Friday, August 7, 2009

Stereotypes? Please... ever been to West Virginia?

Incest, Ignorance and the Lack of Politically Correct Ideals, that's our nation's take on the majority, if not all of West Virginia's culture.
I myself, have been to almost all 50 states and several countries outside of the good 'ol US of A, and you would be surprised as to how many people did not know West Virginia was even a state. I say that with as literal a meaning as I possibly can. I once took a 6 month sabbatical in New Mexico, and I met not one, not two, but 12 different people who were not aware of my home state's June 20th, 1863 separation from the confederate Virginia state that supported slavery, ignorance and the intolerance that is so often associated with West Virginia, instead of its Eastern neighbor. Despite the fact that slavery in WV did not come to an end until Abolition, it still played a significant role in the decision to secede from Virginia, and in my eyes, that is enough to settle many an argument.
However, I digress...
Many a time I have witnessed a very obese woman walk into the local grocery store/gas station while barefoot, filthy from head to toe, loud-mouthed and very obnoxious. The vulgarities she would spew out of her mouth despite present company really made you swell up with pride with the knowledge of being related to her. It was always a real treat to watch her 3-4 kids trailing behind her beg for her to purchase a candy bar or their favorite soft drink, just to either get reprimanded by way of a verbal "cussing" or just a quick slap to the mouth so she could concentrate on the real task at hand, arguing with her husband or live-in boyfriend of the month on which brand of beer to purchase with whatever remained of the monthly income the tax paying workers of this state were suckered into providing her with. I try not to judge, to an extent. I would not only be naive, but flat-out lying to you if I said I didn't at least to some degree form an opinion on other people's lifestyle, even though it really was none of my concern. The type of person I'm speaking of is common in my home state, and she usually comes equipped with polyester stretch pants, the ones with the foot stirrups that are blackened beyond the magical effects of Clorox, a curve-flattering tube-top, and hair with enough grease in it to lube every moving part on your everyday, run-of-the-mill aircraft carrier.
It's like this person feeds on negativity and wallows in poverty as if it were a badge of honor. Going back to me not judging? Well folks, soap is cheap, a lot cheaper than the aforementioned alcohol, and the carton of the most generic menthol cigarettes the merchant is carrying that fiscal year.
Yes, this lady really upsets me, to the point of having absolutely zero respect for her or anyone in her circle of friends--both of them. Now this lady could also have been a male, although there are few differences, mostly within the smaller details, the mentality remains the same between the two and I am trying to slim down this particular article by not posting on both genders. She is shameful, and not so much that she lives her life the way she chooses, as this is every American citizen's right, but because this is what people see and remember when they decide to actually look our way when either visiting, reading about or simply listening to another source concerning West Virginia and its people. Of course they will call us "Rednecks" or "Po-dunks" and any other stereotype that fits the bill. I can't honestly say I blame them, if the biggest impression I brought home with me was the memory of Bertha Anna Sue Hatfield, then I myself would most likely share the same mental picture pertaining to the Mountaineer state; but then again, what else does WV have to offer when it comes to its cultural traditions and people? Well, for one, what about some of the natives you may or may not have heard of? For example:
-Lewis L. Strauss
Naval officer and scientist.
-Chuck Yeager
Test pilot and Air Force general
-Anna Jarvis (1864-1948) Jarvis was born in Grafton, West Virginia. She was a promoter who worked to make Mother's Day a nationally celebrated holiday.
-Mary Lou Retton (1968- )
Retton was born in Fairmont, West Virginia, and was a gymnast.
She won the gold medal for the best all-around gymnastics performance in the 1984 Olympics and was the first American gymnast to win a medal since 1948.
-Cyrus Vance (1917- )
Vance was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and was a diplomat. He represented President Johnson in Panama. He negotiated the release of the USS Pueblo and its crew. Vance was the United States secretary of state from 1977-1981.
-Booker T. Washington ( 1856-1915)
Washington grew up in Malden, West Virginia, and was an educator and reformer. He thought that blacks should work for education and employment instead of fighting
for social equality with whites. He founded the Tuskegee Institute and the National Negro Business League. He wrote a book called "Up From Slavery" in 1915.
-John Forbes Nash
Mathematician, nobel laureate. 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
-John C. Norman surgeon
Pioneer in organ transplants.
-Morgan Spurlock
Director, tv producer, screenwriter - Super Size Me, 30 Days, etc...
-Homer Hickam
Aerospace Engineer, among many other accomplishments.
And that list could continue on for quite some time.
Also, what about the fact that this is my home, and I am no where near the smartest, nor best educated individual to come along in my lifetime, but I do not consider myself dumb, or ignorant, at least not to the things I need to be aware of, and I love the land I live in, it holds a piece of my soul as nowhere else I have ever been. With its mountains and dialect, music and food, its values that belong to myself and others who decided that courtesy, respect and judging slowly should be forerunners when it comes to decision making. West Virginia is by far the least of our nation's problems, but we definitely suffer from some of the nation's worst opinions on how a state should be ran, viewed and visited. We are a very good case of the pot calling the kettle black, only we almost indefinitely will play the role of the latter.

So for all you local inhabitants of West Virginia's mountainous regions, remember this, the very reason you feel ridiculed or belittled, is probably nothing more than the misguided tolerance you have developed for the person I spoke of earlier. You want to turn things around? Perhaps contribute to something greater by allowing the outside world to see us for what we share a mutual pride in? Then the next time you are pushing a cart down the aisle at your local Wal-Mart or the like and you see a guy without a shirt on who smells like a three-day drinking binge combined with body odor, urine and a total lack of self-respect, kindly trip him as he walks by. More than likely, the first thing he will do is to look straight up, and he might just see that everyone else has at least laundered their jeans in the last month.

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