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Gender: Female
Hometown: Ohio
Home country: USA
Current location: West Virginia
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 19,964

About Me

Cantankerous by nature, aspires to a genteel misanthropy. Interests include carpentry, organic gardening and sustainable living, history, genealogy, astronomy and paleontology, visual arts, lgbt activism. Caretaker for a brace of Scotties and several ungrateful, rescued cats. Addicted to watching sports and cheers for perennial losers. Education: I suppose, though some might think an MFA doesn\'t really qualify as such. Partnered for 24 years to a saint. Just lucky, I guess.

Journal Archives

What’s the Matter With Eastern Kentucky?

There are any number of DU groups to which this article could have been posted but because the conditions outlined in this article could apply to many areas of Appalachia, I decided to post it here. If you feel this article would be appropriate for another group please cross post because this is a discussion that needs a wider audience.

The New York Times Magazine
What’s the Matter With Eastern Kentucky?
JUNE 26, 2014

There are many tough places in this country: the ghost cities of Detroit, Camden and Gary, the sunbaked misery of inland California and the isolated reservations where Native American communities were left to struggle. But in its persistent poverty, Eastern Kentucky — land of storybook hills and drawls ­ — just might be the hardest place to live in the United States. Statistically speaking...

...Despite this, rural poverty is largely shunted aside in the conversation about inequality, much in the way rural areas have been left behind by broader shifts in the economy. The sheer intractability of rural poverty raises uncomfortable questions about how to fix it, or to what extent it is even fixable.

The desperation in coal country is hard to square with the beauty of the place — the densely flocked hills peppered with tiny towns. It’s magical. But it is also poor, even if economic growth and the federal safety-net programs have drastically improved what that poverty looks like.

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared his “war on poverty” from a doorstep in the tiny Kentucky town of Inez, and since then, Washington has directed trillions of dollars to such communities in the form of cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid and tax incentives for development. (In some places, these transfer payments make up half of all income.) Still, after adjusting for inflation, median income was higher in Clay County in 1979 than it is now, even though the American economy has more than doubled in size....

MORE at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/29/magazine/whats-the-matter-with-eastern-kentucky.html?_r=0
Posted by theHandpuppet | Sat Jun 28, 2014, 01:21 AM (21 replies)

For over a century this country has been all too willing to participate...

... in the rape of Appalachia. As long as the factories were humming, the homes were warm, there was plenty of timber to contribute towards the housing boom, folks didn't really seem to pay much attention to what was going on with the people of those hills whose toil and sweat was making that happen. The law and the government were on the side of the mine owners. They hid the truth about black lung from the men and boys, who have died slowly and horribly by the thousands. They let owners skirt flimsy safety regulations or paid off inspectors, resulting in the deaths of thousands more from preventable, tragic "accidents". They poisoned the land and the water, leaving its people and their children to suffer from chronic illness. When the miners finally rebelled, the gov't brought in troops who shot them down like dogs.

It was never in the interests of Big Coal and its cohorts, both in government and business, to reinvest the mountains of money they were making back into the mountains of Appalachia. An educated people are dangerous to an economic system that relies on backbreaking labor. A people making a good wage, able to feed their families and with dreams of sending their kids to college, does not provide the labor force necessary to keep that kind of money machine humming. It is poverty that breeds the very kind of desperation they need. It is that cry of desperation you are hearing now. It is the cry of desperation and fear that what little they still have will, too, be taken away.

So let's not be quick to blame the victims of this national disgrace for their own victimization. As I wrote here many years ago, "The poor are not our enemies, the powerless are not our enemies, the hungry or uneducated are not our enemies. The ones pulling the strings in this country can be found among the uber rich and their corporate allies." So the question we should be asking is where were the leaders of government and business who took and took and took from these people and gave nothing in return? And where were we?

Posted by theHandpuppet | Mon Jun 2, 2014, 07:27 PM (1 replies)

From Hawai'i to western Iowa

Talk about a culture shock! That must be a story unto itself.

About eight years ago I posted a thread about the origins of the term "redneck" and tucked it away in my journal:

There are others who contend that the term "redneck" came about as an identifier of the rural working classes, whose necks were burned from working out in the sun. I think both definitions are plausible and could have arisen independently of one another but either way, it was a derogatory term to define a person of coarse ways, backward, ignorant, of the working classes.

Now where the two pejoratives "hillbilly" and "redneck" differ in usage depends on who you ask; these days folks seem to use them interchangeably (which they are not) though to me there are recognizable applications. For instance, a farm boy from western Iowa might be taunted with calls of "redneck" but he's no hillbilly, which is yet another rung down on the ladder of insults. Redneck is of class origins, whereas hillbilly found its origins in both region and class. It's the American version of a caste system. Am I making any sense here?

It's my hope that by discussing the topic of class-based language on DU we can rethink just how freely we sprinkle our posts with insults that denigrate by class. The irony is that the easy use of these terms as insults seems in direct contradiction to how we as progressives and Democrats define ourselves. I don't understand how folks can claim to be a champion of the poor, the working class, the union worker with one breath and insult someone as a hillbilly or redneck with the next. Is Sarah Palin really "the Wasilla Hillbilly"? Are the wealthy, Connecticut-born Bushes truly the "Texas hillbillies"? Is that really the best we can do?

I'm of a mind that one the best ways to combat this class war is to reclaim those terms in a positive way, thereby stripping those words of the power to hurt the very people we claim to champion. As I wrote in yet another thread those eight years ago, "The poor are not our enemies, the powerless are not our enemies, the hungry or uneducated are not our enemies. The ones pulling the strings in this country can be found among the uber rich and their corporate allies. They can have Ivy-League educations. They live in the best homes. They're still scumbags. I'll proudly take my poor hillbilly neighbors any day over their kind of trash." And until we fully embrace that concept, even mindful of the language we use and why, we'll never truly appreciate how we progressives and Democrats have been manipulated to point an accusing finger at the already disenfranchised. Neat trick, that -- and it seems to have worked.

Posted by theHandpuppet | Sun Jun 1, 2014, 09:59 AM (2 replies)
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