The writer touches on a lot of things that we should probably look at it in a little more detail.
Signs of what Fayette County used to be are everywhere. On one hand, you can still see all the coke ovens, especially in the winter. Take a drive through the Leisenring/Dunbar area near Divito Park (sorry, The Ice Mine!) in the fall or winter and peek behind the rink. There's a whole long row of long-abandoned coke ovens. Connellsville has the remnants of Anchor Hocking.
You can even see it in the houses in Connellsville. So many are big brick houses that are run down now. Connellsville used to be literally full of millionaires.
We've been suffering since we lost the coal and coke industries, and it's going to take a lot of work to fix us.
Politics have always been kind of strange here, and that's just getting worse. We've been a Democrat county for a long, long time--until 2008. Many--myself included--pin this in large part on racism. Whenever I was involved in or even overheard political discussions during the campaign, the issues were never discussed. All I heard was, "Obama's a terrorist." "Obama's dad's a terrorist." "I don't want a Muslim running the country." "All he's going to do is get in there and help the blacks." I received e-mails from relatives blaming the high murder rate in Chicago on Obama, and worst of all, e-mails depicting the Obama family all as chimpanzees. I'm sure some people had legitimate reasons for disliking him, but a person's race isn't a legitimate reason. Religion isn't always much of a good one, either, even if Obama has secretly been a Muslim this whole time. Not all Muslims are terrorists, guys.
Obama did kind of do himself in here with the comment about small-town Americans clinging to their God and guns--to an extent. Half of us said, "Well, yeah. Just look around," and the other half were offended. Fayette County doesn't always seem incredibly religious, but when you take note of all the street fairs and church booths at the county fair, it becomes more obvious. As for the guns? We have a reputation for being rednecks, so there ya go.
Obama aside, though, the county does have a tendency to be socially conservative. That said, I am surprised that it seems like places like the openly gay Club 231 don't really have any trouble, so good job there, guys!
And of course, it's not an anti-Obama argument without crying socialism. No matter where you stand on the healthcare issue, it's hard to deny that a lot of people in this county could really benefit from it.
How much does it matter, though? Recent polling numbers were terrible. No one's voting here. Granted, turnout might be much more impressive for President with such strong anti-Obama sentiments, but beating previous numbers won't really be hard to do.
As for the unemployment rate, I've heard numerous times from numerous people that the problem is with the applicants--most fail drug tests. While jobs in some fields are hard to come by, there are still a fair number of openings. It helps that so many people leave the county for and after college. At the same time, I've also heard accounts of certain areas and businesses prospering due to natural-gas drilling, but that comes with potential health hazards.
There are two big takeaways here:
During the era of King Coal, trolley cars linked the patches and you could zig-zag by rail all the way to Pittsburgh. The steel mills on the Monongahela River were fueled by the coke.WHAT!? That sounds so awesome! See what happens when you destroy a major industry? You get the FACT bus and you lose the ability to publicly snake through the patches.
“We’re getting an Olive Garden,” he says, and laughs. “We’ve made it.”WHAT!? Since this is in the Washington Post, I'm gonna believe it. And yet, rumors of an Olive Garden have been circulating for at least 10 years...so I'll remain skeptical. I'll believe it when I'm stuffing my face full of breadsticks.
That statement, though, says more than the entire article in some ways about Fayette County. We actually do have a lot of restaurants, mostly in Uniontown, but we don't have something as simple as a massive Italian chain. Even in jest, many of us measure Fayette County's success by its businesses, and so Olive Garden coming in is a big deal. Finally, an Olive Garden! It symbolizes progress. It's going to take a lot more than an Olive Garden to fix us, but you know things are bad when that's still something with celebrating.