Lately there has been a lot of bad news coming out of my adopted hometown, Strasburg Va. From allegations of sexual assault on a school bus 2 years ago, to having volunteer first responders allegedly being involved in having sex with a minor (currently charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor). Quite a few of my neighbors are rather embarrassed and despondent over these latest allegations and think they will forever cast a negative connotation over Strasburg.
News of the school bus assault did reach NOVA, and soon news of the fire department will reach NOVA also. And yes some of my former neighbors will talk and cackle about how Strasburg residents are little more than just a bunch of redneck idiots who gang rape anyone they can. Let these bunch of elitists talk and have their day. I am here to tell you that nothing could be farther from the truth.
I moved here by choice a few years back, and before coming here, was told by my neighbors at the time everything from how racist the Shenandoah Valley can be, to how uneducated the residents are. And every horrible thing in between you could possibly imagine.
The fact is that the people of both Shenandoah County and Strasburg in particular are quite sophisticated thinkers and very aware of what goes on in their communities. Contrary to what the “sophisticated” people of Northern Virginia will tell you, the people of Strasburg are the most welcoming people one can ever meet. I lived in Leesburg Va for several years before coming to Strasburg. None of my neighbors ever said anything to me. However on my first day here, I received no less than 25 hello’s from my new neighbors – including then Mayor Tim Taylor. In my more than 50 years on this Earth, there has never been a more friendly and community based town than Strasburg that exists. Take a look at the fire which touched one house this past Christmas weekend.
Within just a few minutes of the fire, dozens of people in Our Town were coming up with different ways to help the family. If such a tragedy happened in NOVA, the family likely would have been left to fend for themselves. A similar event happened to one of my neighbors in Leesburg about 12-13 years ago. Their house burned down and they lost all their possessions. The family that lost their house was quite popular in the neighborhood – went to all the right parties, knew all the “right people”. Yet when they needed help the most, no one was there to help them – no one took a few minutes out of their day to offer a kind word or clothes or a place to stay. NOVA residents depend too much on government assistance, even those who can fend for themselves or have enough to assist others.
Most Northern Virginians and Washington DC Metropolitan area residents have very little idea what occurs in their own communities. Far too many elected officials in the DC area don’t mingle with anyone who is not a government employee or fat cat donor. Most Arlington residents can’t vote without a “sample ballot” as they have no idea who their elected officials are. As the former Vice Chair of the Arlington GOP, this was a running joke among political activists of both parties. Not so in Strasburg. Here our Council members and our local politicians, for the most part, are well known in the community and are out at local events as often as possible. This is because the average resident of Our Town, be they D or R, understands that the politicians work for us, not the other way around.
For all the talk of racist attitudes and such among supposed “white rednecks” I have noticed little racism. You can take a look at my name and see that I’m not a WASP (aka not a white guy) and that’s ok by me, I like being my particular skin color. No one in Strasburg really seems to care what my coloring or ethnicity is. Most of them think I’m a decent guy, and I feel the same about pretty much everyone in Strasburg. In NOVA I’m classified as an “Afghan American” (something which I take exception to seeing as I was born in Washington DC and moved to Virginia in my first week of life and have no real connection to Afghan culture), but that’s how elitists think and feel. Everyone needs to be grouped into a racial or ethnic box so that no one’s feelings are hurt. Never mind that doing so is rather divisive. In NOVA, people are afraid to have real differences of opinion because they’re afraid of being labeled as a “bully” or a “hater”. Here in Strasburg you see real differences of opinion and debate. Some of it is childish yes – but at least people can talk and express an opinion without fear of being ostracized by the community.
The residents of Strasburg have a sophistication which is not easily noticeable to the elitists who live in NOVA and who think they run this country. But it is evident to anyone who has an open mind and isn’t polluted by PC thinking can see that the good people of Strasburg are intelligent people with an innate common sense, and who have a great appreciation for our collective history.
Someone very close to me lives in Arlington, and he voted for Trump. He’s afraid to say this to his neighbors because he does not need the grief. However I’ve sat with Trump opponents who wear T shirts saying “MAKE AMERICA THINK AGAIN” while also sitting at the table are those wearing hats saying MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”. And we’re all smiling and laughing and joking (I was wearing a pro Trump T shirt while sitting at this restaurant table). We disagree, and disagree vehemently, but understand that others may have a difference of opinion and that does not make them bad people – something lost on the “elitists in NOVA”. Is everyone in Strasburg like this? Of course not. You have drama queens and kooks wherever you go. And I have had to avoid talking to certain persons over political disagreements because they can’t handle any opinions other than their own. But this number would be 20-50 times higher in NOVA.
During Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 Valley Campaign, a Union Chaplain in the 2nd Massachusetts said of Strasburg that “it is the dirtiest, nastiest, meanest, poorest, and the most shiftless town I have yet seen in all the shiftless, poor, mean, nasty, dirty towns of this beautiful Valley”. The Chaplain was wrong then, and those who doubt the resolve of Our Town are wrong today. The firemen who were accused of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” will be judged by a jury of their peers, and all the facts will come out. Until then it’s best I don’t comment as we don’t have all the relevant facts. In a year or so, this will be a bad dream. We will rebound, we will do just fine. Does this town have issues? Yes. And some of the problems are not easily solvable. However given the love of community of my neighbors and the knowing of our collective history, I have no doubt that Strasburg will do just fine. And to those of you who are upset over the negative connotations which will come – don’t get upset over what a group of elitists will think of you. They’d look down on us no matter what. Because they don’t have our sophistication and natural charm and tact.