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Chances are that an art museum, symphony hall, university building, or other public ediface in your area is emblazoned with the name of some prominent rich man. His name is up there in shiny brass, we’re told, because he’s a model citizen for all to emulate.
Of course, we know that his name is there only because he’s richer than Zeus and gave a bale of money to get the institution to immortalize him in brick and brass. And don’t even ask what he did to get so rich.
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The real model citizens, in my view, are not those who are publicly glorified, but regular folks across our land who rise up against greed and injustice, usually fighting with no public acclaim. Ironically, they’re often battling injustices perpetrated by the very same rich men whose names are so garishly splashed across our public buildings.
Sadly, we recently lost one model citizen with the death of Judy Bonds, a spirited woman from Marfork Hollow, down in the coalfields of West Virginia. Forced out of her ancestral home a decade ago by the profiteering barons of mountaintop stripmining, Judy became the barons’ worst nightmare: an enraged, fearless, knowledgeable, determined, and eloquent grassroots activist.
From the hollers of Appalachia to the halls of Congress, from town meetings to university lecture halls, this tireless champion of environmental justice took Appalachia’s dirty secret – the grotesque destruction that coal company greed is wreaking on the mountains, streams, and people there – into the national spotlight. Passionate, funny, and inspiring, Bonds was know as the Hillbilly Moses, rallying local coalitions to battle the greed and galvanizing a national movement to stop the ravages of mountaintop removal.
Judy’s gone, but her spirit lives on in the movement she built. To connect with it, go to Coal River Mountain Watch at www.crmw.net.
“Thousands Mourn the Loss of Judy Bonds, Leader in the Fight Against Mountaintop Removal Mining,” www.alternet.org, January 4, 2011.