Repetition

There are many times I have been writing a post and stopped mid-thought to reflect on purpose and place. The majority of what I have stated on this blog and in public address is nothing original. My thoughts are simply  reiterations precipitated from decades of struggle. Perhaps the only thing new is the time in which I speak them.

I have often been told how important my words are, especially since they are coming from a former coal miner. This is indicative of the socioeconomic change that has swept through Central Appalachian in the past quarter century. Unions have fallen, materialism has risen, and markets have shifted, creating a vacuum of human rights in Appalachia that displays an acceptance of the status-quo.”If you can’t beat em, might as well join em.”

There was a time in which the vast majority of coal miners understood the need to resist; there was a time when my thoughts and outspokenness would have blended in with the voices of thousands of other coal miners. Today, there are only a handful of us and we are seen as the enemy among our peers.

So when I post these blogs, when I’m published and am shown as having a unique voice, I feel the slice of a double edged sword—one that reminds me of all that we have lost in Appalachia, not merely in terms of landscape, but in our culture as Appalachians.

 

2 thoughts on “Repetition

  1. I left the Pittsburgh seam in 1990, not long after the Pittston struggle, and I definitely know whereof you speak. We may yet and still have another go at the beast in this region though. The contract is near its end and we’re starting to choose up sides. Join us in Waynesburg, PA April 1.

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  2. “…Today, there are only a handful of us and we are seen as the enemy among our peers.”

    Reminds me of something an angry old guy w/ a cane spat out at me once… in between withering bouts of loudly bemoaning my lack of common sense and other shortcomings . I was a volunteer trying to ‘sell’ ( more like give away ) about 30 copies of a weekly 6-page ‘strike papers’ about 20 feet away from hired scabs manning a 4 -foot high stack of thick Detroit Sunday newspapers outside a strip-mall drugstore. Normally took about 7 hours to get rid of most of mine @ 50 cents apiece.

    Anyway , this was in Hamtramck , Michigan , a deteriorating ex-factory town enclosed inside the present day borders of Detroit …itself a used up and used -to-be union & factory town etc. And it was during a 5-year strike by 2,000 newspaper workers represented by 6 different unions . I wasn’t on strike , myself … just thought I’d help out ( union construction electrician ) . Yeah…sure. Unmercifully ended badly about 15 years ago . But , I learned a little bit along the way.

    The old UAW ( United Auto Worker ) guy had slowly lurched over to me from an old folks high-rise building a few blocks away. It took him about an hour to make 3 blocks.
    “Ya ‘ think you got it bad ? “he yelled. “Gimme two copies of that rag . What a terrible paper you people are putting out, and it should be every day , too, not just once a week, y’know that ? ”

    He went on…”We hid in basements for 5 years trying to organize around here before we had the guts to wear a 3/4 inch diameter pin in public that said ‘union on it . All the ministers & priests preached against the union. Most restaurants & bars in town had signs,’NO UNION men served here ‘ stuck in the windows. It seemed everybody was against us. We were afraid the whole time. But we did it. And you people can’t even shut down a godd*mn newspaper for one lousy day. ” Oooof.

    He never told me about the satchel stuffed w/ $ 50 thousand 1930’s bucks that John L. Lewis had sent north in the care of a couple UMW coal miners to the backroom of one of the dozen gin mills that perched across the street from a huge Chrysler automobile plant in Hamtramck . The coal miners told ’em to use the money to ‘organize with’. They also began commuting back & forth to Kentucky when they could , joining a handful of UMW copper & iron miners who were likewise shuttling down to Detroit & back from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula 600 miles away along the shores of Lake Superior.

    They served as organizing tutors… trying to help whip the non-existent auto union into shape and the light of day.

    Turns out… the old guy was right about more than one thing. He allowed how it was a myth that it was easier to organize a union back in the day. He said it was harder and we present day ( fools ) were gonna’ throw away ‘all the work that’s been done…’ unless we paid attention & got serious.

    He started coming by for about 2 -years every Sunday to chat. I’m sure he tried to find me on the days I slept in and hid under the covers , not wanting to wake up to the doomed strike some winter mornings.

    Anyway…Some of your peers know damn well you’re not the enemy. Just saying. ( !! )

    -thanks for your writing, John Joslin ( IBEW Local # 58 , Detroit )

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