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  • Jørn Earl Otte

"Rant" -- April 13, NPM


Rant of an Angry Appalachian

Love the coal mines, the scrip to use in their stores,

one week vacation every July 4th. Want more

of things made of coal, or things made in China,

or things made by the trees from your neighbor’s backyard

but not your own.

Love the coal, be a friend of it, be afraid to say anything against it,

and you will have a ticket to your life.

Nothing will be a surprise to you,

for they already have everything mapped out.

When they want you to do something,

say something, vote for something,

MAGA something, they will let you know.

When they want you to die for their wallets, they will let you know,

and you will do so with a smile on your face.

They have mocked us for a hundred years,

and promised us a War on Poverty, and promised

Us they would make us rich.

They sent our great-grandfathers, grandfathers,

fathers and now mothers, sisters and brothers,

into the mines, and our family carried out their fortunes

on our backs like mules.


We died for their retirement home in Florida

While we took the scraps and scrips they were so generous to give

and spent a week each year at Myrtle Beach

Thankful that our children wouldn’t have to do this when they grew up.


Except they did.

They do.


And the barons laughed, and laugh still.


The joke of course is, did you marry your sister?

The other joke of course is, how many rednecks does it take?

The other joke of course is, does your family tree fork?

The latest joke of course is, your governor said what?

It is pretty simple -- make love to coal or get the fuck out.

Don’t like coal? Don’t turn on your lights, don’t use a car,

don’t even breathe our air -- get out, because you are evil.

Don’t like it when we cut down trees? Go wipe your ass with plastic.

Be prepared to fear everybody who looks different than you,

and be prepared to die for profit.


Our lives and our deaths will never ever change.


Unless.


So, I beg you, brothers and sisters of the Mountains,

Do something every single day that they are not the Master of.

How great to buy a hybrid car,

how rebellious to put a solar panel on our house.

Maybe we are poor, ok, maybe we can’t do those,

I get it – Plant a tree.

Plant an evergreen full of sap,

because that is wood they cannot use,

cannot chop down to ship to another state.


Find a tree that is older than your grandfather,

wrap your arms around it for an hour.

Be a damn tree hugger, if only for this moment in time.

Build a monument to posterity

plant a dozen apple tree saplings in your front yard,

in your neighborhood, in a public park,

somewhere they will blossom for your grandchildren

And no one will want to see them die.


Be brave.

Quit your job.

Please.


Be terrified and do it anyway, and you will at least find peace.

Then,

Take your children to the memorial at Upper Big Branch Mine in Boone County.

Show them the place where 29 miners died because Massey Coal cheated the system.

Show them the coal camps where people lived in houses owned by the coal company, used money owned by the coal company, shopped in stores owned by the coal company, worshipped in churches owned by the coal company.

Then tell them the shocking news:

Nothing.

Has.

Changed.


The barons still own everything, and live somewhere else.

Take your children to Richmond, Virginia,

show them the yacht parked in the harbor there

owned by the owner of the coal mine

your father died to serve.


Show them his mansions in Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida,

Look at his album of photos from his Mediterranean Cruise,

where he gallivanted with Congressmen

who voted No on the Mine Health and Safety Act.

My friends, my hard working brothers and sisters,

my children of these mountains we love,

I beg you,

Stop working for them.

Beat your shovels into swords.

Walk out.

Stand up.

Shout out.

Demand.


For if you don’t,

if we don't,


our children will tell stories of a time when our home almost,

almost, almost, almost

Survived.

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