Thursday, May 11, 2017

Spring 2017 Update Appalachian Spring

Lord have mercy!  I been busy! It's been a WHIRLWIND of activity.  Trying to blog...yep it's not working. Too much interference but I'll get to some book and video reviews in this post.  I read quite a few this past winter like, Liberal Redneck Manifesto :Draggin Dixie Out Of the Dark, White Trash and Hillbilly Elegy to name a few. Scroll down if you are impatient.

My son was FINALLY approved for disability. WHAT A BLESSING! We were at the crossroads of no return. But though that is a small blessing, doesn't make up for him working, we've a long way to go to get him WELL!  He's getting an appointment at UVA. This crazy disease he has, (is anyone sure these immune diseases are not in our environment?)  is moving into his eyes.  We try to take care of each other, but at the moment his condition is pretty bad. Much worse than I am. It's OK...we are alive.

Spent some money catching up bills and a couple of things giving him a reason to keep trying. Got him a computer. He was using my old one and another that was given to him. Both pretty much slow as molasses and out of date. He really needed a new one. Got a chair that lifts and reclines, which has helped him immensely!! We tore down the bedroom he's staying in. Hadn't been changed since he was a teenager.

He had a bad episode a couple months ago and while I was in there trying to help him up and get his socks on, I noticed how depressing his room was!  We changed that.  A good clearing out, paint and a rug and a new bed frame helped a bunch. Took us WEEKS to do that. He can't look up or bend at he was at mid level. I did above and below with help.  He slept in my bed (it's higher to get in and out of) and I slept on the couch.

After working on that, I was SPENT. I think I'm still recovering. But this is what I noticed, with his illnesses, the change in his surroundings, it's changed his mood from one of despair to hope. So it's worth IT!  He has a long battle ahead to get him to the best he can be. Every little bit helps.

The happened.....let's not go there. It's going to be an interesting next couple of years. I'm not sure what to think really. I piss a lot of my family off about politics. I'm not liberal or conservative but I'm also liberal and conservative...depends on the damn issue!!

 Not happy at some of the things being rolled back of course. After going through these illnesses I don't believe we are "throw away people" because we can't afford health care without help at the moment. Without it I believe my son nor I would not have a chance at survival. It's not a game, it's not a theory, these illnesses are not something we could have prevented from happening with clean living. But we are only 2 people in a sea of Americans, trying to survive in the same boat.  It amazes me we have money for war and walls but not healthcare solutions. So yes, it's a pretty touchy subject to me.

I've read a few books and watched a few videos of note over the winter/early spring I'd like to tell you about. I'd love to do separate book reviews, but I don't have energy or time. I will just link and make a few comments.

Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester and Drew Morgan's, The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin Dixie Outta the Dark, is absolutely wonderful. First book on my list, one I overly enjoyed reading. I took it to read waiting for a doctor's visit. I busted out laughing to tears at some of it, and had to leave the waiting room because I was giggling too much. A lady, when I returned, asked me what I was reading that was so funny. I showed her the cover and she FROWNED at me. Don't know if she believed me, but I told her it was worth the funds and the laughs. I related to every bit of it, and if I had the money I'd buy every young man, over 18, in the South or North, a copy. It's got cussing and it's bawdy. Funny as all get out though. I gave my copy to my grandson to take with him on his way into the world.  You can find them on tour with a listing of all things Wellred on their web site.

Or purchase your own copy on Amazon. Draggin Dixie Out of the Dark

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.  I'd heard so much about this book. It's a good, fast, read. Read it in a day's the world of Hillbillies according to the experience of J.D. Vance. That's not necessarily a bad thing. We all see the world differently.  To say I agree completely with his view, would be lyin to ya.  His mamaw could of been my own mother, but his insistence of he was the Appalachian version of Horatio Alger, "pull yourself up by your bootstraps", kind of guy, kinda made me wince. It's the overall, anti-government intrusion theme, doesn't jive with what we who live here, know how he and his family would have lived. Especially the heart of Appalachia.

The Marines is a government funded job, bub, and it got you on the road to your success. My dad took that same route. I'm sure there were student loans, grants etc. that educated you. I'm sure there were other programs that kept you alive until you could join the Marines. Since you were so poor, I recognize that the details of your own family finances might not be something you were privy to growing up, but don't insist to others, if you don't know, you did it ALL on your own, without any government assistance. Government assistance is not just food stamps and welfare. The difference is chance, access and those that take advantage of what is available to improve themselves.

His view of pay day loans is typical anti government regulation view of an industry that preys upon the poor. He got a loan and paid it back. Good for him. Said he saw no reason to regulate that industry, because HE was able to not have any further misfortunes and figured out a way to pay it back.

I've been to Richmond trying to get the legislature to regulate how much interest these payday and title loan lenders can charge. Believe me, he's not the customer they make the most money on. We had people testify about their loans, raised to charge over 300% interest. These loans trapped them in a cycle they can never get out of.

His not knowing what forks to use at a fancy dinner, because in our hillbilly world no one ever taught "him". Well that was his experience in his part of hillbillydom. My mother, who was raised in a 4 room house with gravity flow water and an outhouse, took out the Betty Crocker cook book and taught her kids, which fork was what, just in case we attended such a dinner. I have my grandmother's home economics books from the 1920s, that the girls were taught in school these lessons. It might be some knowledge lost on his generation but it was not mine or further back.

So it was a well written book, his family members could have been mine, his description of where he was raised hits a memory for a lot of people..... but...the world of hillbillies is much more broad than his experience or just his view.

So many of us don't want to leave Appalachia, to make a what he would consider a "success" of ourselves. I would say those that have clung to, stayed, and survived, regardless of money are more of a success story of Appalachia.  WE ARE STILL HERE fighting to make it and keep our children here. We know what the hillbilly highway out of here is. We know how our ties to this land call us back when we take it. Many more prefer not to take it out of here, no matter what the outside rewards. That's doesn't mean we are not and could never be a success. His version of success is not mine.

I read Ron Howard is making a movie of Hillbilly Elegy.....I hope he doesn't kick us in the teeth.

One of my favorite websites and Facebook pages is The Bitter Southerner. They publish awesome stories and views about how diverse the Southern experience is. Appalachians relate to the South, in Ohio even, more so than any other group.  Last week they published a post by David Joy called, Digging In The Trash It's a more honest and truthful picture of poverty in the south and in Appalachia.

My next book was right up my alley.  A history book!!  White Trash:The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, by Nancy Isenberg. It's a history book about class in America and a timely eye opener for anyone that doesn't know this history. I've studied this, because I've came across it in research. Walter Plecker was a prick for eugenics and partly responsible for running many of my family members out of Virginia in the 1920s.

Isenberg puts this history and it's background all in ONE book! She added some wonderful research and quotes to use later. I LOVE IT. If we are going to tackle poverty and race issues, then you need the history of class and of that poverty as a base. Helped me with some family research too, on some places to look, when she wrote about indentured servants.

Let me type from the flap.

"Surveying political rhetoric and policy, popular literature, and scientific theories over four hundred years, Isenberg upends assumptions about America's supposedly class-free society --where liberty and hard work were meant to ensure real social mobility. Some of the founding fathers believed poor people were subhuman, and wanted to apply strategies used in agriculture and animal husbandry to improve the stock. Poor whites were central to the rise of Lincoln's Republican Party, and in addition to slavery, the Civil War itself was fought over class issues. Reconstruction pitted poor white trash against newly freed slaves, which was a factor in the rise of eugenics - a widely popular movement embraced by Theodore Roosevelt that targeted poor whites for sterilization.  These poor were at the heart of New Deal reforms and LBJ's Great Society. Now they are offered to us in reality TV shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty, and the label is applied to celebrities ranging from Dolly Parton to Bill Clinton. Marginalized as a class, white trash have always been near the center of major debates over the character of the American identity."

Highly recommend this book.

I FINALLY set down and read the complete edited copy of Building Power, Changing Lives: The Story of Virginia Organizing. by Ruth Berta and Amanda Leonard Pohl.  If you read my About Me, then you know I've been involved with this organization since its inception. Yep, I and many others are in this book. This book was created for our 20th Anniversary. It explains the organization and lists all the local and state issues we worked on. With the political climate as it is, I am MORE sure than ever certain, the way we do it, this is the way to go. It's inclusive, strategic and deliberate in what we try to have influence over that makes a real difference in people's lives.

It's not about political party, (It crosses paths with parties, only if a party starts working towards what helps the most people, you work with them)  but it's more about all people in their community tackling issues important to them. People normally that have not been active but suffering. That takes time, but it WORKS!!

Jay Johnson and I talking about Lee County, the FIRST county in the state, to a group.
So many times people look at an organization like this and say, "I see this problem. What is this organization going to do to fix it for me?"  When the question really is, "What are YOU going to do to fix this problem for yourself and your community?"  VO gives tools to do that.  We do a lot of teaching, and breaking down barriers between communities. The book is full of many accomplishments related to that. Sometimes they don't seem that big, such as getting a deaf interpreter on call in a hospital where there is a large community of deaf people. It means a lot to the deaf community! Or getting a county to make sure their jury pool is diverse. This book is full of those battles and wins. Like a pebble in a still pond, it radiates out.

AND this year I was put on the schedule to speak in Blacksburg, VA at the 2017 Appalachian Studies Conference called, "Extreme Appalachia", for Virginia Organizing and went with one of our organizers Brian Johns....why the heck can't I ever remember to take a CAMERA!!

If you are not aware of the Appalachian Studies's EVERYTHING Appalachian!!! At the time I was needed at home and it was hard to get away just for the day! But I would have loved to have stayed to visit every forum this year. All of them were top notch. This was my second time in 20 years being there. Next year's 2018 conference will be in Cincinnati, OH under the theme, "Re-stitching the Seams: Appalachia Beyond it's Borders".

Our session was convened by Penny Loeb and entitled: Democratic Participation in Southwest Virginia and West Virginia. Two of our presenters didn't make it because of family emergencies.  But I met Patricia Bragg, who I absolutely LOVE. Her story is told in a book written by Penny Loeb and movie called, "Moving Mountains: A story of Faith and Perseverance".  Her story is the perfect example and BASIS of the contention between coal mining and the destruction it's causing to our communities.  We struggle between needing an environment where we can continue to live and drink the water versus coal mining jobs. I bought a copy directly from the author and it was a good video. I recommend it highly.

What I'm reading now is Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II book, The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear.  I'm a Dr. Barber fan. He speaks what I've thought for YEARS especially knowing history. The 80's Prosperity Gospel movement, and it's whole message is destroying too many people's lives.

It's tied to the alt right movement of perverting the messages of justice and mercy of the Bible and other faith traditions.  I've not finished this one yet. I read it when we go to Doctor's appointments.  Doctor appointments have allowed me to READ A LOT!!

Barber's preaching on You Tube with Repairers of the Breach movement, gives ME HOPE. Like none other. I can be so depressed and listen to him speak and feel better. The work I've been involved with for 20 years is because I have this sense of caring, mercy and justice. When I've been screamed at and called everything but something nice for standing up because people are being made to feel as if they have no right to their rights....Creator has got this!  What ever troubles, whatever craziness is going on in this world, there are good people and if it's not about love or forgiveness it's not from God.  If it's pointing out others sins and being self righteous of our own, and being implemented as policy,  it's not right either.

AND LAST.....Several years ago I was contacted through my blog from a company wanting to possibly use some of my grand dads pictures for a project. The West Virginia Coon Hunters. I'd sent the few I had, sent them all the way to California and got them back, and they even scanned them at high resolution for me and sent me a disk, but didn't get to see the project. It was a photo project of country music. Seriously....all the stuff going on in our lives with sickness...I FORGOT about it.

A couple weeks ago I was flipping through Netflix. I don't get to watch it much. Saw this program "Country:Portraits of an American Sound.  Company sounded very familiar. So I watched it. I ended up in tears. For a few brief seconds, the picture of my Grand Daddy Bane, with the West Virginia Coon Hunters, was on a program with photos of Country's TOP performers!!! Photos of everyone who was anyone in Country Music.  He finally friggin MADE IT! I'm still tearing up.  Thanks to the Annenberg Space for Photography Arclight Productions for contacting me and for including them in their documentary!!

So I been a little busy!! Hope all are healthy and blessed. Thanks for reading. HAPPY SPRING!!!