Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Meet Virginia

Nancy Pfotenhauer, advisor to John McCain, said recently that while Northern Virginia (aka the DC suburbs) is becoming increasingly democratic, the rest of the state -- the real Virginia-- is more receptive to the McCain message. Sarah Palin sees the small town, hard working Americans as the real America -- they are full of kind, good, patriotic citizens (all of this prompted John Stewart to ask "what the p-f@#k?").

I'm off today (and the next two days, hurrah) and spent the morning watching HBO's The Laramie Project, which I saw in play-form in May. It's the story of Matthew Sheppard's murder in Laramie, Wyoming and is a very powerful project, as all of the dialogue is taken directly from interviews with townspeople. The over-riding sentiment is that this crime is not "who we are" as a town. But it was. That was the real Laramie, just as it could have been the real North Dakota, Nebraska, or yes, even the real Virginia. Several years ago now a high school boy here in Alexandria was assulted and left for dead by kids his own age in the town square. People are people, no matter where they are standing.

There is no better or worse here -- farmers aren't better than corporate executives, college chancellors aren't better than small town librarians, sheet rock hangers aren't better than migrant farm workers. Those who are gay aren't better than those who are straight, and those who "don't agree with that lifestyle" are no better than the ones with whom they don't agree.

What makes someone real is their own experience, whatever it may be. So many of the patients I see, in an attempt to get some perspective on their own new disablities, will look at someone else and say, you know, this could be worse -- there are lots of people who can't even (walk, talk, think, etc). I, probably inappropriately according to counseling etiquette, discourage them from this sentiment -- it minimizes their own experience. Sure, other people may have more difficulty with a certain task, but you never signed up for the problems you are having, and grieving that loss is important.

I drive an SUV instead of a tractor and get my coffee at Starbucks instead of the local diner, but I am a real Virginian. I have the same heartaches and worries and joys as those who live 5 hours from here -- they may take different forms, but they are mine, and they are valid.

The picture is from here, and is not at all the real Virginia but is Cape May, NJ.

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