By Mack Samples|
The folks out in Montana call their state “the last best place.” It’s a pretty accurate slogan. Montana is indeed a nice place. The western part of the state is very beautiful and the native stock Montanans are the nicest people that you would ever want to meet. If Montana is “the last best place,” then West Virginia should be designated “the last sanctuary.”
The last fifty years in America have been turbulent to say the least. The nation has suffered trials and tribulations of one sort or another since the 1960’s. The Civil Rights Movement tore some American cities apart as the white folks and the black folks painfully sorted out their differences. The Vietnam War protests got extremely ugly and turned many American college campuses into battle grounds. The 1968 Democratic Convention provided scenes that we were used to seeing on television in countries that we couldn't even pronounce. We never once dreamed of seeing such a scene in our own country. The 1970’s brought the big oil shortages and we saw pictures of folks sitting in mile long lines waiting to get a few gallons of gasoline.
Economically, we saw sky-high interest rates in the 1970’s, the savings and loan bubble in 1987, the dot.com bubble at the end of the 1990’s, and now we are experiencing what the media calls a global economic meltdown.
But if you look back over all of that, West Virginia has escaped the worst of each of those upheavals. The Civil Rights movement hardly touched our state. When the Supreme Court called for the integration of schools in 1954, West Virginia immediately complied without a ripple. We cannot be smug about that because the state had practically no racial diversity. But the fact remains, we dodged that bullet.
When the Vietnam War protests got underway on college campuses, there was very little action here in the hills. No protests in West Virginia ever made the national news. No one got beat over the head by riot police. I was in residence at both Ohio University and the University of South Carolina at the time and witnessed some pretty ugly scenes. I even got a whiff of tear gas in Columbia as I watched police break up a demonstration.
We had some gasoline shortages in West Virginia when that crisis hit, but I never saw a line with more than a few cars in it. Again, we can’t be too smug about it because of our sparse population. We did not have, and still do not have, a major metropolitan area.
What about the economic upheavals? Well, one thing is certain, they did not impact West Virginia as much as most areas. Most West Virginians did not have a million dollars to lose during the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. We have escaped the current crisis because most of us had more sense than to buy a four million dollar home with a ten thousand dollar a month payment.
The truth is, West Virginia is a good place to hide from the insanity that surfaces every now and then in our great country. It’s “the last sanctuary.” Let’s hope no one finds us.