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Seeing the Old Dominion (Virginia that is) – 46 Days

I had every intention to be camping right now but a wrong turn found me driving narrow, winding country roads as the sky flared in the pink and pale orange of sunset.

So instead I’m drinking cheap beer in an overpriced motel room outside of Appomattox watching an episode of The Andy Griffith Show I’ve never seen before – do you remember Aunt Bea investing in a Chinese restaurant?

The tag line of Appomattox County is “where our nation reunited”.

But did it? Did the United States ever really reunite after the Civil War? Was in united before?

I left my deep blue corner of Virginia this morning and am now well into blood red Trump territory.

My first stop was Manassas National Battlefield. For those of us raised in the North this is known at Bull Run. That’s right, the South and North still have different nomenclature for battlefield sites.

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I’m travelling with the Smithsonian Guild to Historic America. The Smithsonian museums are the national museums of the United States. The index of the guide doesn’t list Manassas, only Bull Run – but the page is question is titled “Manassas National Battlefield”.

Not long after I left the battlefield I passed this gun shop with a large Trump-Pence sign. I’ve since seen them everywhere.

Uh, yup.
Uh, yup.

People, where I’ve encountered them, have been very nice, very polite – but, you know, they scare the hell out of me – the white ones anyway. Obviously not all white people in this part of the state will be voting for Trump – I get that, and am happy that that is so. But a lot of them are and a lot of them are armed. I don’t know – the place freaks me out.

Later in the day I visited Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. I toured the house and caught up with the last “Slavery at Monticello” tour of the day.

I was struck by the idea of Jefferson as encapsulating the contradictions of America. He was a brilliant innovative, revolutionary; he was an arrogant white supremacist; he owned of some 600 slaves including his … lover? Partner? Wife in all but name? Sex slave – whatever else Sally Hemmings was, she was definitely his sex slave. He owned her and had sex with her.

I learned today he likened freeing slaves to leaving children in the wilderness. He sold a 13-year-old boy to a place so distant that he was as if dead to all who knew him. He did this as punishment and to terrorise others. He did that more than once.

“We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …” he wrote.

I don’t know. Virginia. America. You do my head in.

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