Thursday, June 19, 2008

Happy West Virginia Day!

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia became a state.  I was born in 1963, the year of our centennial, so I always remember the year :)

In honor of West Virginia Day, some WV Bloggers are posting about a "new stereotype" of West Virginia and/or highlighting something positive about the state in order to combat negative stereotypes.  I didn't think I was going to participate, because I really don't have any ideas on "new stereotypes."  But I saw someone suggest "highlighting the positive about West Virginia" and decided I could at least tell you about the West Virginia I know.

I was born and raised in West (by God) Virginia.  As a teenager and young adult, I wanted to leave the state to go somewhere more exciting and glamorous.  I'm so glad circumstances were such that I stayed here.  It wasn't until I matured that I began to realize just how fortunate I am to live here.  There is truly nowhere I would rather live.

It really bugs me to hear negative things said about my state and its residents. Of course, every time we judge something in a negative way, we do it because it makes us feel superior.  I try to keep that in mind.  Some people are simply ignorant and have never actually been here or have decided to judge an entire group of people based on the conduct of a few.  I would prefer to have a "who cares?" attitude.  Let people think what they want. That way they won't all want to come here and make it all crowded and ruin it. :)

When you ask people what negative stereotypes they hold about West Virginia, their answers might be things like poor, uneducated, marry their cousins, live in trailers, drive pick up trucks.  The first thing I would like to say is -- is there a single state in the union that has NO people who fit those descriptions???  Is there some utopian state of which I am unaware that is full of only wealthy, educated, house-dwelling, sedan/SUV driving people?  I don't think so.  Do we have more than our share of some of those things than some states? Possibly.  But what gives anyone else the right to judge that?  Are people who are poor and uneducated and living in trailers less valuable as human beings?  No, they're not.  And if you think they are -- if you think you are somehow "better" than they are -- then it is you who has the problem, my friend.

When I think of the people of West Virginia, I think of people who are independent, strong willed, loyal, hard working, and free thinking.  I think of people educated in institutions of higher learning and people educated by life.  I think of people who have monetary wealth and people who have a beautiful piece of land and a loving family and just enough money (and who are happier than any rich people I know).  I think of coal miners and artists and farmers and professionals. 

What I love most about West Virginia is the incredible natural beauty.  We have green rolling hills of farmland.  We have tall mountains covered in hardwood trees that turn into brilliant colors every fall.  We have clear, pure mountain springs that turn into rivers of raging rapids.  We have tall rocks and big lakes and narrow hollows (okay, hollers).  I live 13 miles from the state capitol, yet I can go outside on my back porch right now and hear nothing but crickets and look up into darkness and see a million stars with no city lights to spoil the view.  In West Virginia, we have room to roam.  We earned the title "Almost Heaven."

I wish you could see West Virginia and its people as I see them.  Do we have our problems?  Sure we do.  Plenty.  But not because we are West Virginians.  Because we are human beings.  And even with all our problems, I am proud to say I am a West Virginian.  West Virginia is and always will be my home sweet home.

For more posts about West Virginia, go to www.aBetterWestVirginia.com

Thanks to Jason Keeling of that site for the project.

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3 comments:

  1. Oooh, that was beautiful. Thank you for telling the story of West Virginia the way it feels to live it.

    Wish I could give you a gold star for this. :)

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  2. I have been wondering what you meant by WV day...and now I know! Growing up in Oklahoma, I can identify with your descriptions of what other people outside of the state think... there are a lot of good, solid people in OK, every state has its problems and its positives...still, I would rather live in West Virginia than OK...and if it's all the same, I will stay in Portland!

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  3. Rebecca4:37 PM

    It is sad how some folks feel the need to make themselves feel bigger by cutting someone else down.

    On the other side of the coin ~ if they think our state stinks ~ we get to keep it all to ourselves huh?

    Keep smiling!

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