In May of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson gave the commencement address at the University of Michigan and first laid out the framework of what would become his vision for America’s “Great Society.” In the speech, LBJ reflected on the progress of our grand American experiment and our vision for the years to come, saying that:
“For a century we labored to settle and to subdue a continent. For half a century we called upon unbounded invention and untiring industry to create an order of plenty for all of our people.
The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization.”
That half century has now passed and much of the nation has failed to meet the challenge of the Great Society and some places, like the bulk of West Virginia, has regressed. As I shared in by latest article, The Family Afterward: West Virginia Four Months After The Freedom Industries Chemical Spill, even something as basic as clean water is no longer guarantee, as the hundreds of thousands of West Virginians who have been running tainted water through their taps for the past 4 months can attest. And yet, there has been an almost complete absence of media coverage over this ongoing violation of our basic freedoms since the spill first happened. It has been up to us, the citizen journalists, the muckrakers, the advocates the passionate bloggers, to keep this story alive–to remind the rest of the country that “3rd world” problems are running rampant in parts of our “1st world” nation.
This story will not die. This story cannot die. Read it. Share it. Keep it alive. Scroll below the fold to find out more on how you can bring this travesty the attention it deserves.
For those who have not read it, the article was essentially a portrait of one West Virginia family who had been greatly effected by the massive coal cleaning chemical spill and who was kind enough to let me into their lives. Hardest hit by the spill was Kami, whose youth and vitality was snatched from her via a series of severe health complications that both the family and myself are 99.9% sure were in some way triggered or exacerbated by the high concentration of pollutants in the area’s water supply and overall environment (for their part, the fine folks over at The Cleveland Clinic are pretty well stumped).
What I am asking of you is a small portion of your time: 5 to 10 minutes to read the article (if you haven’t already); 5 minutes to share it to your friends, family and followers. Share The Family Afterward on Facebook and on Twitter; share it through e-mail and LinkedIn and on Daily Kos. Let King Coal and all of the bought, sold and spoken for politicians in Charleston and in Washington know that we will not tolerate a country where citizens are denied access to a right as basic to life as clean water.
If this story can’t gain traction and America can’t get up and get mobilized over this blatant disregard for the lives of her citizens, then the only other practical step I can think of is to build a sign. That’s right, if America can’t be bothered to care about this, I’d ask that at the very least they build West Virginia a sign. Build it 200 feet long and 100 feet high and bolt it to the squint eyed through truss of the Chuck Yeager Bridge in Charleston, West Virginia. Bolt it to the side of the bridge that faces away from the city and towards the Ohio so it can greet eastward travelers with words of warning; words that gleam under the light of the Appalachian sun with a navy blue and gold granitine sparkle that obscures the moribund reality of what lies behind it. And let those words read:
“Through me is the way to the doleful country.
Abandon All Hope, Y’all Who Enter Here.”