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Bluegrass and Anthracite

We’re finishing up the primary season in an area of the country that was near and dear to Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s heart- Appalachia. The mountains of West Virginia and Kentucky supply much of the country’s coal and is home to the hard working but eternally poor. Those rich veins of coal extend up into my hometown region of PA where occasionally an old abandoned mine will subside and swallow houses whole. The area was settled by Scots-Irish Americans. For those of you interested in this fierce breed, check out Jim Webb’s fascinating book, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America.

Appalachia was the scene of one of RFK’s most moving journeys. I was only a little girl when it happened but some memory of it remains. People who live there are proud and self-reliant but had lives cut short by black lung disease and malnutrition. About a month before his assassination, he gave an interview with David Frost and had this to say about his commitment to fighting poverty:

Something about the fact that I made some contribution to either my country, or those who were less well off. I think back to what Camus wrote about the fact that perhaps this world is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do this? I’d like to feel that I’d done something to lessen that suffering.
“There are children in the Mississippi Delta whose bellies are swollen with hunger … Many of them cannot go to school because they have no clothes or shoes. These conditions are not confined to rural Mississippi. They exist in dark tenements in Washington, D.C., within sight of the Capitol, in Harlem, in South Side Chicago, in Watts. There are children in each of these areas who have never been to school, never seen a doctor or a dentist. There are children who have never heard conversation in their homes, never read or even seen a book.” RFK

(It’s a compassion and solidarity thing, Chris. You wouldn’t understand) I’ll have more to say about hunger tomorrow morning and what you can do about it.

The mountains are also home to one of America’s unique sonic landscapes- bluegrass music. The sound can be sharp and twangy with percussion plucked from a banjo and melody scraped off a fiddle. Or it can be sweet and sad with mandolin, guitar and “high lonesome” harmony. Once of my favorite bluegrass artists, Ricky Skaggs, had to wait many years before he could break a record contract and make his first bluegrass CD. Someone paired coal and Skaggs and made this video. Enjoy!

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24 Responses

  1. “There are children who have never heard conversation in their homes, never read or even seen a book.”

    riverdaughter, My mind is boggling: “children who never heard conversation in their homes” ? I hope I don’t sound too ignorant, but how can that be?

    (And I don’t have any excuse. I probably saw the David Frost Interview)

  2. how funny that you mentioned bluegrass – this primary season keeps making me remember the 70s band “Old and In The Way”. remember them? Panama Red? Jerry Garcia?

  3. Back in my hometown, they have bluegrass bands come and play downtown just about every Sunday.. and the public radio station (I think we get the one out of Morgantown) plays a lot of it – check out Mountain Stage. I can’t seem to find a place to listen online to archived shows but there’s a list of stations that carry the show. I didn’t appreciate it when I was younger but.. it’s beautiful and the musicians are so skilled to play it..

    I should also mention about Appalachia.. I wonder if Hillary will talk about it.. mountaintop removal mining going on.. doing permanent damage..

  4. The media and Obama are intent on snuffing out WV/KY by ignoring Clinton.

    Ugh.

  5. Chris Carney has endorsed Hill and then there is this paper endorsement from WV Daily mail:

    Endorsements
    print | email | letter to editor | size Send me a copy Your E-mail address:

    Recipient’s E-Mail Address:

    Personal Message (Optional):

    The e-mail address(es) that you supply to use this service will only be used to send the requested article.
    Thursday May 8, 2008
    President:
    Of the Democrats, Hillary Clinton has the strongest policy background
    WEST Virginia Democrats will express themselves Tuesday almost at the end of their party’s bruising primary process. For many, the choice will be an uncomfortable one.

    Both Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are from the liberal wing of the Democratic party. West Virginia Democrats tend to be more conservative.

    Nevertheless, they must make a choice on Tuesday.

    The Daily Mail, which is philosophically at odds with both contenders for the Democratic nomination, endorses Hillary Clinton. She is by far the more experienced of the Democratic candidates, and the one who has had to learn the most about West Virginia.

    A Yale-educated lawyer, a former congressional staffer and former first lady of Arkansas, Hillary Clinton stumbled awkwardly onto the national stage. The Clintons, it was said, did not know the ways of Washington.

    She was ridiculed for fashion choices at her husband’s inaugural in 1992. She was excoriated for trying to bypass Congress and make health care policy herself.

    But Hillary’s history is that she keeps going, as she has during this primary campaign.

    This trait has produced a broad, deep background in policy. She has been an activist for children, migrant laborers, civil rights, higher standards in education, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and more.

    She won a U.S. Senate seat in New York in 2000 and was re-elected by a larger margin in 2006. No one questions her readiness for Washington any more.

    Now Hillary would be president, and Bill would be not baking the cookies or pouring the tea. Some Americans can’t countenance the prospect of another Clinton co-presidency.

    Either Democrat will have a tough time this fall against Republican John McCain, whose service, policy experience and bipartisan accomplishments trump Hillary’s.

    Of the Democrats, though, Hillary would be the stronger candidate

  6. So she’s getting the Edwards treatment now, Davidson?

  7. This is what infuriates me about the MSM, whenever they compare the Unity Pony to such a grand servant and beloved leader such as RFK.

  8. Neat photos from that part of the state.. (I don’t know this person, found via google!) – Keyser, WV: Friendliest City in the USA
    Blackwater Falls

    West Virginia University
    scenes of the state. Go ‘eers. :)

  9. Don’t know about you, but my Unity Pony has a big old crack in it. :-(

    And the stuff that tumbles out of that crack is horseshit, not sparkles and rainbows! :-( :-( :-(

  10. That Daily Mail endorsement is odd. It doesn’t sound like they want a D to win.

    And the comment about cookies, seems like a thinly veiled attack on HRC’s previous cookie comment. The whole thing seems passive aggressive, sort of like Rush or Hannity or Ann C. advocating that folks should choose HRC; even if they oppose her themselves.

    How (if at all) did the other Charleston papers (Gazette and Journal) go? How about other papers in the state?

  11. KB: Yes. And, apparently, Obama is dropping “hints” that he’d take Clinton as VP, which I think is just another way to marginalize her and depress support for her by having people believe she’ll be on the ticket (as if that’s remotely acceptable anyways). Even if Clinton was VP, she couldn’t save him and she’d be all the more of a scapegoat when he loses in a landslide.

    God, this is depressing.

  12. P.S. Like everyone else in the adopt-a-pony program, I am sure the sparkles and rainbows are just packed in horseshit to keep them from getting scratched and bruised during shipping … but I am getting SO impatient to see my sparkles, and meanwhile the packing material is filling up the room. :-(

  13. I don’t know, I thought some of the endorsement was pretty positive. I am sure it is a conservative paper.

  14. Davidson,

    Is he dropping hints, or are some of her folks pushing the VP angle. Stephanopoulus is indicating that this is from the HRC side.

  15. HRC side? Screw that. She doesn’t need to go down with this loser.

  16. 1jpb: It’s from the asshole himself. If Stephy thinks Clinton would push this just as she’s heading towards KY/WV, he’s either lying or insanely stupid.

    I think she’s going to try one last time to give cover to the supers to avoid destroying the party, but she’s about had it with these fools. And I don’t blame her.

  17. I think Chris Bowers just revealed that the African Americans made a deal with the devil in their support of Obama.

    Its not time to get disheartened folks. Its time to fight like hell because the hat is out of the bag: the blogger boiz are all about themselves. There is a reason they chose Obama along with the media and the Democratic elitist party leaders. There is a reason universal healthcare was so easily off the table and SS now back on. The virus must be stopped. It won’t if we acquiesce.

  18. Davidson: Looked at your link, it does seem like a door open there. This is the Stephanopoulos thing.
    http://abcnews.go.com//Politics/Story?id=4808341&page=1

    There is a lot of “silly” talk going on now , e.g. the stuff about BHO paying for HRC debt. I have no idea what’s true, probably not much though.

  19. “(It’s a compassion and solidarity thing, Chris. You wouldn’t understand)”

    It’s over his head.

    Great post Riverdaughter.

  20. Alright y’all I have to get this one off my chest.. a guy I’ve been friends with for many years, after all the other cheap potshots at Hillary he’s emailed out to all our friends (I have defended her but I don’t start shit), after mailing out that obscene Kantor video, well, now he’s calling her George Wallace. It’s been a slow burn all day and on the way home I was just furious. utterly furious.

    the worst, most poisonous, thoughtless, inflammatory charges, and only doing it to bait the handful of people who stubbornly support her, and probably because we had the audacity to argue back. Frankly I would fight for McCain to be elected POTUS over Obama, who’s managed to transform my allegedly “progressive” friends into ungracious jerks because I’ve dared to criticize their candidate.. I bet it’s happening all over the country, it’s destroying the party.. all in the name of the Unity Pony.

  21. Daria-g — and others — go take a look at Angalchel’s most recent posting on this mess. http://anglachelg.blogspot.com/

    She offers great insight on why much of this is motivated by American’s long-held passion for purifying out the devil. Though she makes clear that misogyny is the glue holding it together. (Those two strands certainly fit your friend.)

    But ultimately we are all paying the price of the dumbing down of America. Even folks – or maybe it’s especially – folks with degrees are no longer “deeply” educated. It used to that we took literature and history classes that forced us to challenge our deepest held beliefs. Worse, we actually had to write about them and debate with others. Now it’s a quick in and out, with most of the time spent surfing the net during the classes. No one gets challenged – or god forbid – offended.

    But our new education system gives folks access to lots of data but no means to organize it beyond how they feel. Your friend saw Hillary, a white woman identified with the South, harming his favored (and black) candidate so she must be a racist like Wallace. Beyond having no basis in reality given their actual records, it smacks of a typical grad student trick of offering inflammatory analysis to be new and daring (facts be damned).

    Shorter advice: you deserve better people in your life.

    It’s going to hurt at first but honestly who sends out videos like the Kantor smear job? I always argue that most of the most annoying liberals in Bay Area (CA) where I live would be burning crosses if they lived somewhere else. Most are driven by a pathetic need to “belong” to “coolest crowd” in their surroundings.

  22. @Daria-G: What I believe we’re witnessing is triggered by bigotry. Everyone else is trying to sanitize it by pretending it’s really class or eliminating the Clintons, but at the core is rabid, anti-female hate. This is not about Barack or Hillary, but the dehumanization and demonization of women/girls. Honestly, how else can we explain the deranged behavior we’re witnessing online and in person?

    Bigotry allows you to justify anything (e.g., willingness to throw an election and destroy the party when everything is on the line) since you already believe in the inherent moral depravity of The Enemy, which by default, makes you morally superior (hence, the “cult” factor).

    This is beyond politics and class. Way beyond. Misogyny produced “witch” hunts and the global rape slave trade, so the mere political scalping of Hillary Clinton is nothing. This is our version of the Dreyfus Affair.

  23. Oh, RD, I had to stop reading bcz the memories of RFK and what he did on that tour just break me up.

    The loss of JFK, MLK, and then RFK is still stunning in its effect on this nation.

    Whenever I think of them, and for some reason RFK was our last best hope, I think of how much better our country would be had they not be taken out, assassinated.

    I’ll finish this later — have to stop crying or I’ll have another terrible sinus headache.

    But, yes, this is fitting.

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