The Blue Ridge Caucus open thread on President Obama’s visit to Roanoke last week has received more than 100 comments as of this morning.
That’s generally a good thing: Many of you care about politics and will take to the internet to discuss, debate and argue your view point. That participation is a big part of what democracy is about.
The downside, though: There’s a lot of nastiness in that thread. Fallacious arguments, name-calling, and even a commenter who posted under dual identities in an apparent effort to create the appearance of support for his viewpoint.
Apparently there are a lot of our readers who aren’t Virginians, or who aren’t native Virginians, or who have at the very least forgotten the Virginia Way.
What is the Virginia Way? Google the term and you’ll get different versions, so it’s clearly an abstract with a specific meaning that depends on the individual.
But I like this definition from an editorial in the Crozet Gazette earlier this month:
When the editor was a boy there was still common reference to a virtue called “the Virginia Way.” It’s basically encapsulated in the University’s Honor System. The main point was to be truthful, decent, brave, polite, at all times and to all people, and never underhanded. It held out a sense of what it means to be noble.
It’s not mentioned by name, but you can also get a sense of the Virginia Way in Guy Friddell’s book “What Is It About Virginia?” and particularly this passage from a chapter called “Why They Stay”:
Virginians’ unflinching self-esteem must have prompted William Faulkner’s reply when he was asked why he became a writer in residence at the University of Virginia.
“Because I like your country, Virginia and Virginians,” he said. “Virginians are all snobs. I like snobs. A snob spends so much time being a snob he has none left to bother other people.”
The dark-eyed hunter from Mississippi roamed the Lawn for several years among the carefree, strolling youths, and on another occasion delivered another judgment.
Other Southern states, said Faulkner, are faintly ashamed when Virginia does something not in the best taste. They expect better of her, as does a child of its mother.
And while trying not to scold, I’d say that I’m proud to write for a paper in one of the most beautiful and storied parts of the country. Southwest and Southside Virginia are renowned not just for their physical beauty but for the merits of their people.
I’m proud to write for those readers and try to meet their sometimes lofty expectations of what a newspaper should be. But I also hold lofty expectations of them, especially when they bring discussion of politics to the Blue Ridge Caucus.
This election year will no doubt become more intense as summer fades into fall and Nov. 6 draws near. We welcome and encourage passionate debate over policy and politicians.
But we’d also remind our readers that we expect them not just to meet the Roanoke Times’ terms and conditions, but as Virginians — or at least readers on a Virginia-based site — we also expect you to exceed those terms and conditions and instead strive to follow the Virginia Way in being “truthful, decent, brave, polite, at all times and to all people, and never underhanded” — especially to one another.
– Mason Adams