Appalachia is where it's at, Mitt. May I call you Mitt? Mitt. Appalachia. You've been here. We've got the trees and the coal and some utterly marvelous folk who hold onto a quantifiably beautiful culture. There's quilting and canning and rabble rousing like you wouldn't believe. These are folks who know compassion is a verb and aren't shy about conjugating it. And these mountains? Holy Typewriter, Mitt. You'll be driving through the foothills when suddenly it's a seven mile incline and there's a view like something hallowed to the right.
Tell me your mother taught you right, Mitt. How it's different from oppression and stereotyping and so much like the just. So much like welcoming eyes and knowing whoever we are and wherever we come from this country still wants us just as we are.
Tell me our dreams can come true, Mitt, just as we are. Tell me the price of progress is not a geography of possibility. Tell me you've played Gillian Welch records to crickets and the light of a not-quite-full moon somewhere near Harlan. Tell me you weren't surprised to leave there alive. Tell me this. That you can lead this nation without a microphone and overseas bank accounts and because you love its people. That you refuse to shower us in fear. That our poverty will never be an example of consequence. Tell me that your heart is big enough to hold onto all of it, onto the beauty and the difficulty and the way the two sometime apex between 46 and 48.
Tell me more, Mr. Romney. Tell me what to say the next time a teenage boy tells me a doctor's son made fun of his cowboy boots and twang in freshman composition. Tell me what it's like to feed a hungry child and think any calories are positive calories and it's America and it's 2012 and Holy Typewriter, Mitt, talk to me about starvation. Talk to me about the way it eats into you, past your stomach and into your thoughts (cloudier than an afternoon in mid-November) and into your heart muscles and backbone and how there's so much of it, so much starvation, and how only some of it is the lack-of-food kind because very often it's the lack of love kind.
Mitt. Mr. Romney. Talk to me about love. About atriums. About how our hearts are more life than light and about how they're worthwhile anyway. Our hearts are worthwhile anyway, and so are we, even when our lives turn out more difficult than we want or expected or could have feared.
I'm a child of Appalachia, Mr. Romney. By some accounts a rather firey one. And I can't speak for the entirety of your 47% but let me tell you this, Mitt. May I still call you Mitt? Let me tell you some of us live with hearts more life than light and sometimes we live in lands of starvation and sometimes, Mr. Romney, sometimes people make bets. Sometimes they aren't good ones and, Mitt, betting against Appalachia will never, ever, be a good idea. Discounting the rest of the 47% doesn't sound like a very good one either.
Shea Daniels is a 2012 graduate of Ohio University's program in Creative Writing. She currently works in an elementary school social work room where she attempts to empower children and unsuccessfully raises classroom fish. Her favorite things include spending time on hills and mountains, writing poetry, and discussing Appalachia. Someday her writing will be bound into books.