Oh West Virginia, how I love thee, let me count the ways. Every year around the end of September I look forward to taking a drive through the rolling hills to fawn over the crisp rainbow of turning leaves finger painted along my peripheral. Each winter I adore the snow caps that sit perched on top of the mountains. Few things are as beautiful as when the water reflects off the still waters during a sunset over one of your shimmering, sprawling lakes.
Oh West Virginia, how thee makes me sad, let me count the ways. Your mountain top removal methods have decimating some of the breathtaking beauty. Your opioid crisis has ravaged the health of your citizens. Your reliance on energy industry that slowly kill your bodies have left you unemployed, unhealthy, and in poverty. Your continuous drop in public school funding lowers the likelihood of your young people receiving the combination of free and quality education that every child deserves.
Stunning, heartbreaking West Virginia is like that sweet uncle who gives you the best candy at every holiday but also steals money from your favorite Aunt Sally. You have a soft spot for it even though you know it needs some tough love. Self sabotage is the name of the game these days in the mountain state. Let’s take a look at recent events.
Shelley Moore Capito has made national (actually even international) news this year for her back and forth on Trump’s proposed healthcare plans. Capito ultimately cast a vote to repeal Obamacare even though the proposed replacement failed to cement access to affordable healthcare, care for rural health care providers to ensure affordable premiums, adequately battle the opioid epidemic, or protect Medicaid.
What the bill did propose to do?: Create more tax breaks for the wealthy, even though West Virginia consistently comes in at the bottom ten of percentage of millionaires per capita, hovering around 4%. The percentage of West Virginians on Medicaid? 30%. Yes, you read that number correctly.
Now Ms. Capito, I understand your need to maintain the support of your constituents in the beautiful state of West Virginia, and I also can’t imagine how difficult it must be to stand up against the pressure of a fascist President who offers empty promises and delivers shallow threats simultaneously. I get it, but you were elected to put the citizens of the state you represent first, and can you honestly say that repealing the Affordable Care Act in order to replace with any of the bills that have been proposed will benefit and of the hopeful people who elected you?
Sure, for seven years Republicans have been screaming for Obamacare’s demise, demanding Obamas head on a stick, but what do they say when you ask them for their idea of a better healthcare plan? Surely it’s not one with a $13,000 deductible that’s likely half of their yearly salary.
I know your single vote wasn’t the “deciding” one for the country, there were 50 of those, but your vote is the only one that matters to your beloved state.
On to a more recent event. Earlier this month, Democratic Governor Jim Justice announced that he would be switching political parties from Democrat to Republican in order to better serve the people of West Virginia. This man, who was elected based on Democratic principles and platforms, deceiving his voter base by switching just eight months into his term. While he was running, Republicans criticized Justice for owing millions of dollars in unpaid taxes as a result of a deal with a Russian, yep Russian, coal company. Who do you think will end up paying those dollars?
As a former coal man, Justice is leading the charge to revitalize the dead industry instead of focusing on education and vocational training for laid off mining workers in order to help them find jobs in cleaner, renewable energy markets. How can you build a successful future if you insist on living in the past?
So if you’re a resident of this lush, albeit confused state, what can do you? I have some humble advice:
- Visit some diverse cities. The ‘coastal elite’ isn’t out to get you, they just don’t exactly feel comfortable spending time in a place where they don’t see themselves. Spend some time in an urban place so that it feels normal to see someone wearing a hijab, two men holding hands, and people of color walking together on the same street. Make an effort to feel comfortable around diversity, because that’s your job, not anyone else’s.
- Study our existing healthcare as well as every plan that’s proposed. Don’t rely on the media to give you the facts, because they’re being delivered by human beings and we’re all flawed. Learn it yourself to discover what hurts and benefits your health.
- Find out where your representatives actually stand on each issue. Call them when you have something to say.
- Read. Read. Read. Read. Read about the issues. Read about the history of West Virginia. Read about the history of the Unites States, the continent, the world. Understand what is and has happened outside of your bubble.
“The best advice I ever got was that knowledge is power and to keep reading.” – David Bailey
I love you West Virginia, but please return the favor by also loving yourself.