In the first half of this year, at least six domestic coal companies filed for bankruptcy. In February, West Virginia's Covington Coal fell, followed by Xinergy and Grass Creek Coal in April, Patriot and Birmingham Coal & Coke in May, and A&M Coal in June. But in August came the biggest news of all.
Unfolding with the plaintive air of an elegy, Blood on the Mountain captures mining companies' blatant disregard for the health and lives of coal miners -- and the mountains they call home -- as a timely reminder of the legacy of an essentially outlaw industry and its 150-year reign in West Virginia.
A powerful notice of intent to sue the Obama administration was filed by attorney Patrick C. McGinley for its failure to prepare and implement a federal program for West Virginia's documented oversight and violations of required strip mining regulations. His brief on behalf of several environmental groups reads like a spellbinding rap sheet of an incorrigible offender.
What would happen if all of us critically examined our basic story of America and see if those stories cause us to make assumptions about people in our lives? What would happen if people could meet each other and see unique individuals with unique stories rather than characters in a pre-existing, pre-scripted story?
Ask a person about Appalachia, and their answer will likely amaze you. Outsiders may grimace, telling you about poverty and economic depression, an unhealthy affinity for coal, lack of education, and so on. Insiders, though, might tell you about the close-knit community, respect for the land, rich cultural heritage, and a passion for the place and its people.
Over the years, it has been sickening to watch politicians, coal company hacks and sycophantic journalists defer judgment and split hairs over the connections between massive mountaintop removal operations and public health hazards in the same way black lung disease for coal miners had been denied for decades.
Take some time to get to know the local communities who have been building bridges, winning and losing campaigns, and making a difference for generations. Enter these communities with humility and a beginner's mind. And please, please don't erase the rich history and culture of the queer South just because you finally started paying attention.