Lest I be misunderstood, let me say, as clearly as I can, that I don't in any way denigrate the risky work that coal miners do, nor the sense of accomplishment they rightly feel in their vocation.
But here's the thing: I worry, at least a little, when generations of West Virginians - whether they're connected to coal mining or not - absorb this notion that they are beleaguered and put-upon, the most-derided in our culture, and then turn that woundedness into a kind of guarded bravado that refuses to reckon with some hard, uncomfortable truths.
To say we're proud of coal miners without acknowledging that for decades miners have been given the shaft - literally - by greedy coal companies does not serve the long-term well-being of those who do this dirty, dangerous work. And, sure, we should pray for the victims of this most recent tragedy, but we should also do the holy, pressing work of challenging an industry that enriches absentee corporate shareholders while sucking the life out of the people and places it needs for its pursuit of profit at any cost.
This latest disaster should not be one more occasion for West Virginians to turn their latent defensiveness into full-blown denial of what's really going on. Here's the truth: Coal has not been good for West Virginia. Coal has been good for corporations. After more than a century of extracting this valuable resource from the earth, the considerable profits it has generated have gone elsewhere.
Takes a lot of guts for someone to stand up to their state's status quo and call it like it is. Read more from Debra at her blog.
Cross-posted from BlueVirginia.us