I’ve been keeping away from discussing the poisoning of the water in West Virginia, largely because it hurts me. My father is from Huntington. I still have relatives there, although only one or two I know to talk to. There’s a cabin there that still belongs to distant cousins that my ancestors built with their own hands, that the great-great aunt I was named for (Ader Rebecca) was born and died in (well, she fell asleep on the porch smoking her corncob pipe and the bottom burned out and the coals caught her gunnysack dress on fire, and she had second and third degree burns over 75% of her body, but she managed to make it a mile up the road to the neighbors and then lived three days in the hospital; she was in her 80s). Out back of it is a private graveyard with five generations worth of headstones, and looking at those headstones, all in one place like that, was amazing for me, especially since all my other ancestors’ and relations’ burial places are scattered.
I’ve only been a few times, and the last was nearly 15 years ago, but I have never found the landscape to be less than stunning beautiful. Truly, it has some of the most amazing forests and mountains I have ever seen… and the most depressing towns and cities.
Wild Hunt linked today to piece by Anne Johnson that talks about the more general situation in WV, putting the water contamination into some context.
As an expatriate Appalachian, I can tell you exactly why people want to live in West Virginia. It is beautiful. If you can step out on your back porch and lose your breath in awe of the vista beyond your house, you live in West Virginia. Many of the people who live there have ancestry going back centuries. I could wax poetic, as some bloggers have, about the ecosystem, and the sense of place, and the grounding in tradition, and all of that. I'm not a poet. I tell it like it is. West Virginia is beautiful. If you live there, you don't want to leave ... especially for some big city in some flat tidewater state.
But West Virginia is a mess, isn't it?
West Virginia has been ruled by big monied interests since the first tunnel was dug into the first mountain in the pursuit of coal. The politicians are on the payroll of Big Coal, and they have been since that first tunnel was dug. The current crop of Democrats are only Democrats because Lincoln won the war ... they act like Republicans and are often the serious movers and shakers behind efforts to squelch the EPA. How do they get by with such antics? By persuading their constituents that the EPA will raise the jobless rate, and environmental activists are by and large replants from other areas of the country. (That is certainly not true in either case, I'm just giving you the politicians' talking points.)
Go read it. It does a better — and much more knowledgeable — job of talking about the things I really wish I could.