EDITOR: Last night I opened the Mountain Democrat to read Mr. John Garon’s letter on Boone County, Ky. I was surprised to find out that this county was the poorest in America. Boone County is located just south of Cincinnati, Ohio, and considered to be a bedroom community for employees of Cincinnati’s Fortune 1000 and Fortune 500 companies.
In 2009 the median income was $68,369 and the poverty rate was 6.4 percent. Twenty-nine point six percent of the population holds a bachelor’s degree. This is hardly the poorest county in America. Perhaps the European television crew had their geography off. Were they in Boone County, W. Va.? a? Or Owsley County, Ky., where the town of Booneville is located? Or Putnam County, Ohio, where my mother grew up, one of 12 and daughter of a Hungarian immigrant sharecropper and coal miner?
I recall vacations to Kentucky, crossing the Ohio River, and seeing the famous “Florence Y’All” water tower signaling our entrance into Boone County, Ky. These trips continued, however, to the deepest parts of Appalachia, as my father combined his coal mining sales career with our summer vacations. Traveling these mountain roads through the “hollers” was a recipe for car sickness – possibly why the European television crew settled for the relatively flat north-central part of the state where Boone County is and relied on the coverage ABC news did of Booneville in April 2012. These are some of the poorest areas of the country. Guns are a necessity; used for subsistence hunting. If you take the gun away, you take away a food source.
Mr. Garon’s depiction of the residents is patronizing, influenced by the European lens through which the story was depicted. These are proud people who are decedents of the frontiersmen and women who settled this country. They work hard, are family-oriented, believe in a moral code and in God. Is this so bad? Just because it is not the way wealthy, class-conscious Europeans live, it is still a life worth living.
The point really is, please do not rely only on what one hears/reads from television, radio, Internet, etc. Investigate. If some important facts are wrong, then others could be too or manipulated in a way as to encourage one point of view.
In this day of instant electronic news, there are many mistakes printed and never corrected. The story just disappears. Nevertheless, we rely on these stories as fact, when the only fact is the stories are yellow journalism.
Case in point: Mr. Garon states that the schools in Boone County are not worthy of Somalia. Let’s assume he means Booneville and not suburban Boone County. I visited the school’s Website and found pictures of young women on the volleyball and basketball teams and links for financial aid information for college. There is 2009 school performance data indicating while students do not perform higher than the state average, the graduation rate is 87 percent and 50 perent of the class transitions on to college or vocational training. While there is room for improvement, the statistics are meaningful given that over 90 percent of the students are considered economically disadvantaged. Meanwhile, according to UNICEF, 80 percent of the of Somali children have no access to education. There is hardly a comparison.