Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Harlan County, USA

I made a deal with myself during my 25th year of life that I would watch one new movie/show a month. To accomplish that I decided to subscribed to Netflix. Best decision. One thing I love about Netflix is the amount of documentaries that it shows.

I have watched a number of interesting documentaries. Last night, was particularly interesting to me. I stumbled upon the ‘Harlan County, USA’ documentary which was filmed in the 70’s. That’s about all I knew. So I watched it and I was amazed.
So a little bit of the movie, from what I got from the documentary, is that there was a coal company, Duke Power Company which owned a mine and there were miners. The miner’s wanted to use the United Mine Workers Association’s (UMWA) labor agreement from 1971 and Duke would not sign the contract because they wanted to have the ‘no-strike’ clause included in the agreement. The workers went on strike… the strike lasted for nearly a year.

During the movie, it interviews people with ‘Black Lung.’ I have always heard of ‘Black Lung.’ I’m from a mining state and I work for a steel company, but I had never seen anyone with it before. Shocking comes to mind. Not only shocking but appalling, especially when a man gets up and claims that they concluded that black lung is not caused by coal dust. I was left in amazement. I cannot even fathom living in this era. I have so much respect for the generations before me.

Throughout the movie they would show miners leaving the mine and it made what I always heard a reality. Literally men were walking out of the mines with so much coal dust their faces were completely black. They showed kids that were 10 years old working in the mines covered in dirt (This was back in the day,, like the 20's or something)…who got hit with pieces of slate if they weren’t 100% accurate on their job. 10. Years. Old. At 10? I was playing soccer and being a happy kid.

The whole video. just really intrigued me. Partly, because I do work for a company with unions and our business, creating steel, is a hazardous occupation. So maybe I can relate to these people. But, by gosh, I don’t think my generation gives the older generations the credit they deserve for what they did for us or for the strength it took to build this country. The striking miner’s (and their families) lived without warm running water. They picketed and went up against people who weren’t afraid to flash their weapons. Some people even got shot at their house. For what? For a better agreement for themselves and the future with included safer working conditions, more acceptable pay, and better labor practices.

I realize that there are two sides to every story, especially when it comes to labor agreements.The video does not show the Corporation's side and so it straight through the eyes of the miners. I think this documentary is incredible for the way it showed the strength of the human spirit. These people could have given up. They could have folded and gone back to their jobs. But they didn’t. They fought, everyday, until they got what they felt they got what they deserved.

It makes me think of my generation. How often we give up, because it’s the easier thing to do. Just because it’s easier, doesn’t mean that it’s the best choice. This country wasn’t founded on ‘giving up.’ It was founded on standing up for what you believed in. Maybe part of the issue with my generation is that we haven’t had to stand up for anything. We’ve always went a long. We didn’t have a Vietnam. We didn’t have the labor issues of the past. We’ve never had to fight for anything. Or maybe we did, but we choose the not too. We have grown comfortable in acceptance. Because why should we fight?

This movie reminds why we fight. Because we deserve better. (When I use ‘deserve’ I don’t mean on a silver plate, but if we want something, we should earn it and we should feel like we deserve to earn it.)

If we don’t fight for ourselves, for the things we want, who will?

How does the movie end? Well. Let’s just say, Duke signed an agreement with mine workers… and that agreement, ended up being the global agreement for the UMWA.

That my friends, is how our country was founded. By individuals who fought for what they believed to be true.

Thought for the day:
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” ~Buddha

Take it easy.

1 comment:

kara@elements-interiors.net said...

LOVE your thought for the day! ! Love this post...thank you for linking up to Whassup Wednesday! Hope to see you tomorrow:)