Anger. Fury. Outrage.
These are just a few words that describe my feelings at this moment.
Typically, when I am feeling intense emotion about a particular subject, I find it best to back away from my computer. To steer clear of my blog, Twitter, Facebook … anywhere that I might say something I might later regret.
Not this time.
This time, I am harnessing my feelings, making sure that my absolute white-hot rage is captured.
As many of you may know, I live in the beautiful state of West Virginia. I didn’t grow up here, but it’s become my home. It is the place where I’ve chosen to raise my children. It is one of the most indescribably lovely places on Earth (when John Denver describes it as “almost Heaven”, there’s a reason). I love my new home state and I am very, very proud to live here.
So, when I hear someone disparaging it, I tend to get a little upset. Imagine my shock and outright indignation when I read the following “news” item, bearing the heading “West Virginia Discovers The Internet” from NBC Washington’s Chris Needham:
Now the news that West Virginia has put a whole bunch of its important vital records on the Internet certainly raises the possibility of all kinds of cheap shots at our yokel neighbors to the West.
But that’d be completely unfair, a gross stereotype about our neighbors’ tar-paper shacks, which probably don’t even have enough electricity to power a Commodore anyway.
But if they did have one, they’d be able to log on to the new Web site and do all kinds of research, says the Herald-Mail. Here, for example, is a listing of all the birth certificates for people named Cletus. Here’s a listing of all the Twittys who’ve died in the state. And here’s a listing of all the weddings in the state where both the bride and the groom had the last name “Smith.”
Isn’t it enough that they have to poop in their backyard, running through the cold, fearing that the trap door on their red flannel pajamas should pop open early, exposing their nether regions to the bite of the winds? Why do we have to make fun of them for their misfortune?
So we won’t.
The site has all the data they have that’s legally shareable. Birth certificates can’t be shared for 100 years; death certificates are on ice for 50. Records from the Civil War aren’t available, as well as a few gaps where fire or flood took out a courthouse or two.
But if you’ve ever wondered what Hank Williams’ death registry looks like (you can put your hand down), now you can die happy. (And have someone from WV look at it 50 years later, once the Internet finally comes to the state.)
Yokels? Outhouses? Inbreeding? Seriously?
It’s unclear whether Mr. Needham was attempting satire or whether he actually believes the stereotypes (not one of which he missed, by the way) that he was spewing in his article news written excrement. One thing is certain, however. Mr. Needham’s piece is blatantly offensive. He has made sweeping generalizations about an entire body of people. About a place of which he clearly knows nothing.
Each and every state in our union has its share of poverty. Each has stereotypes with which it deals on a daily basis. For West Virginia to be singled out time and again is wholly unacceptable. That a major news outlet felt that posting this article was OK is patently offensive.
NBC Washington, and Mr. Needham himself, should not only make a full retraction (sorry, folks, removing the post from your website isn’t enough), but shout an apology from the rooftops.
I am proud of West Virginia. I am proud to be raising my family here. I am proud to call it my home.