Making it Personal

A guest blog from Al Justice, from War, WV

Al says: I am encouraging everyone who gives a rat’s tail to begin a personal letter writing campaign in every direction possible. Attached below is my first letter to the Whitehouse. We’ve squandered four years with only limited success. We ‘have’ to be more relentless than the draglines.

Mountaintop removal. Photo by Vivian Stockman

23 January, 2013

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

Congratulations on being sworn in for your second term. And my best to your beautiful family. During your campaigns I told my friends that there is no way I could vote for you, as I planned to write-in Michelle!

I too have a beautiful family. My family has lived in the mountains of Appalachia since the American Revolution. A hundred years earlier we were living in the Tidewater area of Virginia beginning in 1655. Very early though, we moved to the foothills of the Blue Ridge, and have been mountain borne, and mountain bred since those early days in our nation’s history.

Now greed and corruption are poised to completely destroy our mountains. The fact that I am nearly half American Indian, truly complicates trying to express the human story of what strip mining in Appalachia feels like. This mining practice, called Mountain Top Removal(MTR), terrorizes our beautiful inspiring mountains, as well as my heart. And yes, it feels like true terror. Truly.

President Obama, this mining practice is purely greed and has nothing at all to do with American energy independence. Moreover it is greed that completely neglects the impact on clean water for a considerable portion of the southeastern United States. But the most sickening part, is simply that it’s pure greed.

Our state government is completely owned by the mining industry in any meaningful way. Even community organized groups list coal operators as their major contributors, though they pay lip service to being aware of the situation with MTR. (Editor’s note: OVEC does not accept contributions from coal companies!) The net result of their knowing, is the type of silence that forms people’s conscience and their legacy. Jefferson was guilty of this thing I call, deadly silence.

While coal may be important in the short term for energy independence, first of all it is not this type of coal. This mining practice that subverts the definitions of energy and greed must be shown for what it is! Please for God’s sake help us stop this mining practice!

I could be poetic and reflective on what these mountains mean to me, as I’m also an accomplished musician. I could describe what it feels like to play on ridge tops as a child, and waking up with fog so thick down below it feels one could walk on it, with the sun rising brilliantly to the east. I could describe the phenomenal skill-set of life sustaining skills my family carries around like a cell phone, to have loved, lived and survived here for hundreds of years. But the point in doing so would not even really be the environment, the point would somehow have to be an abstraction I call, ‘the mountain’.

Growing up in beautiful Hawaii, I know in the deepest part of my heart that the ocean must define you in many ways. Having served in Okinawa in the USAF, I also have to feel that you have a deep sense of what a Pacific sunset means. And having grown up among Pacific Islanders, I just have to feel you relate to the image of naturally kind and happy people. These images all share a kinship with, ‘the mountain’.

Forget images of poverty in Appalachia! Harry Caudill in “Night Comes to the Cumberlands”, was simply making the case of destructive, greedy, negative corporate exploitation and the consequences. Granted, mountain people all over the world do, and have, experienced seclusion at times. This seclusion though in Appalachia, was for the most part a contrived myth to justify the War on Poverty(which incidentally saw Sgt. Shriver’s funding dry up almost immediately.)

If it is in your heart to truly help Appalachia, help us firmly and forever put a stop to he destruction of our environment. A global economy is upon us now Mr. President, and the major stakeholders do not even live in America now. If we could not even hold Pittsburgh and New York accountable in the earlier days of the coal industry, just imagine the terror put upon our people to learn that it is a Russian or German company doing the destruction!

God bless you over the next four years! I voted republican every time since Reagan as a Reagan democrat, until I got behind your team. It was a GOP governor in WV who whispered to me one day: economic justice(Cecil Underwood), as we were acquaintances. You help us stop MTR–we can handle the justice. And please, say hello to Ms. Obama–I have succcchhh a crush on her!!

with warm and deep joyful respect, I am,
Al Justice

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