatable sense of dispair. The last two chapters describe the start of the transformation, but all books end, and Oelwein's story defintely has not.
The problem is insidious and scary. As of 6.15.2009 52% of my juvenile case load is still because of methamphetamine use/addiction. The police are still arresting dealers and finding purer and more addictive product from Mexico.
Nick's research methods looked pretty solid to me. The Fayette County Sheriff's Office did have input. I was there when Nick and the Chief Deputy sat down together. Nick did contact colleges in the area. I was not privy to those conversations, but I know they were had. I know some conversations were not held because of refusal to return phone calls and emails. Are there some innacuracies? Yes, on the micro detail level, but they certainly do not detract from the story or affect it negatively. The lines drawn from point A to point B are 100% in my professional training and experience.
Nick was able to treat Oelwein fairly and report on an example of a town trying to find its way in a global economy. Oelwein and I both found hope during the writing of this book in spite of obstacles thrown up in our path, sometimes by the very government I represent on the front lines of the drug war.

An important, thoughtful book, June 11, 2009
By AKB (St Louis)

Everyone has heard of the meth epidemic; its scary effects on human life and the social fabric have been in the papers and on the news nationwide for what seems like a very long time. As meth gained a high public profile, many people have looked at the isolated elements of what we now call the drug wars. What we haven't had is any insight into how meth came to occupy a central place in so many lives and so many towns. More than a description of how bad it all is, this book attempts something much more ambitious: explaining how the political and social dynamics work to make meth what it is. Reding's argument of how the intersection of Big Pharma, Big Agra, mis-directed governmental action (and inaction), labor economics, sociology, and human greed brought us to this dangerous place is laid out against a narrative about a real town and its all-too-real people. Reding has a journalist's soul and he writes like a novelist. While there are several heroic characters in Oelwein, not everyone in the story is admirable; however, he respect their humanity and has a certain sympathy for the mesh they are caught in. The final section, which is about why this matters to us and how we can think about it, is nuanced and layered--there are no easy answers but there are some important ways we can think about it as we move forward.

1 Comentário:

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