Too often it is easily taken for granted certain life ‘luxuries’ that should otherwise be considered necessities—electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, and surviving without the limits of poverty. I am always agog when I hear the rich say, ‘Well, I worked hard for my money,’ as if to imply those who undergo poverty don’t work hard. Rather, those who struggle are often stuck in dead end jobs, remain prisoners of their town, and then there are the coal miners who undergo a daily suffering on another level altogether—long hours, low wages, black lung disease, and daily dangers are just some of the problems, not excluding their meager means of living—no decent home with clean, comfortable rooms and a bath. ‘Why don’t they just get out and leave?’ someone might ask. Well, without the financial resources, there is not much freedom for those living on meager wages.
Barbara Kopple’s Harlan County, USA is a must-see documentary that showcases the seminal moment when the Harlan Kentucky coal miners joined the United Mine Workers of America, only to have Duke Power Company refuse to sign. Thus came the strike and the picket line. And that is what this film is about—commiseration, unity, fairness, and joining together for a greater good. The many little Davids who must stand up to this impending Goliath who, with its ‘electricity burning over there—there’s someone dying everyday for it.’ […]