I was going to let the George Allen thing die, maybe even talk about how this is the sort of stupid thing that people obsessed with prejudice blow way out of proportion, but I saw this and it actually made me angry (I know it probably seems like I’m always angry, but this really bothered me for some reason):
In singling out the Webb campaign’s cameraman, I was trying to make the point that Jim Webb had never been to that part of Virginia â€“ and I encouraged him to bring the tape back to Jim and welcome him to the real world of Virginia and America, outside the Beltway, where he has rarely visited. I also made up a nickname for the cameraman, which was in no way intended to be racially derogatory. Any insinuations to the contrary are completely false.
This is a scurrilous claim about Jim Webb. Not only has the man been outside the Beltway throughout Virginia, but he’s been a veteran and a decorated war hero. And where was this place that Jim Webb had supposedly never been? Breaks Interstate Park, a bit north of I-64 near Waynesboro, which is probably about as rural and off the beaten path as George Allen has been in years. I wonder if George Allen has ever been up in the Appalachians much at all, or if he’s often been down in the tobacco country of the Southside–that’s the “real world of Virginia.” Since he didn’t even live in Virginia until he was a teenager, and only then in the Washington area, I find it hard to believe that he wants to make this into an issue of who the one with the deeper roots in Virginia is.
As this excerpt from Born Fighting, his book on the Scots-Irish–Jim Webb’s people–ought to show, he understands more at a visceral level about the “real world of Virginia,” the Valley and the “mountain people” of the Appalachians than George Allen the Californian will ever know. Here’s a taste of it:
The mountains are beautiful, smoky from the haze that the sun makes when it burns into the pine. My mind plays tricks. I tell myself that I’ve been right over there, once upon a time, or at least my blood has, taking water straight from a stream and staring out into the wild unknown, dreaming of the majestic deliverance that must be just over the next horizon, hiding in a valley that no white man has ever seen before. Or maybe the next horizon, or the next one, or the next one after that….
…From Gate City, I follow narrow, winding roads along rushing streambeds and past small frame houses built at the bottom of the ridges. The mountains loom above me. Trucks are parked along the roads. Little wooden footbridges cross the streams, leading to the front doors of the houses. American flags are frequent, on the trucks and in the yards and on the porches. America got bombed and mountain people don’t forget, even if it happened in New York and Washington, because when it comes to fighting wars, mountain people have always been among the first to go….
…On top of the mountain the wind, heavy with oxygen, hits my face. I look over at the deep green waves of mountains that surround me, thinking on the one hand that it reminds me of being in the open sea, and on the other that I can now see all the way to Tennessee. And I know this is what my ancestors must have thought as well. Another mountain, and then another. Why should I stop here? And I think not only of my great-great-grandparents lying underneath my very feet, but of all the others who made me, whose lives passed through these mountains and others just like them to the north and south. Perhaps they were brave. Perhaps they were merely desperate. But they were daredevils, not only to have shown up, but also to have had the courage to leave.
When Webb was inside the Beltway, he was working for that classic Hollywood left-winger Ronald Reagan. Anybody who has lived very long in rural Virginia knows that it is Democrats like Jim Webb who represent the people, the real people of Virginia, and not some perfumed Senator who has always lived in the D.C. suburbs of NOVA, which, as any good Virginian could tell you, isn’t really Virginia anyway.
Here is an excerpt from Jim Antle’s excellent article on Jim Webb in The American Conservative:
Webb’s biography is impressive enough to make all this praise seem less hyperbolic. A 1968 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was a varsity boxer, he served as a Marine officer in Vietnam. Twice wounded, he earned the Navy Cross, the Silver Star medal, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. Webb went on to collect a law degree from Georgetown, serve as counsel to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, receive appointments as assistant defense secretary and secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, win an Emmy Award, and pen six bestselling novels.
What has George Allen accomplished by comparison? He has proven himself expert at two things: getting elected, and supporting Mr. Bush’s illegal, unjust war. Come home, Virginia. Vote for Webb.
Update: Here are some of Jim Webb’s fine words on his Confederate ancestors, the duties of soldiers and the cause of the Confederacy:
I am not here to apologize for why they fought, although modern historians might contemplate that there truly were different perceptions in the North and South about those reasons, and that most Southern soldiers viewed the driving issue to be sovereignty rather than slavery. In 1860 fewer than five percent of the people in the South owned slaves, and fewer than twenty percent were involved with slavery in any capacity. Love of the Union was palpably stronger in the South than in the North before the war — just as overt patriotism is today — but it was tempered by a strong belief that state sovereignty existed prior to the Constitution, and that it had never been surrendered. Nor had Abraham Lincoln ended slavery in Kentucky and Missouri when those border states did not secede. Perhaps all of us might reread the writings of Alexander Stephens, a brilliant attorney who opposed secession but then became Vice President of the Confederacy, making a convincing legal argument that the constitutional compact was terminable. And who wryly commented at the outset of the war that “the North today presents the spectacle of a free people having gone to war to make freemen of slaves, while all they have as yet attained is to make slaves of themselves.”
And so those of us who carry in our veins the living legacy of those times have also inherited a special burden. These men, like all soldiers, made painful choices and often paid for their loyalty with their lives. It is up to us to ensure that this ever-changing nation remembers the complexity of the issues they faced, and the incredible conditions under which they performed their duty, as they understood itâ€¦
There are at least two lessons for us to take away from such a day of remembrance. The first is one our leaders should carry next to their breasts, and contemplate every time they f ace a crisis, however small, which puts our military at risk. it should echo in their consciences, from the power of a million graves . It is simply this: You hold our soldiers’ lives in sacred trust. When a citizen has sworn to obey you, and follow your judgment, and walk onto a battlefield to defend the interests you define as worthy of his blood, do not abuse that awesome power through careless policy, unclear objectives, or inflexible leadership…
I am compelled today to remember a number of ancestors who lie in graves far away from Arlington. Two died fighting for the Confederacy — one in Virginia and the other in a prisoner camp in Illinois, after having been captured in Tennessee. Another served three years in the Virginia cavalry and survived, naming the next child to spring from his loins Robert E. Lee Webb, a name that my grandfather also held and which has passed along in bits and pieces through many others, such as my cousin, Roger Lee Webb, present today, and my son, James Robert, also presentâ€¦