I don’t watch the TV pundits, liberal or conservative. And I don’t listen to the radio numbskulls like Glenn Beck. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t influential — and scary.
I’ve spent the past 10 days in rural Western Pennsylvania. I grew up here, the grandson of union coal miners – one a Democrat, one a Republican. They were smart and civil men, and they made up their own minds without any help from the likes of Beck or Limbaugh. They read the newspaper, they attended union meetings, and they went to church. They thought things through, and they believed in community.
My grandfathers and the other miners from Coal Run discussed issues quietly, if they discussed them at all. It wasn’t considered polite to talk about politics or religion in those days. When they did, it was usually over shots and beers at the local tavern.
Regardless of their affiliation (most coal miners were Democrats in those days), the miners respected each other and they respected their country. That included repect for the office of the president – the one held by Franklin Roosevelt and the one held by John L. Lewis.
Boy, have times have changed. Most of the deep mines are closed now, and the economic clout of UMWA wages disappeared with them. While the power plants still send their megawatts to points east, much of the coal comes from points west.
Real unemployment here runs over 20%. As they say in these parts, a whole lotta folks don’t have a pot to piss in.
They’re angry. Real angry. And they just ain’t thinkin’ straight.
What’s going on Appalachian Pennsylvania defies logic. As I talk to the unemployed and the underemployed, they’re universally aligned against President Obama. Their racism is overt and the n-word a fixture of their conversation.
“I can’t believe someone hasn’t shot him,” one good old boy told me. Another can’t understand how we could elect a president who is a commie, a Muslim and a n—–.
They believe every word of it. Every word.
“So, you voted for McCain-Palin?” I asked several. Nope. They didn’t vote at all. But today they say they’re ready for revolution — the kind where people die.
Their anger is understandable. But it’s fueled by misinformation and ignorance. Don’t try to argue with them.
Most of the folks here oppose health-insurance reform, even though they’re precisely the ones the legislation will help. They’re stockpiling ammunition and firearms, convinced “that bitch Pelosi” is coming for their guns. Yet no such legislation has been proposed.
This is coal country – or it used to be. It was a place where men once worked hard and earned the right to drink heavily. Now they just drink, and the anger builds.
The hero for many? Sarah Palin. “She’s one of us,” they told me. Palin 2012 signs are common in these parts, and those who post them are also looking forward to the next tea-bag rally.
Like I said, I don’t get it.
Most of this anger comes from people who never heard their grandpa tell stories of the Great Depression. I did. They don’t understand how their families – and mine — benefited from the New Deal and from other (gasp) government programs. They’ve never seen a real community pull together in tough times.
It’s been said that ignorance is bliss, but that’s not the case here in coal country. Here, ignorance just fuels anger and hatred.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not off topic. I can’t help but wonder what kind of twisted PR mind crafts the misinformation and deceit that drives this hatred I’m seeing. And I can’t help but wonder what happened to the once-wholesome values of coal country.
Photo from freedomain.com