Dear Liberals,

I have a small request. Can your foot soldiers stop using my small Appalachian town as an easy target for your drive-by virtue signaling?

Listen, I get it. You think we’re uneducated, repressed, and backward. “If only the poor mountain folk knew the ways of the world,” you pine. Well, pine for it all you want, but this is Trump Country for a reason. And while I’m sorry that goes against the “we need to get back to normal” narrative, where normal means a glossy television speech and empty political promises, it’s not going away.

You think we need help, reform even — looking at you, AOC. In your minds, we’re racist bigots with nothing but the Confederate flag in our hearts, and gosh darn it, it’s your job to show us the error in our ways. If only we could see the great big world outside of our holler. If only you could help us, we’d see how we are deplorable, useless, and detrimental to the new vision of America.

Want to hear something even richer? Some of the malleable millennials with roots deep in Appalachia like to lecture those of us that love it here. They preach, no, screech, their indoctrination in the face of their parents, grandparents, and every Facebook friend.

They’ve never even lived outside of the state, let alone immersed themselves in another culture. Those that have left, do the same, while blissfully ignoring the shortcomings of other regions. “The imbeciles in Appalachia just don’t know they’re wrong,” you think. “We must educate them!”

See, that’s the problem. That’s what one side of the political spectrum has been pedaling like a desperate salesman since coming down with Trump Derangement Syndrome. And it’s not about Trump, contrary to your limited beliefs. It’s about what you’re steamrolling over, Christian, conservative values.

Now, we’re used to stereotypes in my neck of the woods. We’re subject to it, even at the hands of the self-professed woke culture gods. Hell, when I go on vacation, I always run into someone that doesn’t even realize West Virginia isn’t the western part of Virginia. They’re equally surprised that I have teeth and can read and write.

We’re just an underfunded, underrepresented, oddity that doesn’t quite fit into the North or the South. We also don’t fit into your portrait of white privilege. I’ve worked in public schools. I’ve done home visits. Kids are living in poverty, bludgeoned by the opioid crisis, while our taxes go to fund Pakistani gender studies. I guess that makes sense to you.

However, it may surprise you to learn that despite your willful ignorance of our affairs, there’s a hidden comradery in Appalachia, regardless of race or belief systems, for those willing to embrace it. It’s because we’re all mountaineers, equally disadvantaged by the times that have forgotten us.

And yet, you and your social justice warriors attempt to drive wedges into the wide spectrum of people that call these West Virginia hills their home. You use phrases like, “If you’ve never left your hometown”…Then, you can’t comment on BLM, society, policies, etc. To hear you tell it, we know nothing of the world, its struggle, its poverty, its judgment.

But oh wait, that’s pretty similar to what all people, black, white, and brown have experienced in West Virginia for generations. We’ve been the butt of every joke, the dirt that America sweeps under the rug, and the dirty little secret that certain chemical companies like to ignore, but I digress.

“Educate yourself,” you say. It’s a default argument for you and undermines the possibility of debate because once you’ve established that your opponent is “dumb,” your mind is closed. The minds of listeners are closed. You’ve succeeded but only by falling back on cowardice. Even if we do speak up, you’ve established that any response we may have is unfounded, based on fantasy because we’re not capable of understanding the world.

Race, sexuality, gender identity, masks. You prey on us for any infraction that will justify your screams. But, did it ever occur to you, that your outrage, censorship, and shouting into your carefully crafted echo chamber is widening the void? We see where the censorship is going. There are no brakes.

Maybe, if you paused your war campaign, you’d see that only one side is trying to suppress thoughts, speech, and lifestyles. The so-called “tolerance” and “acceptance” are only for those you deem “woke.” Is that acceptance? In trying to eliminate fascism, are you creating the fascism?

Hint: The side doing that isn’t us. It’s not Appalachia, but here we are, still getting lumped into your campaign for virtue.

Let me be clear, we’re tired of your attacks on our heritage, on our values. Do you think we can’t smell it? The smoke you’re trying to use to draw us out? You want to kill our ability to speak, conduct business, to live. People are calling for re-education, enlightenment, and extermination. We see it. But don’t worry, I won’t waste any more of your time or what’s left of my breath.

Breanna Leslie is a freelance writer from West Virginia. She’s been published in Harness Magazine, Motherscope Magazine, and a handful of literary journals.

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