Recently, I journeyed with a friend to Eastern Kentucky to witness the devistation of mountain top removal firsthand. Three weeks later, I am still coming out of the shock of it, as if some part of me has been blasted to pieces and shoved over the side with what was once a mountain. And I, like the Appalachians, will never be the same no matter how I seed my brain with forgetting, pretty up the disfigured skyline that remains in memory with a good time shopping at a box-store. Just like the one left where a mountains' head used to be, set on top like a poisoned cherry. And we can all stroll the aisles of affordable living, at least until the slurry pit breaks open from its hold, spills over the mountain, clawing off the eroded sides and poundes them down on top of us.
I won't villify the coal companies. They do that all by themselves. Just ask anyone who has buried their dead or shielded their children from bullets that raged through their windows when they spoke against the destruction, the mercury that leeched into their water.
I can say with certainty that there is no wisdom on the mountain if there is no mountain top. I do understand poverty, that politicians and parasites manipulate our desperation until we want to let ourselves believe that the bones they throw us are feasts, that anything put into an empty belly, will feel as heavy as truth. But, the truth is, we shouldn't be starving for it.
I met many people throughout the region, many friendly and open people. I never felt like I had to second-guess anyone. Those traits seem as endangered as the future of mountains older than any others on this planet. I won't judge anyone trying to make a living. We do what we must. But, as such clever monkeys, can't we find another way, one that doesn't paint us irreversably into a corner, one where all we can do is watch the ground we stand on crumble away, clutching at regret.