Editor’s note: Dan, wife & kids have repaired to Ocean City, Md., where they are crabbing, riding the waves, sunbathing and hanging out with the world-famous Nighthawks this week. Herewith are some “greatest hits” columns until Casey returns. The following column ran April 12 and prompted a report by WSLS Channel 10 News. It also prompted this follow-up.
Hi! My name is Graham Smith and I need help with my state report. I am in fourth grade and my school is in Massachusetts. I’ve been so lucky to get the wonderful state of Virginia. I am so excited to learn more about the Old Dominion state so please help me!
Most of the stuff we use to learn about the state is kind of lame so I want some really cool stuff to learn about your amazing state. Some of the things that would be nice to get is, this newspaper article, little souvenirs, post cards, maps, pictures, general information, or any other items would be useful. Nothing alive or that can rot. Thank you for all your help.
Ms. Collins’ Class
Wellesley, Mass. 02481
Thank you for asking. You are right to be thrilled with your assignment, because the Old Dominion is indeed an amazing state.
I’ve lived here almost 17 years, and it still amazes me every day. I promise that none of what follows will be lame. Or rotting.
Virginia has only one ‘G’ in it, but there are three Gs that are very important down here. The first two are God and guns. Most people love both.
It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that in Roanoke, there’s a church on almost every street corner. The worst traffic in town is on Sundays after services let out.
It would be a stretch to say there’s a gun store on every street corner. But just about anyone can legally walk around almost anywhere in Virginia with a gun that’s in plain view. The right to hunt is in our constitution.
Since July 1, Virginia has allowed concealed guns in bars, and just last week our attorney general ruled that carrying a concealed gun is OK in church. You need a permit to carry a concealed handgun, of course, but those are ridiculously easy to get. You can get one even if you’ve never touched a gun in your life.
The third ‘G’ is for gays. Many people in Virginia do not love them. Unlike Massachusetts, gays can’t marry in Virginia.
They’re also barred by the Virginia constitution from entering into marriage-like contracts. Even Utah allows those.
It’s also legal in Virginia to discriminate against gays in other ways. Some state universities had policies barring job discrimination against gays. But our attorney general wrote those colleges stern letters warning that those policies are unlawful.
It’s OK for gays to own guns, though — at least so far.
Next we will tackle the Civil War, which is a big deal here. As you may know, our state capital, Richmond, was also capital of the Confederacy.
Your Yankee teachers may have taught you the Civil War is over. That is not quite accurate. Down here, many folks are still fuming about it, 150 years later. Some still call it “the War of Northern Aggression,” spurred by Massachusetts businessmen who were jealous about the South’s inexpensive labor.
They will argue forever that the war was all about states’ rights rather than slavery.
Like in Massachusetts, there’s a lot of scientific research down here, especially at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
But lately, some scientists are being extra careful. They’re concerned that our attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, may investigate them for fraud if he doesn’t like their research results. He’s doing that right now with an internationally known climate scientist who moved to Penn State a long time ago.
One day, if Cuccinelli ever attains national office, he may do that in Massachusetts, too. In which case Harvard will probably move to Toronto.
Like most places, Virginia has some famous restaurants. One of the most famous is right here in Roanoke.
This landmark has only 10 seats, and it serves “chile” that is unlike any I’ve ever eaten elsewhere. Opinions of the stuff run the gamut; people feel as strongly about it as they do the the War of Northern Aggression.
The restaurant is called Texas Tavern, and I’m enclosing a TT bumper sticker, key chain, and fridge magnet for your report.
I know — it’s kind of weird that a famous Virginia restaurant is named after another state.
But hey, there’s lots that’s weird, and wonderful, about Virginia.