On May 8, a public forum was held for candidates running for County Judge Executive. The majority of the questions asked of the candidates related to jobs in Breathitt County. How do we bring jobs in? How do we stop the community from hemorrhaging employable young people? What about drugs? As I watched the Advocate’s livestream of the event on Facebook, I noticed no one seemed to be able to offer a real solution to these problems. I don’t blame the candidates, it’s a hard question that makes a politician’s job very difficult, because it demands the community look in on itself and apply some self-criticism. The policies we’ve pursued in this county which have contributed to our joblessness are not unique to us, though. They’re in effect all around Kentucky and wider Appalachia.
Last night on television I saw America once again dropping bombs in the
middle east. Fourteen years ago I sat in the living room with my family
to hear George W. Bush announce the start of the Iraq War. Thousands of
lives were lost and trillions of dollars were spent trying to build a
country for a people who identified more with their tribe and religious
sect than the idea of a nation-state at all. Syria isn’t Iraq, but it
faces many of the same problems. The people on the ground who are
supposed to be “freedom fighting rebels” usually harbor some jihadi
ideas that don’t sound very much like John Locke or Thomas Jefferson.
In the aftermath of the school shooting down in Florida, the Pike County School Board has decided to let its teachers start carrying guns. School employees will be able to volunteer as “guards”, subject to drug testing, mental health evaluations, and training by the Sheriff’s Office. The state legislature is probably going to pass some type of law that will formalize the process and encourage county school systems to adopt a similar program.
Another lesson learned in life: even the happiest memories can be
tainted and ruined if you let them be. John Lee Hooker wrote in an old
blues song I first heard a few years ago: “It serves you right to suffer
/ Serves you right to be alone / Because you’re still livin’ / In a day
done past and gone”. And because I let people from the past back into my
life, even for a moment, it destroyed all the happy memories I had with
them. I assumed they hadn’t changed; they have.
Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time in downtown Lexington, running
around the city with some friends at UK. Being there is a trip for me, a
country boy or mountain man if there could ever be one, though I never
thought of myself that way when I was younger. I had always yearned to
leave the hills and find some true version of myself in the city. But
the more time I spend home the more I admire it.
President Trump won a resounding victory in the Commonwealth: he won every county in the state except for two. Our fellow highlanders in West Virginia gave him every single county in their state, and thus far the President has made good on many of his promises: he’s beginning construction on the border wall, he’s ending sanctuary cities, he’s ending federal overreach into local schools, and he’s ending disastrous trade deals that have devastated blue collar communities across the country. But in his new proposed budget for 2017, the Administration has completely eliminated funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an organization that has made lives here much easier since it was formed in the mid 1960s.