March 21, 2010

Two words: MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL

Two words:  MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL
Like “Climate Change” – the two words are very ordinary, but then also impossibly scary. Without emotion or “color” – they are simple and simply unbelievable. Mountaintop removal is so uncomfortable that it is sometimes shortened to MTR, like a company or the initials of a President. That is a mistake. We should always lumber through the entire phrase, mountaintop removal.

In fact, “Mountaintop Removal” – let’s put it in caps from now on. It is our banner. The phrase was first mouthed, listened to and insistently repeated by the ordinary people who witnessed the abomination. They stared and they covered their children’s eyes and they said these words.

Mountaintop Removal is created from the simple fact of the matter. It is the observation by the people who live in the valleys below the explosions, gigantic bulldozers, conveyor belts zig-zagging down the valleys, lakes of slurry laced with carcinogenic chemicals… The victims wrote the words and it stuck. Most language doesn’t come this way anymore. It doesn’t come unedited this way, straight from people. Corporate marketing creates most of our words for us, so that we’ll use their words to buy things.

Mountaintop Removal is ungreenwashable. All the cancerous deaths, poisoned streams, CO-2 emisions from the dirty coal, shit-colored tap-water – all that devastation is felt within the irreducible two words. The word is an honest, obscene monument. It is how the summits of rock live on in our memory. The heights that the coal companies thought would vanish and not be missed – the high places are refusing to fall into the railroad cars. They rise in the blue sky because they are surrounded by people from the mountains who love the mountains and believe in them as the horizon of life, like the memory of the shape and feel of the face of a dead mother.

We have the weapon of this imposing phrase, Mountaintop Removal. Sometimes it feels like all we have is the amazing accusation of those two words. The corporations know that the two words cannot be allowed to survive. They put billboards all over Appalachia cutting the stubborn phrase Mountaintop Removal with patriotism, with energy independence, with prosperity and education for Appalachia’s underserved youth. In other words – they are trying everything. None of it works. The mountains are still there in our minds, with these two words standing in for the 470 missing Appalachian peaks. Mountaintop Removal.

As for our little activist church – we respond to the two words like thousands of others. We hear the words of the people in those mountains and that is enough to get to work. Mountaintop Removal can change a life in a one-room flat in New York City, with a brick air-shaft in the window. Mountaintop Removal is unbelievable and we respond to the idea of it with belief. We rise and rise and rise on the slopes of where the mountain is returning.