Rapt in Red, White and Blue- the Enthrallment of Appalachia

Our heritage is not so much what we did, but how we did it. It wasn’t that we were coal miners as much as we were hard workers. It wouldn’t have mattered what the industry was, all that really mattered was that we were loving and we took care of our own, that we were compassionate and always lent a helping hand, that we were resilient, that we were, and still are, survivors.

The workers who mined these mountains all those years ago could have just as readily been ranchers or sawyers or stone masons. The job title was merely a byproduct of our environment. Most folks mined coal simply because they needed a job. I have met countless folks who feel the same today, “Give me another job and I’ll crawl straight out of that black hole and never look back,” they say. I know many who have done so.

It’s disingenuous to question our integrity, given our heritage, if we now understand that mining is killing us as much as it supposedly helps us. There is no altruism in giving us mining jobs. We don’t accept them because we have a need to live in the past, we simply want to live.

Taxes from the tobacco industry were supposed to fund smoking cessation programs, thus extending our lives. But the government soon figured out that if everyone quit smoking, the taxes from tobacco sales would go away. So funding for smoking cessation has been slashed and smokers now merely support a larger government while continuing to smoke and die younger.

The coal industry doesn’t exist as a mechanism to make jobs, it exists to create a profit. It makes this profit largely by externalizing its costs. The primary cost being the detriments to the health of the workers as well as those who live in the communities where coal is mined, processed, and/or burned. The secondary cost being the toll put on the environment which amounts to robbing the subsequent generations.

Wrapping it in red, white and blue doesn’t change its color-coal will always be black. Likewise, Patriotism isn’t simply an idea wrapped in red, white and blue. Patriotism, is not sacrificing a poor segment of our citizenry for the comfort and ease of the rest of the country. True patriotism, as it concerns our nation’s need for energy, would be for each and every citizen to roll up their sleeves and dramatically conserve energy while working to create energy sources and economies with liberty and justice for all. That’s the way a nation at war becomes victorious. And we are at war. We are at war with ourselves and our horribly skewed sense of what it means to be a great People and we are at war with a terribly flawed idea of what freedom really is. We do not own freedom through the enslavement of others. We have confused the toll of funeral bells for the ringing of freedom. We do not let freedom ring for all with the knell of funeral bells for Appalachia, her people, her waters or her air.
In Appalachia, Patriotism and Profit couldn’t be any more diametrically opposed. Ironically, the two are very often misconstrued as the Truth.

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