Almost Heaven: Trump Digs Coal
When people learn I am from West Virginia, nine times out of ten I am mockingly asked the following questions:
1.) Is your mom also your sister?
2.) Was your dad a coal miner?
My answer to the first question is usually, “Wow. You're so clever. I've never heard an incest joke about West Virginia before. I can see why you're in middle management. That's the kind of wit that can only be developed by laughing at the lame jokes of your immediate superiors in a desperate and feeble attempt to climb the corporate ladder.”
My answer to the second question is, “Yes.” This causes the nitwit who asked the question to be all dumbfounded and start stammering. I get a smug satisfaction from this awkwardness.
The one time out of ten I'm not mockingly asked the questions above, I'm told the following: “You're from West Virginia? I drove through there once on my way to somewhere else.” Please stop saying this to me. I don't care and I literally have no response to that. So you hit the West Virginia Turnpike en route to your vacation destination. I don't know what you expect me to do with this information.
Throughout this rant, I will most likely make fun of West Virginia. I'm allowed to do so as I am from there. You are not allowed to do so because you will come across as an obnoxious and stuck up. You're not better than me just because your home town has a hospital and level sidewalks.
If you happen to be one of the many people who doesn't understand Virginia and West Virginia are two separate states, where do you get the nerve to laugh at me when I correct you? You're the one who can't name all fifty states, a skill you should have mastered by the third grade. You understand there is a North and South Dakota. You understand there is a North and South Carolina. Why must you insist there is no West Virginia? You know what? Screw it. From now on, I'm referring to Virginia as East Virginia.
West Virginia already had a lot working against it before Donald Trump came along. I now find myself longing for the days when I only had to put up with incest jokes. I'm constantly assuring friends I didn't vote for Trump. My parents didn't vote for Trump. My sister didn't vote for Trump. My Uncle Harley lives in Kentucky. I'm not responsible for what happens in Kentucky.
Trump was in West Virginia last week amid the ever increasing scandals of EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt. He used coal country as his scapegoat for wrecking the environment as he is wont to do. “I just left coal and energy country. They love Scott Pruitt. They feel very strongly about Scott Pruitt, and they love Scott Pruitt.” You know what else they love in coal country? Opioids. I am convinced the epidemic of stupidity currently overwhelming West Virginia is directly linked to the opioid epidemic.
You may be wondering how I came to be a liberal when I'm from a red state. That's because it wasn't always a red state. From 1976 to 1996 West Virginia only went red once and that was in Reagan's second term. (I've always believed Reagan's huge electoral win in 1984 was due to the assassination attempt in his first term. I have no facts to support this. I just think it must be really hard not to vote for the guy who got shot.) In fact, West Virginia was one of only six states that went to Jimmy Carter in 1980. (Now that I think about it, winning 44 states in 1980 was also a huge electoral victory. I may have to reassess my assassination theory.)
From an early age I knew two things, I leaned democrat and I wanted to get the hell out of West Virginia. In 1998 I got the hell out of West Virginia. This brings us to the 2000 election of Gore v. Bush. Though I had been gone for two years, I fully expected my home state to go for Gore. I clearly remember watching the election night coverage. They played a clip of Al Gore saying something intelligent. What Joe Scarborough said after that is seared in my memory forever: “That don't play in West Virginia.” This was the moment my ongoing feud with Joe Scarborough began. A feud he knows nothing about because he has no idea I exist.
Joe decided we were a bunch of idiot hicks who would obviously choose the buffoonery of George W. Bush over the brains of Al Gore. He was pompous and arrogant and I was certain I knew the people of my home state better than some cable news anchor/wannabe rock star. And later that evening when West Virginia was called for George Bush, I shouted to the TV, “What the hell, West Virginia? I spent all night defending you to Joe Scarborough and you go and screw me over like this.”
Looking back, I now realize this is when the whole liberal elite banality started. George Bush campaigned saying things like, "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." Republicans had to find a way to make this appealing to voters. In true evil genius fashion they devised a plan to make voters believe Al Gore was condescending to them. They said things like, “You notice how Al Gore calls a creek a creek instead of a crick? He's talking down to you. George Bush wants to have a beer with you.” And people were all like “Yeah, I'd rather have a beer with George Bush than pronounce words properly with Al Gore.”
For the record, I don't think anyone would enjoy having a beer with George Bush. He strikes me as the kind of guy who gets way too drunk, way too fast. Then you have to call his wife to pick him up. A half hour goes by and the waiter comes over and asks you if the drunk guy left. You say yeah and the waiter tells you he didn't pay his tab. So, you're like, whatever, I'll pay it. You get the bill and it's three hundred dollars when he was literally only there for an hour and a half. Because he was drinking some fancy imported beer like it was water. Apparently, he's too good for Pabst Blue Ribbon, which still exists and is only seventy-five cents a bottle. And you know this because you're from West Virginia and you know a lot of broke alcoholics. And now you have to put George Bush's expensive beer on a credit card you just paid off.
To this very day, the people who didn't fall for the George W. Bush Beer Initiative are called the liberal elite. This is why I consider myself a part of the liberal elite. Not because I'm elite, but because I'm not insecure. This is really a self-esteem issue. If you threw yourself into the basket with the other deplorables, you're either a Klan member or you suffer from low self-esteem.
When it comes to the self-esteem of West Virginia, you people who only recognize East Virginia aren't helping. Our current state motto is, “West Virginia – Slightly Better Than Kentucky.”
Low self-esteem causes people to see enemies who don't exist. I went home for a visit in 2012 and saw signs about “Obama's War on Coal” everywhere. I had no idea such a war had been waged. Because it had not. Obama had this crazy idea about saving the planet and reducing carbon emissions. It's wasn't a war. He simply didn't want the entire human race to die.
As for the coal miners/Trump supporters/opioid addicts I've seen on TV who claim to love mining - I know they don't. They love not being poor. There's nothing wrong with that. If there was a better job with the same pay, they'd be out of the mine as fast they can wash down a Vicodin with a Pabst Blue Ribbon.
This is what I know about coal mining and why I know they're lying:
1.) Coal mining makes one extremely irritable and completely oblivious to the discomfort of those around him. For instance, the miner may think it's perfectly acceptable to tell a disgusting story at the dinner table about having a bowel movement in a coal mine. And if anyone says they don't want to hear this story while they're eating, he'll get all crabby and say he's paying for this food and he'll talk about whatever he wants.
2.) Having a bowel movement in a coal mine is an unpleasant misadventure.
3.) It causes all kinds of health problems. Aside from the obvious black lung, it causes back problems. This is very inconvenient when your daughter needs you to move furniture. It also causes hearing loss and you will probably refuse to get hearing aids. And you keeping turning up the volume on the TV and no one ever needs to hear Andy Griffith that loud. It's creepy.
4.) Coal dust can sometimes make it look as if a grown man is wearing eye liner.
5.) The danger. It's on the list of the 20 Deadliest Jobs in America. It ranks higher on the list than police or firefighters. It's literally safer to run into a burning building than to go down into a coal mine.
Reporters, please stop referring to coal mining as the only high paying jobs available for non-college educated people in West Virginia. Because you know what high paying jobs are available for college educated people in West Virginia? I don't either. I already told you my hometown doesn't even have a hospital. The town next to us does, but if you go there for anything more serious than a broken arm, they're going to give you a Vicodin and throw you on a helicopter to Pittsburgh.
This is why West Virginia is desperately clinging to coal mining, even though it's been on the decline for forty years due to technology and mountaintop excavation. And people make bad decisions when they're desperate. Decisions like voting for Donald Trump, a man who calls himself “the blue collar billionaire.” Coal miners should be giving him hell for that, not proclaiming him their savior.
In 1990, Donald Trump gave an interview to Playboy where he told a fascinating story about coal miners:
What satisfaction, exactly, do you get out of doing a deal?
I like the challenge and tell the story of the coal miner’s son. The coal miner gets black-lung disease, his son gets it, then his son. If I had been the son of a coal miner, I would have left the damn mines. But most people don’t have the imagination — or whatever — to leave their mine. They don’t have “it.”
I'll spare you the details, but I happen to know taking a dump in a coal mine requires a lot of imagination.
My Fellow Mountaineers, please sober up and realize Donald Trump doesn't care about you. He has done nothing for you, nor will he ever do anything for you. We will never be the richest state, the most progressive state or even a state other Americans recognize is a state. It doesn't matter. All we ever need to be is slightly better than Kentucky.