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Reality TV's 'hick hunt' and the Appalachian truth

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CBS is scouring my Kentucky county for "The Real Beverly Hillbillies." Evidently, CBS's CEO Les Moonves thinks families who have struggled with poverty for generations and overcome obstacles for survival that would make most urban Americans cringe is good comedy. I am saddened by his assumption that anyone would think this is entertainment.

In the new world of reality TV, I guess you could call my life "The Real Green Acres." About 12 years ago, I moved from Palm Beach County, Fla. to Perry County, Ky. Unlike so many people before me, I didn't move here to save Appalachia. I moved here so Appalachia could save me. I came here to find a community of hard-working folks who cared not only about themselves, but also about on another.

I came here to live in a place where a modest wage will support a modest lifestyle. I came here so my children could go to a school where everybody knows everybody and the principal calls you at home when they aren't there. I came here to breathe clean air. I came looking for my own personal Camelot and I found it.

Appalachia, just like most of rural America, has all of the same maladies you find in the city. There is homelessness, which occasionally appears similar to that in urban areas - people sleeping on the street, under the bridge, in the car. But rural homelessness here is more often hidden, experienced by families living in severely substandard housing; families doubled and tripled up so no one is left on their own to freeze.

There is hunger, sometimes experienced by children from homes with no food or potable water. But mostly hunger is hidden, experienced by families whose wages are so low that an inordinate number of them survive on food stamps, gardening, and sharing. And there is drug abuse in Appalachia. Yes, some people sell meth or crack on Main Street, but more often, people overuse prescription drugs to combat depression and boredom.


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