Fridays at 7:41 A.M. were punctuated by the side eye of my neighbor trying to take out the trash. The twang of Bluegrass Junction apparently warmed all cars but only some hearts. Fridays at 7:44 A.M. were marked by the palpable relief in finding a clear stretch of road after waging the war against school traffic. Fridays at 7:56 A.M. were marked by knowing I betrayed Stephen Foster who told ladies to weep no more; I wept for my old Kentucky home during every 27 minute commute to Frankfort.

It started the day Ralph Stanley died. The harmonies of Alison Krauss were replaced by the croons of a caller from Texas. After the fifth caller, “Kentucky Shine” moseyed its way into the hearts of men over the age of seventy and one out of place seventeen-year-old girl.

The regular hum of the capitol greeted me with the warm buzz of copiers, the sweet clack of shoes in hallways, and the muffled conversations behind thick wooden doors. My eyes fixate on a quilt – the literal fabric of Kentucky. Every county has a square and is united by a stitch only a loving grandmother could make so neat.

This fabric is slowly breaking at the seams, and it’s hard to see from 426 miles away. Over the last two weeks, it has been heard.

On February 22nd, Senator McConnell attended the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce luncheon and met with fifty constituents. One thousand other constituents greeted him outside with chants of, “No ban, no wall, Mitch McConnell take our call.” There were questions about education. There were questions about healthcare. And then, there was a question about coal. A woman from my hometown, Ms. Rose Mudd Perkins, said “The last I heard, these coal jobs are not coming back and now these people don’t have the insurance they need because they’re poor. And they work those coal mines, and they’re sick, the veterans are sick, the veterans are broken down, they’re not getting what they need. If you can answer any of that, I’ll sit down and shut up like Elizabeth Warren.”

Her question was ignored, as McConnell only replied “Winners make policy. Losers go home.”

Senator McConnell, winners need to go home too. The pulse of the Commonwealth is shifting. It is elevated from the fear of a tomorrow where 300,000 Kentuckians could lose their insurance and another 6,371 could lose their jobs in coal country. 695 of your constituents in Louisville overdosed on heroin in January. 233,294 children that share this old Kentucky home with you live in poverty.

Your answering machines are full. Your town halls are few. Your constituents desperately need you to listen. Trust us; no grandmother wants to yell at a private luncheon thirty miles away and be escorted out by a 6’5” security guard. But at this moment, we don’t know how else to make ourselves heard.

If you ever want to listen to Ralph Stanley together, just name a place and a time. I’ll be there.

Skip to toolbar