Like most citizens, I’ve suffered through the endless political attack ads assaulting the airwaves and my senses. The money spent on those ads has done nothing to sway my opinion on a single race or a single issue but then, those ads aren’t for me. Those ads are for the low information voters out there and sadly, we have far too many of those. I’m not a low information voter. In 35 years I’ve never missed a chance to vote in an election, be it a municipal, state or national election – because I was raised to believe it was my obligation to vote and it’s something I still believe. My vote is always based on the facts surrounding the issues and the character of the individual I feel is best suited to represent my interests and those of my neighbors. I’m a person who wants public policy to benefit the greatest number of citizens. Not billionaires. Not Big Business. Not lobbyists. The people.
There’s a BBC produced mini-series from the early 90’s called
“House of Cards”. Netflix updated the series and produced a US version. It was only after the Kevin Spacey version aired that I’d even realized the Brits created the idea. I was told after you’d seen the American version, you shouldn’t bother with the original, but on that, I disagree. I binge-watched the original series on Friday and Saturday and realized that in 25 years, the more things change, the more they stay the same and the story translates well to today’s American politics. The power-obsessed main character in the BBC version is Francis Urquhart and those closest to him refer to him as “F.U.”, a small detail not lost on me. Greed is good. F.U. Poor people are evil and must be blamed for the current state of affairs. F.U. Ignore the fact that the good jobs they once held have been sent overseas. F.U. Ignore the fact that the robber barons have plundered the personal wealth of the working class and that wealth has been neatly transferred to their personal accounts. F.U. Ignore the slashing of funds for schools and public services and the social safety net. F.U. You’re forced to pay attention to the well-funded narrative that the plundered wouldn’t be in this situation if only they’d made better choices in life. F.U. And hey, if moneyed interests can rape all the natural resources of this country and kill the poor people sooner, it’s less of a drain on those resources that can be converted to hard cash. F.U.
There’s only one thing getting in the way of the very wealthy completing their divide and conquer strategy and that one thing is the franchise. One vote.
Everyone wants something. The poor want jobs and fair shake. Parents want to educate their kids. Women want equal pay and autonomy over their bodies. The LGBTQ community wants civil rights. Latinos want to stop being labeled as illegals. Health care workers coming home from West Africa want to stop being demonized for helping to stop a localized epidemic that could easily turn into a world-wide pandemic. We all want clean water and clean air.
Case in point: Let’s take a look at coal. The coal companies have convinced this country that the President of the United States has declared a ‘War on Coal’. They extol the virtues of non-existent ‘clean coal’ and blame the current Administration’s emissions rules on the President. What they don’t tell you is that most major Clean Air Act rules began under the Bush Administration and were conveniently delayed for years. Moreover, according to the National Journal, the coal industry has privately acknowledged that not only did the President ‘inherit a stack of obligations’, but that Bush’s EPA Chief handed ‘regulatory grenades’ to the current Administration. In essence, the regulations were legally mandated and long overdue. The coal industry would have the country believe this administration has launched an all-out war on the cheapest and most readily available endless energy source America has to offer and those policies are costing the coal industry thousands and thousands of jobs. None of that is true but of course, that would require only the most rudimentary research. The coal industry won’t tell you it’s always been a boom or bust business. The coal industry won’t tell you the number of workers who have died from conditions in the mines. The coal industry won’t tell you that they’re running out of coal in Appalachia and have resorted to blasting the tops off the mountains to access the remaining slivers of coal. The coal industry won’t tell you how many thousands of pounds of explosives they use daily to blast the tops off of those mountains and how what once took a thousand men to mine takes a dozen men. The coal companies have spent a larder of money to hide the fact that people in Appalachia who have lived and died to make them rich are dying as Big Coal rapes the land, destroys the water table and poisons the air of the people who live there to squeeze the last drop of worth out of that land – completely without regard to the human beings who are too poor to leave. What began as a financial venture has morphed into mass violations of basic human rights but you’re supposed to care about cheap energy and not the people who must live there.
There is a bill in Congress called the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act, or the A.C.H.E. Act, and this is the full text:
Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act or ACHE Act – Requires the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to conduct or support comprehensive studies on the health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining on individuals in the surrounding communities. Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), upon receipt of a report on study results, to publish a determination of whether such mining presents any health risks to individuals in those communities. Defines “mountaintop removal coal mining” as surface coal mining that uses blasting with explosives in the steep slope regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Virginia.
Prohibits issuance of an authorization for any mountaintop removal coal mining project (or expansion), under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act) or the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, until and unless the Secretary publishes a determination that such mining does not present any health risk to individuals in the surrounding communities. Imposes requirements for continuous monitoring of air, noise, and water pollution and frequent monitoring of soil until a determination by the Secretary is made.
Directs the President, acting through the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement of the Department of the Interior, to assess a one-time fee upon persons that conduct such mining projects, sufficient to cover the federal cost of the health studies and pollution monitoring required by this Act.
Simple really. It essentially says that instead of spending a boatload of public money on burying these people, we should spend a tiny amount to prove once and for all whether or not Big Coal is raping the land and killing the people – something the residents already know to be true. It also says that if they’re breaking the law, violating clean air and water standards and killing people, they need to pay for it and, you know, knock it off. The studies are already out there but special interests have done everything in their power to make sure the world never knows that. And why? There’s little interest in keeping poor people from dying unless you’re one of the poor people dying. There’s no interest in saving the beauty of Appalachia because most Americans can’t find it on a map. Never mind that wind and solar are environmentally friendly and renewable and the more they are adopted, the cheaper they become. Coal companies who have bought members of Congress can’t get rich off of renewable energy sources, though that’s something from which every American can benefit regardless of geography. As my friend Carl says, “Solution avoidance is Big Business”.
So, as the polls and the pundits are howling that it’s going to be a massive GOP sweep come Tuesday, I’ve been advised to save my gas money and stay home. I’m lucky enough to be white and the holder of a State issued driver’s license and a State Department issued passport, so they can’t keep me from voting – as they have so many veterans and the elderly and students and people of color. They’ve gerrymandered the districts and lied and cheated and stolen and bought up a ton of airtime to convince me I’m wrong about everything. I’ll take my chances.
Unlike years past, it’s not a guarantee that the President’s party is going to be swept away in these midterms. There are too many close races with too many issues on the line for you to stay home on Tuesday. Oh, I’ve been assured that the Democrats have an enthusiasm problem when it comes to voting, so there’s no need to bother. Do I sound apathetic? Do I sound unenthusiastic?
I get one chance and one vote. You get one chance and one vote. These races are close. It may come down to one vote and there’s no way they’re walking away with this election because I was told not to care and my vote won’t matter. It matters to me, you sonsabitches.