Coal Miner’s Refrain

Writing

Let’s play a fun game. I’m going to post two images and you try to guess which members of the political spectrum posted them.

Some context, I was on Facebook yesterday and both of these images appeared in my feed at roughly the same time. Both people in question are life-long educators. Both of them represent one side of the political spectrum on a very consistent basis.

Here’s image 1

bitchyclassism

Image 1: Fuck those dumb coal miners

 

Here’s Image 2

trumpersclassism

Image 2- A generally positive statement about the poor

Let’s deconstruct the images a bit before we make any guesses. That’ll make the game easier. The first one is saying that coal miners, in their insistence on having jobs, are dumb because coal is outdated and no longer relevant and these stupid idiots want to keep their jobs. Of course, none of that considers a few things

  1. We still use coal
  2. No one is a coal miner because it is fun
  3. These people d0n’t have alternative jobs or the education to get new jobs.

Now, my guess is that the person who posted this is a perfectly nice person. I’ve known them to be a good person, and my guess is that they didn’t know these statements or didn’t think about the implications of what they were saying. Also, they must never have met any coal miners. But I’m here to let you in on a secret, people with power and privilege don’t decide to be coal miners. And the people who are still living in West Virginia in coal mining areas, didn’t move there for the summers. They moved there because mining has always been one of those shit jobs we pretend no one has to do. It’s dangerous, brutal and poorly paid. The people still living in these areas don’t have access to education or anywhere to go. It’s damn hard and costs a lot of money to just move, especially when there is no guarantee of a job when you move.

I could go on and on about how hard this life is, but I’ll let you experience it through music. When you are done crying, you can move on

Coal Miner’s Refrain

Anyway, the point is that the people who post this meme clearly know very little about coal miners, about the life they are living and about their struggle.

Now let’s talk about image 2. Image two suggests that there are morals and values that come from poverty. Image 2 puts the elites to task for their immoral behavior. It assigns agency to the poor and is a subversive critique of the rich.

Wanna guess which person posted 1 and which one posted 2?

 

 

 

Did you guess it was my Trump supporter, white male, old former teacher who posted the pro-poor message? Did you guess that it was a Hispanic educator with a PhD in education and a female who posted the first image about what IDIOTS the coal miners are?

Ok, because that’s what actually happened. Yes, that’s right folks, I woke up to classism yesterday from the left and support from the right.

Still confused as to why people don’t vote for the left? I’m gonna give you some time to get there yourself.

But what I will say is that is wasn’t always like this. There’s a reason the old rust belt was blue until recently. I’m a lifelong Democrat from a family of lifelong Democrats. We used to offer solutions to these people. We used to say, “hey, we are going to help you find better jobs than coal mining” or “we are going to give education and training to find a new job.” We used to honor their struggle and their work. We used to talk about how we were going to help them and how noble that struggle was, and its the same struggle that makes it possible for us to post memes to Facebook. This country still runs on coal.

This country is still built on the backs of poor coal miners, and poor fieldworkers, and poor service workers. The poor is so fucking racially diverse and we all have histories of exploitation. WITHIN LIVING MEMORY, my family was a group of sharecroppers. My great grandmother was repeatedly raped by her boss, had her children taken from her by the state, one was sold, and two of her sisters sterilized. My great grandmother isn’t some distant relation, I knew her in my childhood. My great grandfather was a poor half-Indian sharecropper who stole passage on trains at the age of 15, lied about his age so he could join the army and serve in three foreign wars. He did it because he was starving. And I knew this man, he had a big influence on me. He was alive until my senior year of college.

This is the problem with the kind of identity politics we’ve been playing. It let’s people off the hook for what they believe. It allows us to say, “oh, hey, my background says I’m not responsible for this, because I’m so woke and I’ve experienced oppression.” So let, let you in on a secret we need to get in on now. WE ARE ALL FUCKING RESPONSIBLE FOR OPPRESSION.

Good. Are we done whining now about how it’s not our fault? Glad we could all be adults about that.

If you think you are woke because you read Angela Davis and because your people have historically been oppressed, then maybe you are. But let me tell you something, if you think its ok to mock the poor for their lot in life, then you aren’t as woke as you thought.

So now, can we stop with the self-righteous diatribes about how superior we are to the Trump supporters? We need to start doing the real work of analyzing our own bullshit and changing our tactics and attitude.

And everyday we waste not doing that, is another day that someone else is going to be oppressed.

You want to stop Trump? Give these people a viable alternative.

 

 

 

 

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