Lovettsville, my home, is the northernmost town of any significant size in Virginia. It was settled by Pennsylvania Dutch émigrés whose religion and culture abhorred slavery, and their orientation was always northward toward Philadelphia. During the run-up to the Civil War, in the statewide referendum on secession in the spring of 1861, the town voted in a ratio of 90% against it.
Some eight miles to the south, the town of Hillsboro voted in almost exactly the same proportion in favor.
The only military unit raised in Virginia to fight for the Union, the Loudoun Rangers, was mainly manned by men from Lovettsville and from Waterford, a nearby town founded by Quakers.
Their loyalty to the Union caused them great distress during the Recent Unpleasantness; seen as traitors by their neighbors, they were raided and hounded by John Mosby and his cohort. There are few barns older than 1864, because most of them were immolated during that year's Burning Raid.
All of this is by way of setting the scene for a couple of things that happened this weekend.
At my son's soccer game Saturday, I noticed a girl wearing a warmup jacket emblazoned on the back with a large soccer ball and the legend "The Lovettsville Freedom." Notwithstanding my distaste for sports teams named after singular nouns (the Utah Jazz being the most ludicrous example), I couldn't help wondering if the Lovettsville Freedom didn't perhaps have a fierce cross-county rivalry with their neighbors to the south, the Purcellville Slavery.
The other incident was more troubling. I helped out at a local event at which a raffle was held. As the winning tickets were picked at the end of the event, when many of the ticketholders had packed up and gone home, I volunteered to call the winners, who'd left phone numbers on their tickets. One of the folks I called wasn't home, and I left a message on her machine. Not long thereafter, her sister came and picked up the item.
An hour or so later, my cell phone rang. The voice at the other end had a Southern accent so thick and so quickly spoken that I couldn't understand her. She was quite agitated about something, but it took me a good long while to make out exactly what. After several requests for repetition and silences on my end while I tried to think, it became apparent that she'd been given an item that she hadn't actually bought a ticket for.
Now, why this would upset someone quite this much I don't know -- it seemed to me that winning a raffle item you didn't bid on would be something of a windfall, an unexpected gift; and if you don't like it, well, that's why God made trash cans.
I offered to come pick up the item -- I still don't know what the hell it was -- but she then demurred and allowed that she thought she'd keep it after all.
Then she became a little sheepish and apologetic, and regretted making the call in the first place. (I'm not prepared to swear that Demon Rum was a thousand miles away from this conversation.) Then she dropped the bomb:
"I swear, I bet when you hang up you're gonna call me everything but a white woman."
I mean, what the fuck!?
I suppose in these waning days of the Imus Incident it's just terribly naive of me to be shocked by someone's casual racism. That's always something that happens elsewhere, and not in my sheltered, bourgeois life. But it's abundantly clear that we are eons away from coming to terms with the ugliness of slavery. Having lived in other countries in my youth, I also know that other people are just as awful as we are: Some of the ugliest, most hateful language I've ever heard came out of the mouth of a lifelong resident of Stockholm. Then, of course, there was that whole Hitler thing.
But I think the thing that most shocked me was this woman's clear implication that I wouldn't be offended by something as casually ugly as that. She had no idea who was on the other end of the line -- I do have a Tragically White voice, it's true, but I could have been anybody.
See, this is why I don't like people, why I'm such a hermit, why I live in a clearing in a forest on the side of a mountain. You think you're prepared to deal with just about anything, and then suddenly bam! Somebody drops this shit on you, and you get depressed and angry and want to go hide under the bed.
Go away. I'm not home.