Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


August 25, 2012

Fall season leaves us all with uncertainty about ballots, ball games and heat

Somewhere in the midst of college football, the approaching autumn, and the upcoming presidential election, there is a sense of disillusionment across the land. In the wake of scandals or rules violations at more than one higher education institution, many fans already know that their seasons have been compromised. At mighty Ohio State, for instance, although super-coach Urban Meyer has taken the reins, there will be no post-season party even if the Buckeyes win all 10 (or is it now 12?) regular season games with the ESPN/CBS/NBC/ABC dollar driven gridiron package.

As fall is poised to cross the calendar less than one month from now, comments from the elderly and disadvantaged are not so much eager for the holiday season but concerned with what may be menacing energy costs for the winter. At the local Salvation Army and across America, it seems that especially in the winter the requests for aid increase every year as low-paid or ill-prepared (or both) senior citizens scramble to either pay for heating oil or medicine or groceries in any given cold temperature month. Only six years removed from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, those along the southern and eastern coasts wonder if September will bring another monster storm that might disrupt regions for a lifetime.

That begins with the upcoming political conventions. The Republicans are preparing to convene in Tampa although tropical storm Isaac is likely to bear down on Florida at about the same time the opening gavel is set to fall. While state officials insist the storm will not disrupt the proceedings there are no guarantees.

It may be a symbolic nod from Mother Nature as we begin the national political process. Not many years ago in the Sunshine State, we endured weeks of investigation for “hanging chads” and other interesting tidbits as candidate Al Gore disputed the results in a fierce battle with soon-to-be president George W. Bush. It remains one of the most acrimonious elections in history as Gore earned some 500,000 more votes nationally than Bush but still did not win the election. There was a hilarious television sound bite from Al Sharpton during that contest, as Sharpton (who was supporting Gore in the public sector) reporting from Florida informed viewers that “he was down here at the scene of the crime.”

Now the most recent poll says that voters are not exactly thrilled with either major candidate, and are decidedly more negative about the prospects for America than they were four years ago. For one thing, the negative campaigning has already alienated many who are surprised at the hard-hitting attacks. In fact, some researchers have said that neither candidate is going to be supported by as many half of the electorate, and indeed this week in at least one major canvass, neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney was able to earn a 50 percent share of the response.

Here in Four Seasons Country, citizens are torn between the two. Democrats, traditionally viewed as the majority party of choice based on their long-time support of the disadvantaged, cannot count at all on a victory in large measure because Obama has made it clear he does not favor coal as a fuel alternative. We can’t support someone who is going to possibly shut down our major industry. On the other hand, especially in my “regular” job, there is great hesitation to support Romney, one of whose major supporters, the governor of Virginia, has not been been much of a friend to public education.

I have talked to several school officials from more than one county across Southwest Virginia, for example, who have gone so far as to predict that if things don’t change, within another generation we may see the end of public schools as we have known them. So, from my standpoint, I am also caught between the two political worlds. As a child of a coal mining family and someone who believes that coal is essential to our energy needs, I cannot see joining forces with someone who would be against the coal industry. I see no alternative fuel available and if we destroy the coal business, what in the world will happen to our energy bills or availability of something to keep the lights burning? As a teacher, I can’t figure out a way to support a system that has not done much of anything positive for the people I work with in the last year or two. It is slowly becoming an impossible situation to figure out and there may not be a good answer.

So, keep your fingers crossed and perhaps your knees close to the floor when you get a chance to ask The Boss for some help. We all need to be as positive as possible and hope that whomever finally gets the most votes will do as much good for all of us as possible.

And maybe, just maybe, those football restrictions will be lifted before too long and we’ll have another mild winter.

Larry Hypes is a teacher at Tazewell High School and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph.


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