Three things occurred last week that raised my frustration level to a high point when it comes to Appalachia, politics, and our future in Southwest Virginia.
The first thing that frustrated me this week:
- The Commonwealth of Virginia’s big announcement that Facebook had decided to place a data center in Henrico County, VA, but it appeared that once again, Southwest Virginia had been all but ignored for consideration.
I thought Southwest Virginia was being touted as the new “Silicon Holler” or technology region of the Commonwealth. Apparently, not anymore by the Commonwealth, which leads me to my second frustration of the week:
- The Commonwealth of Virginia’s announcement that at least 10 sites were being pitched to Amazon as potential sites for their new headquarters on the East Coast. One problem; none of the sites are in Southwest Virginia.
This announcement drove home even deeper inconvenient truths about Southwest Virginia with the lack thereof of modern roads, infrastructure, and properly trained workforce.
The third and final thing that frustrated me this week:
- While happy that Southwest Virginia hosted a Virginia Gubernatorial Debate for the first time, people in Southwest Virginia didn’t get the opportunity they deserved to be heard.
There was no opportunity for the people from Southwest Virginia to speak and ask questions, relate issues and demand that the candidates, Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie do something when elected. Instead, we got more of the old “smoke and mirrors” magic act we’ve been subjected to, for far too long.
As in all three examples listed, the people, the region and our plight has been reduced to an afterthought for politicians and also for the media alike. It’s like the politicians taking a bath, getting out of the tub and forgetting to wash all of the dirt from them. Their response is pretty typical; we can cover it up, no one has to know. The real problem though is that there is not enough perfume or deodorant to cover the stench of their political actions or bias toward this region and its people.
The politicians aren’t completely at fault as over time, we have done this to ourselves. We have been the instrument of our own undoing. As Pavlov did with his dogs through conditioning and programming, so have the politicians with our lives and future and we have allowed them to do it.
Its not one party or the other, but both political parties, in bed with one another and neither willing to admit their actions or their infidelity to the people they represent. In the end, they clean up, pull out a cigarette, light it up and say, “Was it good for you?”
Based upon our response, the politicians hold our feet to the fire. Democrats hold the issue of coal and the recent conservative, rebellious voting record of the Ninth District in Virginia over our heads like Lex Luthor holding Kryptonite over the body of Superman while watching him die, while Republicans preach that coal still has a place in the future of Southwest Virginia’s economy despite the economic writing on the wall.
Both parties desperately want our vote with one so proud that it refuses to bend to the winds of change while the other thinks that it has our vote “in their back pocket”.
It leaves many of us in Southwest Virginia asking questions as to why we have settled for this as “the best” it’s going to get. The reason is simple; this constant political conditioning by both parties has left us complacent and satisfied with our situation.
Instead, we’re left begging, just like the little boy in the musical “Oliver”, begging for just a little more. Everything now is too little, too late.
These three events put more questions out on the table for me, my wife and family. Questions of , do I stay in Southwest Virginia and Appalachia, buoyed by hope from politicians who say they want to make Southwest Virginia the centerpiece of their economic development and reform or continue looking for an escape route out of here while there is still time?
Combined with other factors in my life right now, I am once again struggling to break chains that hold me down in Appalachia.
And the frustration builds.