GUEST COLUMN: We don’t have a drug problem in Brown County

Please excuse me for a cheap, attention-grabbing headline; however I hold to my contention: We don’t have a drug problem; we have an opportunity problem.

I realize it is ridiculous to assert that we don’t have a problem involving drugs while we are all suffering to some extent from the results of the widespread proliferation of drug use and distribution. The main question is, is that the cause of our problems, or is it a result of a larger problem — more specifically, that of a total failure of and a lost promise of opportunity?

We live in the land of freedom and opportunity, or at least we did.

We have been blessed with the freedom to dream big, strive and realize the greatest outcome of our own skills and abilities; then, “we” decided or were coerced into believing that it was absolutely necessary for a government to approve of our plans and ambitions and be involved in almost every step of the way.

Certain localities across this nation have pushed this, and it has now ballooned to a national scale in the grandest of fashion. The national implementation of these restrictions and regulations has ultimately forced them back down the hill to those of us who never dreamed of the possibility of such strangling oversight of the daily minutiae.

It should be no surprise that the mentality of our country and the mindset of far too many individuals has shifted to a lackadaisical mood and the search for an altered reality while relying on a generous government to provide for daily wants and needs.

What is the effect of a drug? It’s an escape from a bleak reality and/or a replacement for the lost satisfaction of a successful opportunity not realized or made cumbersome by absurd compliance requirements.

We’re no longer free to pursue our path to success without first paying oppressive startup fees, local permitting fees, compliance costs, environmental impact study costs, licensing fees, license maintenance fees, annual renewals, state permitting fees, taxes, tax code compliance costs, legal fees, forced employer costs, liability costs, mandated health care, and other required federal permit/license fees.

Now for most, with the cost of business startup being unreasonable and out of reach, our only source of income and opportunity is to rely on the ever-dwindling established corporate employer and ignore our own entrepreneurship.

For those who can’t do who have been driven out of a productive skilled job, or have simply given up on themselves, it’s just easier to shoot up or smoke a joint.

Why? Their constructive drive has been squashed and impeded.

Every individual has something in a skill or ability that is beneficial to our community as a whole. What made us a great nation? It was the individual creating a “thing” of use. That’s it.

It wasn’t the “collective” deciding the direction of creativity of the individual; it was a bunch of individuals with a contribution of their own kind being rewarded with commercial satisfaction, based on the need of that contribution.

At one point, this was encouraged and rewarded in this country.

Since I’ve been here in Brown County, I’ve seen the loss of Ski World, the Little Nashville Opry, the Fruitdale Market, Henderson’s Gun Shop, the Helmsburg General Store, Crouch’s Market, McDonald’s Shopworth, several shops in Nashville, local crafts sold in Nashville shops, the Family Fun Center, the loss of the empty Ski World property as a location for a dirt bike event, a “potential” zip line park in the northern part of the county and others. Just this year, we lost the two-year run of the National Maple Syrup Festival. Very little has been allowed to replace them.

The decision of an individual to resort to drug use, manufacture and sale is that of opportunity, or the lack thereof elsewhere. Drugs are “easy.” There’s a market and a means and in the abundance of other non-opportunities; it becomes the most profitable and satisfying route. There is no permit for which to apply or government red tape to cut through; they just do it. It’s illegal, so doing it illegally and out-of-compliance is just natural. It fills the vacuum of “no hope.”

If we would stop stifling development of the tourist destination opportunities of Brown County, and would instead, embrace it, we would solve most of our local problems.

The issue of affordable housing is also tied into this. Why is it so unaffordable for a young family to move here? Because the vast majority of the opportunity lies outside of this county.

We are guilty of stifling opportunity. Any opportunity that doesn’t fit into “our” lifestyle is deemed not worthy of pursuit. This county has prevented or expelled many opportunities on the basis that it doesn’t “fit” in Brown County. Wasn’t Brown County formed by a community of free-thinking individuals who didn’t fit the mold?

There is plenty of room in this county for a multitude of traditional entertainment, as well as that which will draw an expanded crowd. When was it decided to reject free thought and individual expression? When did we decide that certain small local businesses or recreational activities weren’t acceptable?

We are, in fact, a county driven by entertaining tourists. Would it be better if we drove all of the tourists out and developed an industrial manufacturing base? What would that do for our peaceful valley?

Having reread the last three paragraphs a few times, I want to keep the main point of them, but I hope that they don’t get misinterpreted that I’m advocating for an “anything-goes” entertainment environment. I will fight alongside anybody to keep our county family friendly and within acceptable moral and decency standards.

The main point is that if we don’t embrace our local trade and tourist opportunities and stop saying “no” to everything, we will continue to lose our population of productive youthful enterprise and wind up as a county whose sole income base is that of Social Security retirement checks and meth labs.

Only one of those contributes to the resources of county maintenance and the other drains it. The ultimate result is an empty wasteland of lost potential.

On the national level, we have been overrun by the overbearing state of dependency and control. Locally, we seem to just accept that and fall in line.

We can’t and won’t solve our drug problem until we stop blaming the drugs and realize and accept that we have created a vacuum of opportunity. We all know (or should know) that nature abhors a vacuum.

As long as we continue to strangle freedom and personal prosperity, the fallback options will only get worse than our current drug problem.

Darren Byrd is a member of the Brown County Council and is working toward an expanded community support network for inmates beyond their release from jail. He can be contacted at or at 812 320-4599.