Chris Swindell: Sarcastic apology from retired miner was sad
Throughout life I've learned the hard way that an apology resolves much.
In religions everywhere, we see the teaching that forgiveness is for the dispenser, not the target. This is wisdom rarely practiced. Usually, an apology resides at the end of a journey that finally sees the best in an offending party. "I am sorry" is the greatest phrase I've heard and used. That's why the snarky sarcastic apology from the retiring coal miner published on this page on July 12 was so sad.
It seethed with faux outrage and raged against forces we cannot understand. It finds its mark though. We've all met people who say "Well excuse me for doing the right thing." The trouble with the apology is that no one asked for it. It is the policy of victimhood. Sickeningly, the comments section was laden with praise for the plain-speaking alleged truth teller. But, is it the truth?
One comment seemed to embody the narcissism of the writer's mindset. It alluded to a place, Obama's America, where people just don't want to work. I wonder though. Many who think this way feel the American way of life is under siege. They correctly perceive a decline in their majority status and supremacy and lash out. They foam with their Bibles about how angry God is with ... pick a target -- gays, illegal immigrants, poor people (who are all obviously lazy and make bad choices), people in the social safety net, people without health insurance. And Target No. 1 is the Obama White House.
This ginned-up war on coal may be more insidious than even its adherents know, in that it successfully distracts whole portions of the populace from the real issues that face our country, none of which either party is comfortable addressing. The writer's retirement apology suggests that a different America is at work -- more avoiding work I think is the point -- in a way that is more straw man than reality. How incredibly naive.
If there is a decline in work ethic, we are responsible for both its presence and its correction. How does blaming some nebulous other even come close to a solution? As the son of a coal miner and a supporter of the now demonized UMWA, I weep for the coalfields. But, it's unfortunate when a retiree wants to blame some guy in Washington for problems centuries in the making.
I get it. Complexities are digestible when oversimplified. The Boogeyman is the EPA. Or Obama. Or tree huggers. Or. See? Scaring people keeps them from considering.
I live in the shadow of John Amos. I am comfortable in ways I cannot list because of that coal miner's hard work. I am grateful to him and the others who do not write and who remain unsung. But, our energy mix may need to adjust. At least our footing should adjust. Carefully. The past is safe but the future beckons, sometimes more insistently than is comfortable. And it is not snarky victims who meet that challenge. It is survivors. Chin up.
The God I serve says loving my fellow man is my Prime Directive. And loving people means lovingly speaking the truth. Coal is not dead. It is not dying. The industry is changing, ruthlessly, with profit as the only god and chaos its only outcome. Business titans will survive. But, with heads in the sand and victims for spokespeople, I wonder if my brethren in the coalfields will. God bless my coal miners.
Chris Swindell is a professor of journalism at Marshall University.
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