State Of Shame
by Nicole Freire
US Map - West Virginia is on the right.
Driving home from work is my favorite part of the day. No, it's not because the workday is over, although that is nice. When I drive home, I'm guaranteed 15 to 20 minutes of no interruptions, no phone calls, no crazy schedule to keep, it's just me and NPR.
And more often than not, I find listening to the radio relaxing. I like the soothing voice of the good folks over at "All Things Considered". It's where I get my news and a little window out into the world.
I'm about to insult some people right now I think. Actually, I'm about to insult an entire state, specifically, the state of West Virginia. Because West Virginia? You suck. You were pretty embarrassing last week, and I'm still mad at you for it.
Last week, after the primary elections were finishing up, NPR interviewed West Virginia voters as they left the polls. And listening to those voters, hearing what they had to say about who they voted for, and their small-minded, racist, ignorant, and ill-informed reasons for doing what they did ... well, it turned my usual respite in the car into 20 minutes of me screaming at the radio in disbelief. Talking back and yelling, as if the people on the radio could hear me.
Now I know perfectly well that NPR was being selective in what they chose to air, that's called editorial discretion. Just like Ed can exert his editorial discretion over this article.
I realize that living (as KTYD so perfectly puts it) 'on the edge of the continent' is a privileged spot to slam another state from. I have never lived in West Virginia, and cannot summon up any desire to ever visit West Virginia. I don't know if I've ever met a resident of West Virginia.
Wikipedia tells me this about West Virginia:
The state is noted for its great natural beauty, its historically significant logging and coal mining industries, and its labor history. It is also known as a tourist destination for those people interested in outdoor activities such as skiing, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and hunting.
It sounds nice, doesn't it?
One of my problems with West Virginia is a problem that I have with many states, many people, many situations. It is the constant reminder that ugliness exists right along with great beauty. That open and informed minds live with closed and hateful minds. It is a contrast that hurts me and I have no way to easily reconcile this. So far, I'm left with screaming at the radio and insulting entire sections of the union.
And I think (well, I like to think) that this is a problem that many people share. I have people in my own family that make me feel, well, like I feel about West Virginia.
Right now I'm having the same internal debate I do around the holidays. Do I like these people enough to send them a Christmas card? Am I mad at them? Did they do something over the past year to change how I feel about them? Will I only send them a card if they send one to me?
Dear West Virginia,
You seem like a lovely state and Wikipedia has nothing but nice things to say about you. Last week some of your citizens spoke on the radio and sounded, well, they sounded not nice, not lovely, and I'm a little upset with you right now. I'm trying to get past it and come to the realization that a few bad quotes do not a state make. But please forgive me if I seem a bit distant at Thanksgiving. We'll see each other at the New Year's Eve party right? So we'll talk again.
Thanks for being so understanding about this West Virginia, I know it's hard.
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Nicole Freire is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara.