Monday, December 31, 2018

In Trump´s country

“Coal Mining in the American Heartland” is an interesting documentary about miners in West Virginia, USA. (It´s available on YouTube until 15 August 2019.) The producers have tried to give as objective view of West Virginia mining communities as possible. We get to meet both traditional working class families who staunchly support Donald Trump, a Cherokee activist who just as staunchly opposes strip mining and environmental destruction, and a police officer in a near-ghost town hit by the opiate crisis who has sued the pharmaceutical companies he believes are responsible.

Unsurprisingly, the job as a coal miner turns out to be extremely dangerous, both in the short run (the constant risk of accidents) and the long run (black lung). However, the miners are also among the best paid workers in the nation – one of the miners interviewed, who hardly has a high school education, earns 5000 dollars per month! Very little is said about the union, the near-legendary UMWA, but I get the impression that the workers interviewed haven´t joined it. Trump has deregulated the coal industry, which is good for the workers (and the mining bosses) but bad for the environment, although it´s not clear how effective the old regulations *really* were – probably not much, judging by the interview with the Native activist.

The most peculiar part of “Coal Mining” deals with the snake-handlers or snake-throwers, an extreme Pentecostal revivalist movement. The supporters handle dangerous snakes and drink literal poison during the services! The local congregation is very small, though. Everyone in the featured communities seems to be White, except one of the snake-handlers, who is African American.

I liked this production, which tries to be as non-judgmental as possible towards a part of America usually considered among the more backward parts of “fly over country”. Recommended.

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