Thursday, September 1, 2016

Miner's Protection Act: Pass Senate Bill 1714!

I sent the following letter to Majority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell. (Slightly edited for brevity)  If he responds, I will publish it here. Contact those we put in office today. And call or email McConnell today. Give him your thoughts. His information is at the end. 





Dear Senator McConnell,

I'm a writer and adjunct professor (currently on hiatus) who mostly writes about Appalachia. I care for this region and want to see our miners protected. I'm writing because I stand with thousands of miners and their families urging you to immediately take action regarding the “Coal Miner's Protection Act." (Senate Bill 1714) 

Without your immediate action, thousands more coal miners will lose their healthcare on December 31, 2016. The Miner's Protection Act will make sure they keep their health insurance and benefits promised to them by the US government in 1946. This promise was made under President Truman's watch and it must be kept. Our miners earned these benefits over decades of back-breaking work.

I was born and raised in Logan County, West Virginia, a child, grandchild, and niece of coal miners, and even I, with my extensive formal and informal education, cannot craft an even-tempered response to my inquisitive students or the children in my family as to precisely how our region ended up one of the poorest in the nation while we have been obscenely rich with two of the most valuable resources: coal and men to mine it. And now, our miners aren't being cared for. 

My uncles, Manuel, Mary, Joe, and John Ojeda, mined coal for decades, just as their father, Senon Ojeda did, just as my other grandfather Alex Fekete, my father Terry, and his brother Manuel did.
My family has logged over 150 years in the mines. In West Virginia, family is loyal. In West Virginia, we're all family. You best believe I have a rabid dog in this fight.

My family and thousands of others, have provided this nation with decades and decades of resources. Now they are forgotten? I am livid. Our people are livid. We will not stand for this. Neither should you allow it.

Our widows now live with uncertainty and fear, taking residence inside the cracks of once rock-solid beliefs (and allegiance to) justice and the American Dream.What cruel paradoxes reign here in Appalachia--fading “friends of coal” and “coal keeps the lights on” stickers peeling from the bumpers of trucks, while the reality of being left in the dark grows ever more vivid. Where are our "friends" now that are miners are aged and/or ailing? This bill is a moral response but also economically sound. It costs taxpayers nothing. It is supported from the Abandoned Mine Land Fund.

Appalachia is a poor region, yet still filled with an unusually high number of soldiers and an unmatched work ethic. By the sweat of their brows, our coal miners have fueled this nation, while raising the sons and daughters who would defend it.

By allowing thousands of miners to lose their healthcare on December 31st, what are you saying to them--the foundations of this nation and their offspring who defend it--your constituents? What are telling them with your inaction, Senator McConnell, about their worth, about justice, and the American Dream? 

Once I receive your response, I will be happy to include it alongside any online magazines, blogs, Facebook pages, and/or literary journals that may publish this letter.
I thank you for your time and pray you'll do the right thing and take action. MOVE this bill to the floor. Force the coal companies Keep the Promise!

Respectfully and Sincerely,
Andrea Fekete


Call or write his DC office today!
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-2541












Happy Birthday Johnny



Happy Birthday to my Big Brother, Johnny
(who is balder and older and will reach senility before me. ha!)
I’m writing this and it may embarrass my brother. He isn’t on Facebook, so won’t see this until later, but you know, tough shit, because he HAS done that to me before.:

  
< Exhibit A
 
I shall make many claims here, BUT I will back them all up with evidence. 

To begin, I’d like to say, he really is a good man, a species that unfortunately is a rare breed among us. I mean, I am in no way saying he is perfect. Growing up (um, and as an adult, too) he can be goofy at inappropriate times and often enjoys making jokes that should be left back in third grade. (Maybe sixth, tops). Sometimes he thinks he knows it all. Sometimes he’s bitchy and doesn’t listen. 

AND you can locate him if you lose him in a store because he makes “dad sounds” he isn’t even aware of: whistling, humming, unnecessary clearing of the throat, singing, etc. Other family members will testify to that.
Actually, now that I think of it, that’s kind of convenient. 

He’s all those things but also honest and good. He’s smart. And one of the funniest people I know. Don’t believe me? 

Ask him to tell you the true story about when he had an accident by hitting a bear with his motorcycle. One would not think this would be funny. In life it maybe wasn’t at the time. But later on, the story was. It was. Very. Ask him to tell you. Do it.

He’s there for his family. His friends. He serves his community. When he finds a person, place or situation, he leaves them improved. He trusts people because he himself is trustworthy and trusts others because he assumes everyone is that way, too. They’re not. They’re totally not. But it's a virtue, I think, to trust others. We had a special bond as kids, like I know not all siblings do.

I remember as a kids if one of us were punished for something we had done, sometimes we’d sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, bottom lip stuck out like a sad mouse in a cartoon, eyes welled with tears. If it was me in trouble he would console me and vice versa, but without talking because some siblings can do that. 

The unspoken conversation was only in looks. It usually went like this: “I’m sad you are in trouble” and the response was always “Me too. Thanks for being on my side.” 

Because, I knew, and still do, that he would never NOT be on my side, even if I don’t deserve an ally and I will always be on his. Unless he needs bail money. I’m too broke for that shit. Call Dad. 


< Exhibit B There were times he was there when he didn't want to be. Even if I was in a beret, orange-ish pantyhose, and a "pirate shirt" worthy of that Seinfeld episode AND I was about to march down a public street.
 
He complained but showed up. But of course, later that day at home, after the parade, he did an energetic impression of my crooked ass parade-march. I was what they called “pigeon-toed” back then. Yes, my walk looked like it sounds. He did that impression for at least an hour. Soooooo hilarious, jerkface! (Actually, it was) He was just doing his job as a brother. It’s fine. Speaking of which, tormenting and general picking on me when we were kids was in his job description. Like in all things, he was dedicated to that duty!

For instance, there were those times when he’d hold me down and act like he was going to spit on or fart my head (this happened frequently for some reason) leading to my inevitable screams of “Moooooooom!” and then his, “I didn’t do anything! She started it!” And both of us getting in trouble, each of us blaming the other, naturally. Then, we would retreat to separate parts of the house and NOT talk to each other, because JUDAS!

These times of civil war lasted for at least a very long half an hour and right as it seemed the rift between nations would never be mended, the feelings of betrayal and “I HATE YOU’’s” would pass into thoughts like I am bored and he/she has to be over it because we are siblings and that’s the inborn contract to get over it, so, I’m going to see what my brother/sister is doing. Which leads me to my next point.  

He didn’t care to play with me. (at least when his friends weren’t around) He often slung me around the kitchen singing (poorly) a version of “Let’s Dance” forever etching David Bowie into my childhood memories. 

< Exhibit C 

My fondest memories of us playing were the stupid parts that don’t make sense even now. Remember when Billy Crystal in the movie “When Harry Met Sally” said to Sally, “We’re going to talk like this the rest of the day.” Then, he put his tongue behind his bottom lip, saying, “Waiter, I whoold like to order da pec-haaaan pi-eeeeee.” 

The writers must’ve stole this from my brother. Ok, it's probably the other way around but anyway, he would say, “let’s talk like this!” and he’d do the same thing as Billy, while singing nonsensical made-up songs like, “I say may, you say may. Everybody say maaaaay.” He did this with his tongue behind his bottom lip. Try it. Now sing your favorite song. Weird, right? Funny. But weird. And our parents were so happy he did this on the hours-long car ride to the beach. And of course, it was worse, because I had to copy him and do it, too.

This brings me to my next point, sociological research shows when people laugh, they often look at the person in the room who they view as an authority, maybe in humor or wisdom, someone they look up to, to check if they’re laughing too! Because laughing isn’t nearly as fun if your closest friend isn’t laughing with you, right?

Exhibits D, E, & F:
One example of that is Exhibit D < where we are playing “Chopsticks” (badly) and I laugh at us. Our mom sneaks a picture from around the corner. Neither of us are aware, so a genuine moment is captured of a little sister looking up to her brother. Look at him all oblivious. Pfffft. Some things never change.


I was in elementary school in <Exhibit E doing the same thing.

Below, my favorite example. In Exhibit F, I’m high-school-aged, yanking thermal underwear up my butt while wearing heels (because I think I’m hilarious. I am. Don't you judge me) and again, looking at my brother to see if he’s laughing. From his face, we see, he does not always think I’m funny. And even with his disapproval, I laugh my ass off, because, you know, being irritating little sister—it’s my job.










 I cared if he was laughing too because I love my brother…see?

< Exhibit G

and H >










 Let’s not forget, however, even liking him was not always easy, because….well, < Exhibit I.

Here, he’s standing behind me as I sit with Mrs. Claus. He’s holding Gonzo, whose pants he has purposefully pulled down for the picture. PROOF of his skilled pain in the ass-ering.

But I admit; I’ve been a MAJOR pain in his ass, too, for exactly 38 years now. Yep. Major. Significant. I’m smarter than him, duh, so I’m better at it (among other stuff). I’ve been a horribly annoying, bitchy, moody, aggravating little sister who at times likes to give him unwanted advice, which I mean, clearly, is just because I’m smarter than him (he’s in denial about that). I also have blessed him with many eye-rolling’s, “You’re a dork’s!” and “DERP’S!” when I want to say, in one word: “You’re such a doofus!”

In spite of all that…I know he’ll always be around, no matter what bullshit or sorrow happens in life, to give me that pitiful look of, “I’m sorry you’re in trouble or what BULLSHIT!” and I will reply, “Thank you” without even talking. Because…

he loves his little sister and he’ll never not be on my side. I give you < Exhibit J  You can’t fake that smile.

Happy Birthday to my big brother! Love you!

Signed, your little sister, who you nicknamed when she was born….and still refer to as...

--Baby