The State of West Virginia is simultaneously heart-swellingly beautiful and heart-wrenchingly wretched – a condition she has experienced and suffered since even before her birth with civil war as a midwife.
Her mountains and streams sing a song, whispering to any listening soul that God is in heaven and all is right with the world. Her people are generous, loyal, and hard-working.
But her political and business leadership is quick to betray her natural beauty and her big-hearted citizens – selling her out to the lowest bidder, prostituting her for the crumbs and scars inflicted by those who covet but do not love her.
Her mountains are lopped off and shipped out. Her streams are filled with pollution. Her people are enlisted to play second fiddle and low-wage back-up singer to the forces that see her as an economic interest, but otherwise have no interest in her or her well-being and future.
Her current leaders rush headlong into actions that leave her less safe, less healthy, less empowered, and with less capacity to care for her people or her own natural beauty. Small-minded and visionless, they trip over each other in their fawning frenzy to please their out-of-state masters and political puppeteers.
Within the past week we have been reminded that we don’t have to accept the status quo. In a show of amazing solidarity, West Virginia’s teachers rose up together, hand-painted their signs, planted their feet firmly on the picket line and in the halls of power, and said, “Enough!”
All 55 county school systems were shut down, as teachers stood up and spoke out.
This is about more than the teachers, more than the schools, more than wages and benefits.
Ultimately, this is about self-respect and the right to be respected by others.
West Virginia’s teachers are standing up for us all.
They are standing up for our children.
They are standing up, in their own way, for our mountains and streams and our individual and collective right to self-determination.
They are standing up for West Virginia’s song, buying it back one handmade sign, one chant, one set of linked arms at a time.
In fact, they are changing the tune and composing a new song for West Virginia.
I applaud them.
I support them.
I thank them.