It has always been easier to write superficial stories than to produce a well researched piece. It is easier for a reporter from the city to flit through a rural community, talk to half a dozen people and file a story in which these six people are shown as representative of that community. That is why it does not surprise that the media has yet to adjust the image of West Virginians from the barefoot, incestuous, toothless, pre-verbal racist to the far more realistic portrait of educated, progressive, forward and outward looking Mountaineer.
Having chosen to settle in West Virginia some thirty five years ago, I feel that I am in a better position to discuss West Virginians than someone who spent only a few hours asking local people old tired questions about race and the economy. As a Brazilian Jew who speaks English with a Portuguese accent, I can attest to the inclusive spirit of my West Virginian neighbors with a certain degree of authority. As someone who has been volunteering at the Democratic Headquarters of a small town in West Virginia, I think I am justified in thinking those who claim that it is the failing economy that motivates West Virginians to support of Senator Barack Obama, are helping to perpetuate an ugly stereotype. Certainly the failing economy is a factor in this election. Certainly as residents of a state that the current federal government has relegated to the status of a hostile Third World nation, West Virginians must look for someone who better understands their ability to contribute to the intellectual and material wealth of the United States. But to imply that West Virginians are incapable of caring for more than their pocketbooks is fallacious and demeaning.
At the Democratic Headquarters I have helped register WASPS, Hispanics and African Americans. I have made a point of talking to the young executives–yes, we do have those in West Virginia and they do wear shoes–farmers, waitresses, former Marines, soldiers, Nationals Guard veterans, restaurant owners, retirees and shop clerks. I have talked with Jews, Catholics, Protestants and agnostics. If these voters have one reason in common to vote for Senator Obama is his honesty. They have done their homework and they have concluded that he is the best choice to unite the country, to inspire Americans to do their best–and this is a biggie, his ability to bring out what is best in most people–to fight corruption, to improve our educational system, to care for the environment–we do love our mountains and we are tired of seeing them vanish in the dreaded mountain topping some coal companies advocate.
Is race a factor in this election? Surely there are many places in the United States where the sad legacy of slavery has endured. However, in the West Virginia I know and love, racism is fading faster than our image as moonshine guzzling, gun and Bible inbreds has faded from national media.
Do us favor, Huffpo, Politico, NYT, Washpo, talk to those who know West Virginia before you write you stories. True, some of us speak English with a Brazilian Portuguese accent, but we can tell you the facts nevertheless.