August 11, 2017 Read More →

IEEFA Update: U.S. Coal Country Candor—What Would Raylan Givens Do?

Justice Prevailed on ‘Justified.’ But Only Because Somebody Stood Up for It.

What becomes now of the America of straight-talking, tough-but-fair Deputy U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, the hero (and sometimes anti-hero) of the late great Elmore Leonard?

Givens was the central character in the AMC show “Justified,” a series that ran for six strong seasons before ending in 2015. It was built largely off a classic Leonard short story called “Fire in the Hole,” and it depicts an old-fashioned approach to law and order that emphasizes, well, justice, in a time and place shaped too much by social and economic injustice.

Raylan, as the story unfolds, has been away from Kentucky’s coal country for some time but is drawn back by circumstance and work. He sees upon his return as an adult that things haven’t changed much since his youth. The economy is bad, the coal companies are venal, most people are upstanding and virtuous but the little guy still seems to lose more than he wins. Might triumphs a lot over right. There’s hope, but not enough of it sometimes, and despair carries the day more than it should.

But wait, what’s Raylan Givens got to do with the real world?

Only in his guiding principal—that justice is not an impractical dream or desire, even if it’s not always what the most powerful vested interests want.

WHICH IS THE GIST OF THE EDITORIAL PUBLISHED THIS MORNING by the Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, Colo., “Help for Coal Country Addresses Tough Truth.

Grand Junction is not in Harlan County, obviously, but it is in the middle of another American coal-mining region suffering the economic effects of a broad energy industry transition in progress as U.S. utilities move steadily away from coal-fired power.

The editorial, as editorials should, states and explains the reality of what’s happening.

In saying that it is “important for someone to counter the fiction that Trump can resurrect jobs within the industry,” it gives a deserved nod to Sen. Michael Bennett for introducing the Coal Community Empowerment Act, “which would encourage investment and retraining intended to help coal-reliant communities diversify their economies.”

The act “addresses a reality that’s been glossed over by the current political climate: coal jobs are disappearing and they aren’t coming back regardless of the regulatory environment.”

The newspaper notes pragmatically that 5 Colorado counties—Gunnison, Las Animas, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt—would be among the 90 that would benefit from the sort of federal investment that the legislation calls for across a huge swath of America to which Donald Trump has promised much but given nothing.

“Coal country has played a major role in the success of our state and our nation,” the Daily Sentinel adds. “We can’t discard the communities built by coal whose future now hangs by a thread. Let’s give them a chance to prosper in new ways.”

This is an honest and practical assessment—contrary to what we’ve gotten used to hearing lately from the corridors of the status quo (see the latest, for instance, from West Virginia’s malaproposly-named Gov. Jim Justice)—the kind of tough, straight talk Raylan Givens could and would use to good effect, in his world and this one too.

Karl Cates is IEEFA’s director of media relations.


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