We are finding more and more ways to overextend ourselves in Appalachia . Our wants create debt—our debts force us to work dangerous unsustainable jobs. Nice homes, nice vehicles, nice this…nice that…. Happiness is no longer admiring the small things—happiness became what people on TV told us it should be, it became what salesmen and realtors told us we need to have.
Four years ago I’d never believed we could be happy living on less than a coal mining wage, but we are.
These days I ponder if many of the people I worked with know what happiness truly is. I don’t mean to sound arrogant. What I mean to say is; could many of the folks I worked with be as happy living a simpler life without a high wage?
I know there are a few coal miners and their families who do realize this and most of what I’m about to say does not apply to them, but sadly those folks are becoming fewer and further between than ever before.
Those of us who have taken care to study the history of the coal industry and have seen how those powerful companies regard the Appalachian coal miner, know that it is coming. We are screaming at the tops of our lungs to coal miners, trying in vain to tell them that they will suffer just as much as our forefathers did with every coal bust that came down upon them before. Today’s coal miners do not listen. In fact, they hate those of us who are trying to warn them. Instead they listen to the coal companies and coal politicians, taking in all of their propaganda, being led to believe there are jobs to be fought for until they walk to the mine gates that are closed in front of them, until they receive that notice that their retirement fund is gone.
As assuredly as the men and women who blindly support coal believe there is a “war on coal” they will continue to cast blame away from the companies and politicians who tell them to do so.
They will continue to believe what they are being told by company foremen, politicians, their buddies, and their buddy’s buddies. They will continued to believe that the softening coal market and impending layoffs are all about EPA regulations and a president who supposedly hates coal. They will continue to believe scientists are “full of shit” for no other reason than “they just don’t by God understand what they’re talking about” or because “they don’t know what it’s like to have to work in a coal mines to feed their family.”
This is the nature of it, and it gives me no pride in saying such things about my fellow Appalachians, but the truth can be found in every ill word spoken by them towards people of a different opinion. It comes with every close-minded comment I ever heard underground about how “all muslim’s are terrorists and we should shoot ever damn one of em” or in the prejudiced jokes and comments I heard made about people of color and then witnessed those same men act friendly towards their African-American co-workers.
Those coal miners and their families are not true Appalachian people anymore. True—honest to God—Appalachians would think of their neighbors before a paycheck. They wouldn’t trust the real “outsiders,” companies who came in decades ago and swindled our forefathers out of their land and mineral rights, company officials who spend their days flying in corporate jets, who work in lavish offices, and who live in million dollar homes far away from the coalfields they mine.
If I’m wrong, then perhaps Appalachia was never the great place I once believed it to be; the place I once had so much pride in because of the kindness of people.
The “outsiders” who have come to help Appalachian people save their homes, to protect their water, and to bring in better jobs for future generations—who in many cases came without a DIME to their name—are more Appalachian than some of the people who have lived in the mountains for generations, people who now only want to make high wages and are happy to sell their soul to the company store. Sadly they are also selling their children’s souls as well.
It makes me sick.