Sins in the realm of the insular principally extend from the singular offense of being an auslander, a foreigner, a Not One of Us. To this group, Us, which means Not You if you are Not One of Us, few crimes disturb so greatly as that of Outsiders setting foot in the realm, a violation declared or discernible by way of that famed rhetorical question: You’re not from around here, are you?
Commonly, this inquiry is associated with geography. Not You has arrived Here from Somewhere Else. If Not You went back to Somewhere Else, where he or she belongs, the problem of him or her being Here would be resolved. But geography is a lesser part of the equation. What truly matters is conformity to the norms and dictates of the realm.
To be One of Us, to be no longer Not You, one must champion the ways of the realm. It’s about knowing Your Place, place being a state of mind. Knowing Your Place means one neither challenges The Way Things Are nor The Way Things Are Done. Challenges emanate from that great mortal sin, that of being Not from Around Here.
Here is a realm occupied by cowards, dullards and sycophants. No society can advance where status quos never are questioned and ways of thinking are not permitted to evolve. There’s a reason the very phrase “not from around here” sets images of “Deliverance” flickering in the mind.
But in the realm of the insular, where acceptance is dictated by conformity, one is apt to find men clad in suits as much as in overalls. This Place is not only composed of followers but of leaders, of people in positions of high rank and office. These are the ones who preserve and protect the realm. For the realm’s guardians, You’re Not from Around Here is not just an assertion but an admonition to stand down and step back.
West Virginia is inhabited by people who occupy this realm. So are the half-dozen other states where I’ve done time over 35 years in the news business and so, I suspect, are the remaining states in the Union. No one has the market corned on parochialism.
Neither is it a question of caste or education level. People with limited resources frequently recognize the perils of parochialism and people of means commonly embrace it.
It matters here now for two reasons. Recently, one of the state’s most prominent and powerful figures cited that damnable sin of being Not from Here to an editor and reporter. It’s an old tactic people who’ve been in this line of work have seen before and so the details are not relevant. The second reason is more important: West Virginia cannot afford the status quo and should not endure it.
No one needs a recounting of the state’s woes. Anyone who lives here has heard all the lists rating West Virginia at the top for seemingly every ill and the bottom for every positive. Those who don’t get it by now never will.
Far more significant is the question of what will be done to pull the state from the economic floor. So far, all we’ve heard from the Capitol is talk of eliminating the income tax. Otherwise, the status quo not only remains but is being furthered.
Certain figures in this state favor that because it favors them. They’ve been here as the state’s people, jobs and future have vanished leaving West Virginia lost in the shadows of its own history. While the state’s fortunes have dwindled, their fortunes have grown.
Some of these people are guardians of The Way Things Are. If anything ought to be plain by now, it ought to be that The Way Things Are no longer is acceptable. A parochial approach to developing the economy of this state will not right it.
If future generations of West Virginians are to have a future here rather than Somewhere Else, this generation will have to rise against the status quo and dismantle it. They will have to identify a path past King Coal to find new economic drivers. They will have to find and execute strategies to capitalize on the state’s strengths and correct or mitigate its weaknesses.
Those of all socioeconomic castes savoring the comforts of the status quo will have to rouse themselves and get to the serious, hard work of rebuilding and renewing this state. New leaders will need to emerge both in the private and public sectors to clear the rubble of shattered models and construct in their place new models to lift the state and carry it through the remainder of the century.
The Way Things Are will need to become The Way Things Were, and those who support the former will need to be swept aside.
The fact is, while a tiny group of Them are profiting from The Way Things Are, it’s killing the rest of Us.