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I’ve started this four times and stopped each time disgusted with trying to explain who I am and why I am proud to be a mountain woman from eastern Kentucky.  At this point that is not the piece I want to write.  What I do want to address is how my homeland became to be portrayed in only a negative light, and any positives ignored.  I also want to explain why Bill O’Reilly can stuff it, and I will choose to raise my children here because I do feel like it is the best place for them.
First, our portrayal on 20/20.  I’m probably not going to be popular for saying this, but I found it not too far from truth.  They showed people in real situations.  All the residents in this area know these situations exist.  As far as the Mt. Dew mouth, we all have seen people put Pepsi and whatever in baby bottles.  I just saw a mama the other day giving Mt. Dew to what looked to be a 5 month old at Wal-Mart.  I grew up drinking almost nothing but pop.
What we need to keep in mind is the journalistic intent of the piece.  They wanted to show the real poverty and problems in the area.  Not the normal people and the great programs going on here.  That doesn’t get ratings.  Think about what you chose to watch on TV… see?  What I wonder is where are the resources for the people they showed?  Where are the neighbors who can offer rides?  Where is the boy’s community when all is said and done after he played his heart out for the team?  I’m sure there has been intermittent help, but the fact of the matter is (you all saw the mansion and sub-urb like neighborhoods) there are those who can help living right in the mountains.
Now, aside from those they chose to show.  I want to talk about how our people got in the shape many are in today.  It has come from capitalism and a trade of real culture for “pop” or commercial culture.  Appalachians are a people who came to the mountains by choice.  They were seeking solace.  A place to breathe and live the type of life they felt they should.  No compromises.  We brought to the mountains rich traditions in storytelling, music, cooking, religion, and just plain living.  We worked hard and helped one another.  We stuck together.
Then, they found the coal and came in making a hardworking people empty promises of a life more leisurely.  They paid only scant prices for mineral rights, destroyed water, and left people who lived a subsistence lifestyle with land that was raped.  Next, they offered real wages to our men, when they found they couldn’t farm their land.  What they gave them were shanty houses, and scrip.  This plunged them into poverty that they couldn’t endure because the subsistence way of living was not supportable in a coal camp.
This went on and on.  I could go into the dangers, the health risks, and many other things, but I won’t here.  I’m not trying to make broad generalizations about the coal industry.  I’m a coal miners daughter.  Speed this up to the present.  Eventually, in the pursuit to be more like the outsiders, so they wouldn’t think we were stupid, poor, or outlaws we started devaluing our own unique culture.  The stories weren’t looked on as important, the young people didn’t want to know how to tend a garden, and the music became embarrassing to many of them.  What did they want?  Abercrombie and Fitch, Super Wal-Mart, a nice golf course.  Am I saying these things are the devil?  No.  But, when you replace the “who you are” with a capitalist version of “who you should be” we are beginning to strive to attain the unattainable.  We lose hope, forget who we are, and lose self confidence.
I am not born of a backward and stupid people who are too dumb to rise up out of a mess.  I am not born of a shallow sort either.  I am born of a head-strong people who have been burdened, tricked, and manipulated by empty promises.
What do we do?  We pick back up what is ours and teach our children that they are somebody outside of what the media tells them they should  be.  They are storytellers, artists, musicians, farmers, woodworkers, hikers, geologists, biologists, archaeologists, dancers, dreamers, and doers.  We share with them where they are from, and help them decide what they will do with what is given them.  We help them see that being unique is a positive, money is not everything, and to be proud that they can live with nothing and everything all at the same time.
I choose to raise my girls here because this is where I was raised.  I was not raised middle class, but I was raised knowing education, respect, and morals were important.  I was raised in a place where people stop to help when you are broken down on the road.  I was raised in a place where going to church could be as wondrous as a concert.  I was raised in a place where I could be comfortable being all alone on a hillside, and so could my mom with me being there.  I found God in His creation.  I didn’t need someone to tell me my worth.  I saw it all around me.
I want my girls to have the same things I did.  I have been to the city and came back home.  It was too general and cold for me.  Not that there weren’t many great things too.  I have an advanced degree that I am thousands of dollars in debt for, and I still say the most important things I learned, I learned right here on my mountain, in its hollers, and playing by its streams.  I learned how to be from my elders who gave a great example.
It is my hope that my generation and all those after it will embrace our cultural heritage.  I hope we will learn to be who we are while coexisting with what is around us.  I hope we become a people who want to share ourselves with others.  I want the miners to be respected for what they do.  I want outsiders to see that they are even more apart of what is happening in these hills than even we are.
And I want people who don’t know what they are talking about to keep their mouths shut.  I want us to stop trying to defend ourselves saying we didn’t grow up in a holler, trailer, running barefoot, drinking Mt. Dew, but to realize that there is nothing wrong with most of that, and what is wrong can be changed.  It is not the summation of who we are.
This was a rambling mess because I’m trying to write and be a mama at the same time.  I’m sure it is also a wonderful first post (note I’m a bit sarcastic).  Go ahead.  Find my loopholes and make your comments.


About Me

An Appalachian woman born and raised, mothering two little girls in a place that is non-existent to AT&T or UPS. Happily working toward a sustainable lifestyle and writing on the demand of a loud muse.

March 2023

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