How We Talk Can Be As Important As the Problems We Talk About

By Kathy Mattea
Kathy Mattea is a Grammy-Award winning country singer and songwriter whose most recent album, “Coal” was inspired by the Sago Mine Disaster of 2006. See

I have come to believe that the future of Appalachia’s environment is directly related to the level of discourse we are able to have about the unique challenges faced there. Having become somewhat more educated in the past year about the various agendas, I have come to the conclusion that in order to get to a real solution, something tangible and workable, we must first take our focus away from the “problem” and begin to look at HOW we discuss the situation, even through the sense of urgency we may have.

Over and over I ask myself, “Do you want to be ‘right’, or do you want to add something of real value to this dialogue?”

My “inner diva” wants to be a podium-pounder.

My ego wants to be a hero.

I have an urge to jump in there and DO something. My greater challenge is to sit still and let my action rise up from a place of deep stillness.

Make no mistake about it: I have strong opinions about my beloved mountains, and the people who live there. I have moments when I want to throw a chair through the window of my office. But deep down, I can find no part of me that believes that adding one more strident voice to the din is ultimately going to be of service here.

What do we say when the laws themselves are unjust? How do we stand and give voice to the powerless without adding violence to violence? It is a razor’s edge, the difference between force and violence. But I believe that when I stand up and say “I can’t let you do this to me any more,” it is a gift not just to myself, but one that ripples in every direction.

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