Saturday, December 6, 2008

Coal Identity Crisis, part one

I have a comment conversation going on a YouTube video about Mountain Top Removal that is haunting me. A coal miner is promoting the devastation of our mountains and insists that he is doing an important job for America. He wants to keep his job at the MTR site, and he says he doesn't want to have to work outside the state again-- or drive a truck (living in a truck on the road) Yuck. Living in a truck when you'd rather be home with a loving wife and precious little children, is not an option I'd even consider. Why does he? He's a coal miner and that's what he wants to be. He doesn't want to be a trucker. I see a problem that reminds me of smokers trying quit.

Quitting smoking for many people is more than the habit or the addiction, the biggest problem is the identification with the behavior. I am a smoker. I am a nonsmoker. I am a coal miner. What I do is who I am. This faulty thinking is probably not his fault; it is generations in the making. I am generations in the making too; being seventh generation American living in what is now West Virginia, I come from a long line of people who lived close to the earth and to the seasons. My Grandfather, Everette Barnard, was a diary farmer and took his DDT back to the store when he read the package, saying, "this product is no good for the fish and it kills the birds too". When new regulations made small diary operations unfeasible, he tried a small store and finally, a Roller Skating Rink. He didn't identify himself with his choices, he identified himself on his principals for making choices. I wish everyone had principals like my Grandfather, and had a self imagine and identity that were adaptable and grounded in fresh air, clean water and home grown food.

But they don't. The recent political leaders in this country seem to look to West Virginia as their own personal pantry, they have kept the doors closed and the lights out until they come to take something. Some aren't guided by an identity or by principals that I can understand, but by some system of perks, points and positions that add up to profits. Mark Wenzler, a clean-air guy for National parks says, "The administration's staunch commitment to coal is so deep that they're willing to sacrifice our national parks on the way out the door." I don't think Wenzler sees the whole picture; it is not a matter of sacrifice to them, because the park doesn't have any value in their points and perks game. It's kind of like those little puzzles of the states: Iowa is corn and West Virginia is coal and that is the only value they give our mountains and our people. They have been telling people you mine coal or you leave. You mine coal on our terms or you die. Mother Jones was jailed in West Virginia at age eighty for organizing unions for miners. Blankenship, the CEO for Massey Coal, was quoted as telling a reporter with a camera, "you're liable to get shot for taking pictures of me" and that denotes a distorted self- image and possible lack of coherent principals.

My sense is that when people know the laws of the Universe, and the principals inherent to life, much of these destortions and dellusions of this identy crisis will disappear, and solutions will manifest. First we need to call Coal Black, and don't let them say Green is the new black or coal is green or clean. More on the identity crisis of coal tomorrow.

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