The culture war comes to the Old Dominion
Since 1969, "Virginia Is for Lovers" has been the tourism and travel slogan of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Advertising Age called it "one of the most iconic ad campaigns in the past 50 years."
But the Virginia of 2020 seems to be another country than the friendly commonwealth to which this writer moved four decades ago.
Charlottesville, home to Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia, has become famous as the site of a 2017 Klan-Nazi clash with antifa over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a municipal park. During the clash, protester Heather Heyer was run over and killed.
There followed the inauguration of a new Democratic Governor, Ralph Northam, in 2018 and a new attorney general. Both, it was learned, had masqueraded in blackface in their college days. And two women accused their colleague, new Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, with rape.
Resignations were demanded. But all three hunkered down, and the crisis abated. Now a new cultural issue has emerged.
First-term Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, from the D.C. suburbs, has denounced Virginia's representation in the U.S. Capitol by statues of George Washington in the Rotunda and Robert E. Lee in the crypt a floor below. Both statues have represented Virginia for more than a century.
Wexton wants Lee replaced by an African American hero from a list that she and Rep. A. Donald McEachin reportedly submitted.
Two names on their list are unfamiliar figures from the desegregation days of the 1950s. The third is better known: Nat Turner.
In "The Americans: A Social History of the United States," published in 1969, author J. C. Furnas describes the deeds of the man Wexton and McEachin would be pleased to see replace Robert E. Lee:
"In August 1831, Nat Turner, paranoid slave preacher and cunjur man, led his superstition-fuddled followers to kill fifty-five whites of all sexes and ages in an aimless terrorizing of Southhampton County in the southeastern corner of Virginia.