Hillbillies dying in a hole is somewhere below grunts dying in war. With apologies to both groups for using these unflattering expressions, that is an essential component to this tragedy and gives it the emphasis it demands. That’s what your boss thinks of you, that’s what the generals think of you, and the reason more people aren’t outraged is because that’s what they probably think of you too. That needs to be changed.
So how do we close down a coal mine? How about what it takes to have safety, health, and a clean, prosperous future once more? Three things: enforce regulations, severe penalties for violators, and hicks have to want to stop being hicks. Do not mistake that last conclusion for a lack of sympathy, but there’s no other way put it; the serfs have to say, no more. For too long one check for a million dollars has been worth more than a million votes. Obviously we need a massive revision of our priorities but we have to be smart about it. The screech of ignorant tea-baggers is a misguided waste of effort.
To all the folks who were ever called hillbillies, and the rest of the working class who are being herded closer to those same circumstances every day, it is time to discover your mind, announce your humanity, and say goodbye to the dark side once and for all. If you do that, you’ll have real allies you would have never expected, instead of those con artists who only wish to exploit and abuse you. I have said before in frustration that the bus can’t wait any longer and y’all evidently don’t want a ticket, so we’re leaving without you. But what happened inside a coal mine again is so sad, and so unnecessary, that after this one – well, I don’t know. Perhaps only together can we repair the nation. Does everyone finally realize we’re all on the same page? The powers that be want to turn back the clock on all of us.
With the deaths of over two dozen coal miners, we have yet another example of the price we pay for allowing our choices to be controlled by people who measure progress by personal fortune and power. This picture should be clear to anyone who is paying attention to the true causes of our social and economic decay. We have had too many years with our citizens and our country being expendable in the name of profit, and Republicans have the most explaining to do. It is worth everyone’s time to examine how a mine owner can buy protection, who was running the country, and the values of an administration that rewards such dishonesty.
There’s no attempt to even conceal what’s going on anymore. Everyone knows who has connections and how they use them to rig the system. The fix is in deeper than it’s ever been. I believe President Obama is trying to turn things around, but as we have seen, it will be slow going. The labor situation in this country is in sad shape almost everywhere you look, and to further their own sick version of a retro-future where West Virginia is the model for everyone, there are forces who actively want to keep it that way.
Unfortunately, this will continue and people will die as long as plantation owners like Don Blankenship can pay off the heat. Hell, a guy can barely even run a coal mine with all these damn restrictions. Everybody has violations in this business – as a matter of fact, Performance Coal, a subsidiary of Massey Energy, which operates the Upper Big Branch Mine, received fifty-seven in March of 2010 alone (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/04/west-virginia-coal-mine-tragedy.php). It’s nothing personal, just part of your operating expenses. The fact is that the probability of cutting corners, allowing dangerous conditions, and running your business with criminal disregard for the people and the environment is a factor of the risk of getting caught versus the severity of the punishment. You can almost hear the anguished cries from the next tragedy.
Note: That photo is the entrance to the exhibition mine at the Beckley Coal Mine and Youth Museum (http://www.beckleymine.com/). Apparently, the State of West Virginia considers their coal mines family tourist attractions. C’mon kids, let’s have a race to the bottom.