Stealing Appalachia


We are immoral good people.

   Here in the backwoods of Eastern Kentucky, we tend to play favorites. I admit I’m guilty of it too! Growing up belonging to the families of this area I’ve been accustomed to being known everywhere I go. Let’s just be honest about it, we play favorites! We do make a big difference in our local generational families and the families of outsiders. We want our family to think well of us and we want their love.

How is being so good to our own people immoral?

   Anytime you have double standards you have a moral deficit. There is nothing wrong with loving your family, but letting yourself treat others poorly in order to heap favor on your family is wrong. That wall we toss up in the face of outsiders speaks against us. The fact we call them outsiders speaks against us. It makes it easier to justify bad behavior. When we set out to draw a defining line between us and them it sets the stage for the destruction of our communities.

Stealing Appalachia

   We have seen several situations over the years which have set in motion the crippling of this area. One that’s happening right now is the escape of Eric Conn. His admittance to criminal acts against the social security administration has caused so much harm. People have died because of his wrongdoings. He is just one example of what is crippling us here in our area. He did wrong and ran away from the consequences, but we can’t escape his black mark on us. 

   When you have poverty and desperation wicked hearts will come to prey on those who are struggling. In a closed community of close-knit families, it’s easy to see the damage that comes from these types of wrongs. It is also easy to see why these people were tempted to be dishonest. 

How did we get here? 

   The idea of them against us. Yes, it is that simple. You can talk yourself into immortality by saying to yourself our people deserve better. Once you set yourself up as entitled to something the next step is getting it. The problem comes when we start lying and stealing to get what we feel we deserve. Or looking the other way as others do so.

   The problem with stretching the truth to save a poor man is that your morals stretch too. Once you start down that path you often can’t stop. Then comes the hurt your immoral goodness brings. You go from I want to help my family, to costing those people, your family, their hope. 

The cost of immoral goodness.

   Once you’ve lied and stolen money you can’t change the harm that you have done. You ruin your good name and the people who you represent. 

   Why are we seeing cuts to federal funding? The answer is our own greed coupled with a false justification of our saying it’s for my people. My family deserves this. Our false goodness has cost us our integrity. We are destroying our state with our own greedy prejudice. Perhaps we should ask why should the federal government fund our area’s programs after we have been caught being dishonest?

It’s easier to blame someone else than to blame ourselves.

   We should never let our poverty make us so desperate that we would sacrifice our good name to get what others have. We should never let it become a justification for setting ourselves against the outside world either. At the end of the day, we must let go of our prejudices and stop taking our own people for granted. We can’t present ourselves as good to those we claim as ours while using them to get what we want, from the outsiders we refuse to accept. 

   In the end, it is us who are stealing Appalachia. Our own prejudice and desperate desires are causing the good names to disappear. Poverty didn’t make us immoral, it was our own behavior that did so. 

   I love being able to say my family helped start several of our small towns, but I hate admitting that it is me letting them die out. From playing favorites to overlooking the wrongs done to gain access to help for this area, to putting up walls to make outsiders who move here feel less than valued, we have all played a part in this area’s decline. What we need to do is stop wanting the best for just our family members and really look at the new face of our communities. No more setting ourselves up to be tempted to justify our secret wrongs by saying it’s for my poor family. 

   When it feels like most people in Kentucky are your family it can be hard to give up that family discount! Even harder to let that same grace cover those who are not yours. If we lose our culture and heritage it will be our own fault. It will be because we used poverty and desperation of our families as an excuse to turn a blind eye to our own bad behavior. 

Your favorite small town writer,

Deedra Mosley

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