Who's the oppressor now in Harlan County?

The First Lady's healthy food initiative recently ran into some blunt critics.  

Students in a rural Kentucky county - and their parents - are the latest to join a growing national chorus of scorn for the healthy school lunches touted by first lady Michelle Obama.

"They say it tastes like vomit," said Harlan County Public School board member Myra Mosley at a contentious board meeting last week, reports The Harlan Daily Enterprise.

The comment thread for this story contains much liberal snark about the obese, ignorant and indifferent hicks of Harlan County and how they should be grateful for being taught a better way to eat.  I suspect few making suchcomments have ever been near this staunchly Democratic coal mining community in southeastern Kentucky with its three to one ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans.  Nor do they seem aware of the county's storied past.  Perhaps a resident needs to ask the snarky ones Which Side Are You On?,for these are the same Harlan County residents progressives once lionized. 

During the Harlan County War of the 1930s an unknown number of people were killed in a series of clashes between labor union organizers and mine owners before the unions won. The Almanac Singers and Pete Seeger celebrated Harlan County in song.

Don't scab for the bosses,
Don't listen to their lies.
Us poor folks haven't got a chance
Unless we organize.

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

The comments are another example of how the progressive intelligentsia loves the idea of being in solidarity with the working class, even as they don't much care for actual members of the working class as people.  At least not unless the proletariat shut up and do as told. One of Seeger's successor in the folk singer tradition had some advice for those in charge who feel smug and superior about themselves.  

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone...
For the times they are a-changin'

Times certainly have changed.  The sons of coal miners Seeger once sang about have come to recognize the increasing domination of the Democratic Party by the urban intelligentsia is not in their interests.  In 2000, Al Gore, no friend to coal miners, won Harlan County by 385 votes.  In Novermber, 2012 the overwhelmingly Democrat voters of Harlan County cast almost five times as many votes for Mitt Romney as they cast for Barack Obama.

I often wonder what songwriter Florence Reece and her coal miner husband, Sam, might think about these developments.  Much of bitterness in the union battles in eastern Kentucky and in West Virginia stemmed from how the mines were often owned by absentee interests, interests that might also own the towns themselves plus the crucial general store that sold the necessities of everyday life. The anger turned to rage when the miners learned corrupt local law enforcement had taken sides rather than impartially enforcing the law.  I suspect the political radicals drawn to the area to help unionize the miners misunderstood the anger they saw. The locals tended to see this as a fight against outsiders who dictated the terms of how the local workers were to live their lives, rather than a classic clash of forces in a Marxist dialectic. 

Today the federal government dictates everything from what children are served for lunch to how much water they can use to flush the toilet afterwards.  The people running the federal government have been shown to be far from impartial and less than honest.  The poor in this region who might live in subsidized housing, receive food stamps, and who rely on Medicaid probably have a bit more financial security than residents of a company owned coal mining town did 80 years ago, but they increasingly have outsiders telling them what to do.  And it appears that some of them still don't like it.

One thing is certain. Florence would have an opinion

There's no such thing as neutral. You have to be on one side or the other. Some people say, "I don't take sides -- I'm neutral." There's no such thing. In your mind you're on one side or the other. In Harlan County there wasn't no neutral.

The First Lady's healthy food initiative recently ran into some blunt critics.  

Students in a rural Kentucky county - and their parents - are the latest to join a growing national chorus of scorn for the healthy school lunches touted by first lady Michelle Obama.

"They say it tastes like vomit," said Harlan County Public School board member Myra Mosley at a contentious board meeting last week, reports The Harlan Daily Enterprise.

The comment thread for this story contains much liberal snark about the obese, ignorant and indifferent hicks of Harlan County and how they should be grateful for being taught a better way to eat.  I suspect few making suchcomments have ever been near this staunchly Democratic coal mining community in southeastern Kentucky with its three to one ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans.  Nor do they seem aware of the county's storied past.  Perhaps a resident needs to ask the snarky ones Which Side Are You On?,for these are the same Harlan County residents progressives once lionized. 

During the Harlan County War of the 1930s an unknown number of people were killed in a series of clashes between labor union organizers and mine owners before the unions won. The Almanac Singers and Pete Seeger celebrated Harlan County in song.

Don't scab for the bosses,
Don't listen to their lies.
Us poor folks haven't got a chance
Unless we organize.

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

The comments are another example of how the progressive intelligentsia loves the idea of being in solidarity with the working class, even as they don't much care for actual members of the working class as people.  At least not unless the proletariat shut up and do as told. One of Seeger's successor in the folk singer tradition had some advice for those in charge who feel smug and superior about themselves.  

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone...
For the times they are a-changin'

Times certainly have changed.  The sons of coal miners Seeger once sang about have come to recognize the increasing domination of the Democratic Party by the urban intelligentsia is not in their interests.  In 2000, Al Gore, no friend to coal miners, won Harlan County by 385 votes.  In Novermber, 2012 the overwhelmingly Democrat voters of Harlan County cast almost five times as many votes for Mitt Romney as they cast for Barack Obama.

I often wonder what songwriter Florence Reece and her coal miner husband, Sam, might think about these developments.  Much of bitterness in the union battles in eastern Kentucky and in West Virginia stemmed from how the mines were often owned by absentee interests, interests that might also own the towns themselves plus the crucial general store that sold the necessities of everyday life. The anger turned to rage when the miners learned corrupt local law enforcement had taken sides rather than impartially enforcing the law.  I suspect the political radicals drawn to the area to help unionize the miners misunderstood the anger they saw. The locals tended to see this as a fight against outsiders who dictated the terms of how the local workers were to live their lives, rather than a classic clash of forces in a Marxist dialectic. 

Today the federal government dictates everything from what children are served for lunch to how much water they can use to flush the toilet afterwards.  The people running the federal government have been shown to be far from impartial and less than honest.  The poor in this region who might live in subsidized housing, receive food stamps, and who rely on Medicaid probably have a bit more financial security than residents of a company owned coal mining town did 80 years ago, but they increasingly have outsiders telling them what to do.  And it appears that some of them still don't like it.

One thing is certain. Florence would have an opinion

There's no such thing as neutral. You have to be on one side or the other. Some people say, "I don't take sides -- I'm neutral." There's no such thing. In your mind you're on one side or the other. In Harlan County there wasn't no neutral.

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