Those early coal mines were very dangerous places. While cave-ins and explosions were risky enough, the silent danger was in the quiet air. There were no ventilation systems to pipe out pockets of dangerous gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide or methane. Miners would continue working, breathing in the bad air, eventually falling asleep -- unaware of the very real danger. The men who broke their backs to feed their families and power a nation needed help to survive.
They found it in the lowly Canary. The tiny, yellow, "American Singer" Canary, to be exact.
The Canary is not native to this continent, making them as much a working immigrant as we all are. But why was the fragile, yellow bird chosen and how did it save lives?
The American Singer Canary, as the name suggests, loves to sing. Miners would place the tiny singing bird into a cage and take it with them into the mine. Even in the darkness, when the brightness of its feathers could not longer be seen, its song would be proof that they could survive a while longer. But if it stopped singing, they knew they had only moments to make their way to safety. Grateful the happy, little bird had given its life for them.
Times have changed in the mines. Safety is priority one and new technologies exist to provide life-giving oxygen. However, West Virginia Coal Miners have not heard the canary sing in a very long time. There is a new danger in the air and like a dangerous gas, it can be hard to see or smell.
State and national leaders are selling us out while padding their pockets. We elected them to protect us, but they didn't stop singing to warn us. They began to sing a different song; a song of false security and our own demise.
We need new protectors in the West Virginia Legislature and Washington, D.C. After many years of single-party leadership, West Virginia miners have come out of the ground to clear the air. The winds of change are now blowing through the Southern West Virginia Coal Mines.
It is not about politics. It is not about unions. The canary has stopped singing its song of life, and it's time to fight for our survival.
This election, West Virginia will be making some changes.
Perhaps, we should make the little, yellow Canary our new state bird while we're at it?
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