Human beings have come to a point in the history of our overpopulated, information-saturated planet where we are simultaneously incredibly, immediately connected and achingly apart. We watch breaking news in real time as it occurs across the seas; we create and nourish intimate, if mechanical, relationships with total strangers from foreign climes; we hear eyewitness accounts of personal, unthinkable tragedy—and we can turn it off and walk away. There is only so much global devastation to which an ordinary person can authentically relate; after that, it becomes lip service and empty rhetoric...
During my brief, blessed time in Appalachia, I witnessed a fact that I already suspected: Appalachia is special. The march I’m attending—the March on Blair Mountain—commemorates one of the most remarkable moments in American Labor history, and in the history of American social justice in general.
The organizers of the March on Blair Mountain recognize that theirs is a bitterly precious, unique, endangered heritage. Appalachia is not just the community America is sacrificing, lamb-on-the-altar style, in the name of cheap, convenient power and complacency. I recognized that Appalachians—then and now—embody and exemplify the very qualities—those rugged, stubborn, brave qualities—that make America. Appalachia is America, and every time we flip our lights on, we burn down another corner of her deepest sacred heart; a corner that won’t come back.
...If you can’t come to Blair Mountain to march against mountaintop removal, figure out where your electricity is coming from. See “On Coal River” or “The Last Mountain.” Go for a hike on a nearby ridgeline with your kids or your dad, and think about how you would feel if you were Larry Gibson, or Maria Gunnoe, or Bo Webb. Think about what social justice, workers’ rights, and community character means to your life—and whether or not it’s worth a fight.
Well said. Speaking of PeaceUP, stay tuned for events and news surrounding Tim DeChristopher's sentencing on the 23rd.
- All images (c) Flora Bernard 2011