Editorial and Viewpoint

Cross-posted from Appalachian Voices

Blair Mountain: Preserving Our History, Our Integrity

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’” — 1984, George Orwell

Few things can be considered more contemptible than the deliberate and systematic erasure of history. It is dishonest to our future generations, an act unworthy of free people in a democratic republic.

Early this June, a week-long march will take place to stop the destruction of a national historic monument in West Virginia. The cause these marchers represent deserves a lesson in every U.S. classroom.

Blair Mountain was the site of an armed confrontation between tens of thousands of miners and coal company mercenaries in 1921. It was the largest armed conflict in the United States since the Civil War, triggered by a long series of grave injustices endured by generations of Appalachian miners.

For 15 years, the Blair Mountain site has been strongly recommended for national preservation by historians working for the U.S. National Park Service and a large number of archaeologists, labor historians and historical societies of the highest caliber. As a result of their work, the Park Service finalized the national designation of Blair Mountain as a protected historic site in March of 2009. That should have been the last word.

Instead, in November of 2009, the State Historic Preservation Office of West Virginia requested that the site be “de-listed” due to a set of transparently flimsy technicalities. The Park Service capitulated in January 2010, and “de-listed” Blair Mountain. Historians and citizens were shocked.

Blair Mountain is standing in the way of mountaintop removal coal mining; and how convenient for the coal industry—destroying a reminder of its sad and shameful history of labor and environmental injustices.

Not surprisingly, lawsuits have been filed and outrage, grief and sheer disbelief have filled the blogs and op-ed columns.

After all, erasing history is what made George Orwell’s “big brother” government so despicable in his novel “1984.” Erasing history was one of the great crimes, among many, of Soviet communism. Contempt for history is why there will always be a profound disconnect between Americans and the governments of communist China, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Burma and far too many others.

This June of 2011, a peaceful assembly of our fellow Americans will walk the route taken by the miners marching to Blair Mountain that summer 90 years ago.

It is our highest hope that the National Park Service and West Virginian “historians,” now in a position counter to their noble charter and Our Nation’s highest principles, will join in solidarity with these Blair Mountain marchers at their journey’s end.

For more info, visit marchonblairmountain.org.

Cartoon:

Caring for the Earth So That We May Care for Each Other

Excerpted from a sermon
by Rev. Pat Watkins

Creation care is not just about caring for the earth. It is about caring for one another. Human beings are also a part of God’s beloved creation. Nearly every human struggle comes back to the earth in some way. Wars have been fought over land, oil, water, access to ports or control of shipping routes. Infants die for the lack of clean water. We cannot care for our fellow human beings without caring for the earth. We lament for all the humans God has created and especially for those who suffer due to the misuse of creation by those who choose to ignore the consequences of our wealthy lifestyles.

It’s so easy to dwell on the trouble part, isn’t it?

But even when we lament what is happening right now, it puts things into perspective to remember just how good God has been to God’s people throughout the ages. Colossians talks about all of creation being rescued, of being saved, of Christ being the redeemer of all that God has created. John talks about Christ being present with God at creation. How can we not believe that God will continue to love and care and heal His own creation?

I hate to admit this, but part of the tension for me is the knowledge that I am so very passionate about healing the earth while at the same time I realize that I am part of the problem. I stay torn between lamentation and praise.

Bishop Donald Ott, a retired United Methodist Bishop from Michigan, says it like this: “We cannot help the world until we change our own way of being in it.”

Whenever I think of a vision of faith and hope, I think of the vision of the Kingdom of God; I think of God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. I see no gap between the rich and the poor. I see everyone with enough to eat; I see clean water, enough for everybody. I see air that doesn’t give children asthma. I see the Chesapeake Bay full of crabs and oysters. I taste tomatoes that actually taste good. I see renewable sources of energy. I see species of animals that are not faced with their own extinction. I see farms instead of shopping malls. I see rice that can actually reproduce. I see pigs and cows and chickens that can actually hang out in the fields. I see turkeys whose breasts are small enough so that their legs do not break.

I see solar panels on roofs of homes and churches. I see new forms of transportation that don’t rely on oil. I see glaciers that are actually frozen. I see a government that cares more about the common good than the economy. I see people who care as much about each other and the planet as they do themselves. I see a far more simple life for those of us who live in the west. I see love of God, each other, and the earth all wrapped up in each other’s arms. I see passion on each face. I see greed and selfishness and apathy disappear from the face of the earth.

And whenever I wonder how in the world such a vision can become a reality, I see each and every one of you.

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Editorial and Viewpoint

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