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The Mountains of West Virginia and the Children Afghanistan
by vincent / blast furnace radio Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009 at 7:05 PM 412-231-2766

The Mountains of West Virginia and the Children Afghanistan

The Mountains of Wes...
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The Mountains of West Virginia and the Children Afghanistan

"It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work, And that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings."
-- Wendell Berry

We who dare call ourselves people of peace have reached an impasse. Folks who voted for Obama are sitting back and waiting for him to stop the wars. The passivity continues, even as the wars continue to eat our young and finite resources.

It will take two years to shake off the electoral slumber and face the wars being fought. The Iraq war is "over" while an occupation of over 100,000 "military advisors" continues. Another war ramps up in Afghanistan (38,000 troops, today it was announced that over 30,000 more would be sent). The Afghani people, who have never been conquered, have a decentralized power structure developed prior to modernization and are armed with weapons provided by the US to kill their former Russian occupiers. Finally, we witness drones that bomb Pakistani terrorist training camps, US prisoners of war being held indefinitely near the Pakistani airport We find ourselves bogged down with the quagmire of Gitmo prisoners. With all of this war, the spirits of people involved in anti-war activity have been worn down. You can only look into the sun so long, then you must turn away.

It was in this context that I was surprised to receive a phone call from eco-activists five hours south of Pittsburgh, near Beckley, West Virginia. I learned that they were fighting a relatively new way of coal mining, although it is not a very modern one: "mountain-top removal". Mostly associated with the Appalachians in the Eastern United States, tops of mountains are literally being hauled away to get at the seam that lies underneath. The overburden is then moved into neighboring valleys. One looks at these bald mountains in disbelief. The air is polluted from explosions, streams buried, tap water turned sulfur brown, and huge coal sludge ponds are created -- a hazardous bi-product of a process that brings electricity to our homes, so our paddle fans may turn 'round and 'round.

The phone call I received was from someone who thought I could help organize the region. He had heard of our "Prayer Pilgrimage to Pantex" in Amarillo, Texas and our subsequent imprisionment. In the eighties, near the end of the Cold War, Pantex was producing 5 nuclear weapons a day. I had to laugh -— that was 28 years ago! When I asked him if it would not be more advantageous to find someone who had resisted the Spanish-American war, the person at the other end actually laughed -- a good sign in the midst of the self-serious activist community. I promised I would swing by as soon as time permitted.

Several days later I received a phone call from an aggressive man who asked, “where are you?”

I said, “Sorry, who is this?”

“You said you were coming down to visit our Base Camp in West Virginia!”

“OK, OK, let me see how I can travel down there.” I asked for some basic directions and he said “Here, ask Mike.” After talking for a few minutes I realized Mike was Mike Roselle, one of the founders of Earth First! I had not seen Mike since 1994, when we fought the "Cove Mallard Timber Sales" (clear cutting in Dixie, Idaho). The logging industry and their supporters in the local population were so galvanized against our presence that we had to travel forty miles out of our way for gasoline and sixty miles for supplies. After three summers of clandestine direct action against the clear cutting it was decided to hold an open air march snaking through the wilderness of Idaho. Employing this brilliant, simple, non-violent method caused court entanglements and the investors went on to less entangled and less controversial timber sales. Simply put, we won!

Frank Smith, Ben Hickling and I headed to Base Camp to meet these environmental resisters. With the aid of Google maps, a borrowed GPS and an old school map we proceeded to get lost for 10 hours. We stopped at the mother of all 7/11's to ask for directions, and as we opened the front door all eyes were on us. The place was filled with people going to work —- the work of logging and coal mining. All were dressed in military fatigues, and the room turned very quiet. In all of the civil rights and anti-war protests I have been in since 1968 I have never felt such unbridled hate. The room remained dangerously still until the young register girl gave a little impish smile, drew a long breath and said in a thick southern accent, "now you’re the one who talks funny!" White-hot hate turned to side-splitting laughter, as the miners and loggers made their way to their trucks and to a dying industry. They knew intuitively those activists from "the city," who were not to blame for their pending unemployment.

After thirty-seven phone calls to Base Camp (and a very patient Mike Roselle), we arrived. It was not the end of the rainbow -- the scene looked more like Che's final days attempting to stimulate a revolution in Bolivia. The climate activists were given three ruined cottages by the locals, structures that were not worth the effort even to tear down. But looks were deceiving...we were standing on the shoulders of almost a decade of resistance to mountain top removal. It was the local retired and unemployed coal miners who invited Mike and other lowbaggers to come, not just to organize protests but to move in and see the struggle through.

Perhaps by being eyewitnesses to the destruction of the mountains of West Virginia in order to meet our energy needs, we will be able to find the courage to stop the anonymous murder of the children of Afghanistan.

(Since the above essay was written in July, 2009, over a hundred people have been arrested for various creative acts of civil disobedience -- people who have stood up to the violence that protects this injustice and they have not returned even a harsh word.)

Call or Email the base camp in Coal River, West Virginia and ask how you can help!

(304) 854-7372

Thanksgiving eve,

Vincent Scotti Eirene'

by vincent / blast furnace radio Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009 at 7:05 PM 412-231-2766

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