We are West Virginia

Most People’s World readers live in the U.S. It’s a simple, yet eloquent, phrase: United States of America. This sacred pact allows each state to manage much of its resources as it sees fit, and to pass laws or not pass laws according to that same ideal. New Hampshire isn’t New Mexico, so one size doesn’t fit all.

Bubbling under big media’s obsession over recent weeks with New Jersey’s political potboiler has been another story, that of West Virginia’s ongoing water debacle. It’s a mess. An ongoing pollution of the waterways has wrecked havoc on people trying to take care of their families.

On paper, West Virginia is a poor state. It’s not, actually. Millions, if not billions, of dollars of minerals have been extracted from the state, and more remains. Just on the value of minerals and labor alone, you’d be hard pressed to call West Virginia a beggar state.

West Virginia is wealthy, if you consider its resources and the tireless work ethic of its people. However, political leaders of both parties and favored corporations have long chosen profits over infrastructure and selfish aims over public good.

The state government devoted little funds and less interest to managing properly the state’s water supply. Judeo-Christian teachings preach good stewardship of the land, but this spiritual doctrine, common to many faiths, isn’t one that resonates in corporate boardrooms, where they often focus on the financial bottom line.

That’s West Virginia’s sad, frustrating tale. A few state capitol insiders and their business cronies game the system, as always, choosing Caesar’s coin over faith, and personal gain over public good. Ordinary people pay the price, as always.

Yet, is it that different in your home state?

In California, a deadly drought threatens to destroy harvests and the people whose livelihood depends on a steady stream of water. The decisions made to deal with this problem require the input of those affected by the drought, which is everyone, since Californians help feed the nation.

Over in North Carolina, a coal ash spill contaminated drinking water even as state officials wobbled before informing the public. In Texas, the booming petroleum gas industry gulps down water in arid parts of the state even though affected towns face threats to their long-term survival.

Wherever you live in the USA, the public-private balance on managing natural resources favors the latter. Even so, in any state, its residents aren’t without means to improve their situation. Whatever they do, however, comes with a price. That price is losing your sense of isolation. It’s a natural impulse to favor go-it-alone anarchist and libertarian dreams, but, given how well funded the corporate-mainstream political team is, this amounts to giving up the battle before you enter the field.

It’s a romantic notion: David beats Goliath, one on one. In truth, David loses to Goliath if the giant brings his army with him. When an anti-public decision is made between a political backroom and a corporate boardroom, it’s backed by Goliath and his army, every time.

Organizations exist that seek to champion the interests of poor, working- and middle- class people. Whether it’s labor unions, the Environmental Defense Fund, or many other groups, thanks to the Internet (and public libraries that give media-poor citizens access to the ‘Net), you have the means to make your voice heard.

The United States of America is a beautiful phrase. Are we united? Because, if we are, then the catastrophe in West Virginia matters to us, wherever we live. It sends a message: take care of our own backyards. In our home states, we know that West Virginia’s troubles can only be averted by paying attention to the politics that affect our natural resources.

We know what works because we’ve seen over and over again how an organized group of people can win against incredible odds. Those of you who work a forty-hour week reap the benefits of strikers and their supporters who fought and died to make that happen. That struggle continues, yet it’s not only about workers in fast-food restaurants. It’s about basic, hardcore needs that affect all our lives.

The water you drink, the air you breathe, the food you eat, the products you use-you live in one state. You rely on many. You can’t get by without the food, resources, and people of every part in this union.

As a nation, we are weakened when any of our states falter. Soul-deep, we are West Virginia. 

Photo: View of earth from space. NASA.


Kelly Sinclair
Kelly Sinclair

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Kelly Sinclair is a singer-songwriter who branched out into prose with the publication of her first novel, "Accidental Rebels." Five of her books (Accidental Rebels, Lesser Prophets, If the Wind Were a Woman, In the Now, Roberta's Fire) appeared with Blue Feather Books before that publisher's demise. In 2015, she returns to print/ebook with her new crime noir novel, "Getting Back," with Regal Crest Books. Also, her Lambda Literary Awards finalist effort, "In the Now," will return to print with science-fiction publisher Lethe Press. In addition to her writing for People's World, she's also an audio reviewer for Library Journal. As a singer-songwriter, she's written for herself (Alive in Soulville) as well as others. Her rock musical, "Clarity," is available for free via Soundcloud. She's also a computer artist. She currently lives in central Texas. She can be found at asebomedia.net as well as via email.