Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sobering Thoughts from Appalachia

In the heat of the ObamaMania over at DailyKos comes this singularly beautiful post from a native Appalachian pleading with her fellow Democrats for understanding and inclusion for West Virginia and Kentucky. Some samples:

Is West Virginia Welcome in Your Democratic Party?

Over the last week or so, I've heard a lot of kossacks writing off West Virginia, making fun of West Virginia, and even saying West Virginia doesn't matter. Some have painted all of Appalachia as racist homophobes who will never change. Some even said that Obama is in mortal danger there. Some have suggested that we revert to Clinton-style "states that matter" campaigning, leaving West Virginia and Kentucky behind altogether.

Well, progress hasn't left us behind, and I hope that progressives won't either.


I've seen a lot of frustration expressed lately about what many kossacks consider to be willfully ignorant people. Some of you believe that information is as readily available to everyone as it is to you. Some of you believe that the cost of accessing available information is the same for everyone as it is for you. I've even seen comments from people exclaiming, "But golly gee, everyone has access to the Intertoobs!" I guess some of you have never heard of the digital divide.

Not everyone has access to the Internet. There is a huge gap between the have and have-nots when it comes to Internet access, and the divide is down economic lines. I hate to point out the obvious, but Appalachia ain't exactly well-to-do.

Among those who have access to the Internet, there is also a skills divide. In order to use the Internet effectively, you must have not just a minimum level of technical competency but also a minimum level of information competency.

A person can learn to use a web browser and an email client and still not have the information competencies needed to obtain and process information from reliable sources on the Internet. This is why substantial numbers of people get most of their online political information from the chain emails that the rest of us filter into the Trash folder.


These are not willfully ignorant people. These are hardworking Americans who are doing the best they can with the hand they were dealt. These are people who are proud to put a union bumper sticker on their car. They hear the word solidarity, and they think brotherhood, not commie bastard. These people bled for progress. If they are ignorant now, it's because we left them behind. If we believe in the 50 state strategy, then it's time for us to stop leaving these people behind.

Progress happens in the most unexpected places.

My best friend's little sister was the first person to "come out" at my hometown high school. Before her bravery, gay and lesbian kids were afraid to come out for fear of violence against them. I am so proud of her. She opened the door for so many other kids in that little Christian town. The same town that only started having proms in the 80s because dancing is a sin now has gay and lesbian students attending prom as same-sex couples. She and her high school sweetheart were the first. Against all odds, against everyone's best advice, she prevailed in our small-minded little town.

There`s more.

I can`t help thinking about my own attitudes towards Americans in general, and that the one quality I value the most is tolerance. As in not just `putting up with`, but as in `making an effort to understand their point of view even if I disagree, and try to inform and influence from a position of mutual respect`.

Point taken. Thank you.

And I can`t help thinking about Bobby Kennedy, and how he brought this region into the conscience of America. And about his son and how he is continuing the fight against King Coal and mountaintop coal removal.

So while the ObamaManiacs are talking respectfully to the residents of Appalachia, they might want to point out that mountaintop coal removal is a largely automated process that is responsible for a sharp decline in coal mining jobs - not to mention the TOTAL ENVIRONMENTAL DEVASTATION involved - and that Obama is the only one on record even coming close to opposing it.

Ok, so it`s too late for West Virginia. There`s still Kentucky.

No comments:

Post a Comment