Sentinel-Echo.com

Opinion

July 17, 2012

My Point Is...Impoverished or Poor Choices?

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A reflection on the headlines and events over the past two weeks spurred questions about the quality of life in our fair county.

With Laurel County hitting the air waves and ink of various news sources, the impression of residents of this county can inevitably be questioned.

To review, some recent occurrences include:

• A drunk driver who struck — and killed — a man pulled on the shoulder of Interstate 75 to check the load on his truck to ensure it was secure

• A drunk driver who barreled through road blocks at the site of that fatality and nearly hit two volunteer firefighters who were directing traffic

• A mother (and I use the term loosely) who traded her newborn child for a 13-year-old pickup truck, then sold it for cash and (allegedly) a supply of methamphetamine

• A couple who had an active meth lab in their vehicle while a child was present

• A man who kicked in a door of a home, hit the resident so hard it knocked her out and stole her prescription medications — one of several home invasions that have occurred in this county over the past 10 months

While many of the incidents can be blamed on drugs, there has to be another reason for the obvious lack of respect for self and others. Law enforcement personnel credit such incidents partly to the impoverished area we live in. That train of thought comes from personal experience with dealing with criminals — many of whom have a low-paying job or no job at all, thus initiating commission of a crime in order for money to survive.

Another discussion credited an “epidemic of ignorance,” most commonly depicted in television interviews in which someone with poor grammar, no teeth and either/or grossly obese or shabbily dressed is shown making comments about their friend or neighbor who has recently been charged with a crime that draws media attention.

Lack of education (i.e., which also falls under ignorance) is another reason cited as the cause of many of the headline-grabbing incidents that has begun to depict our county. While a high school education was not considered necessary for employment to Baby Boomers of the 1950s and early 1960s, even the lowest paying jobs in the area now require a high school education or GED. Even those possessing a college degree fall into a lower pay range than the national average. Several years ago, the average pay for college graduates living and working here in Laurel County was below the national level for high school dropouts. Couple that with lack of jobs and it is no wonder that we have a high crime and drug abuse rate.

The best answer to the situation, however, came from someone who credits personal choices as the reason for many of the faults that we find within our county. Choosing to commit a crime is usually a choice. Granted, most drivers will exceed the speed limit occasionally, let their license or registration plates expire, or fail to pay their car insurance on time. That is a far cry from being so intoxicated that you hit a man standing by a box truck and take his life. It is a far cry from running through road blocks and nearly hitting someone to avoid being stopped in a traffic jam because you are driving under the influence.

It is a personal choice to continue to live in a county where the wages are lower than in other areas, just as it is a personal choice whether to exceed or fail in school.

As stated by a friend who possesses a wealth of knowledge in sports, trivia, music, people and common sense, “Life is making choices.”

Poverty, drugs and alcohol, education, family history, geographic location and self-esteem may be contributing causes to making bad choices, but the end result is rooted in the individual.

Poor choices usually have poor results. Nearly everyone has made a bad decision at some point but, in many cases, that decision can be a factor that dictates the remainder of yours or someone else’s life.

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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