This is the most disturbing part of Appalachia’s decline to me. Our forefather’s pride and heritage, their struggles through decades of abuse from the coal industry, has all been forgotten. Their lessons, such as putting needs before wants and finding happiness in simplicity, has been replaced with unbelievable short sightedness. The once modest home of the young Appalachian coal miner has become anything but. The basic beat around, ride to work truck has become a tricked out diesel with rims or a sports car complete with a "Friends of Coal" license plate.
Of the many things lost in the past two generations, humility, compassion, and the willingness to listen and think critically has been amongst them, but I cannot fault the newest generation of coal miner entirely. Much of their shortcomings in these regards came from a childhood that didn't contain the most important lessons--especially when it comes to our history and the problems of debt.
Today, coal miners have a long list of justifications for what they must do for a living, much of which revolving around what money has to tell them, “Life can’t be lived without nice things,” “A strong economy is the most important future we can give our children.” Sadly, the voices of our past are diminished beneath the modern day “necessity” for all things shiny. Children are no longer shown how to raise their own food in the family garden. Few know the enjoyment of looking forward to and finally tasting things that come into season. The wonders of watching how much a simple seed can give you has been lost. Instead of a vocabulary of greasy beans, bantam, or kennebec, children instead learn wages, mortgage, and war on coal. How long has it been since a coal miner built a canhouse?
The old ways of looking down the road for the next big challenge, then doing what one can to weather it has been given up for “live for today, who knows what tomorrow will bring” attitude. For those of us who still look towards the future, we know what is coming. It is as easy as looking to the past. Boom and bust, poverty and sickness, all while coal company owners live on wherever the water is clean and their is easy access to the private jet. .
Forgetting our history, supporting the coal companies, destroying our mountains, polluting our water—now that is what I call dishonoring our coal mining heritage.