On Wednesday, May 8, Charlottesville’s tourism bureau launched its “More to C” campaign. The message of this promotion is that there is much more to the town and surrounding Albemarle County than what has been enshrined in local memory as “The Violent Unite the Right! Rally” of August 12, 2017. But while the town pays consultants and contractors to launder that bloody shirt, it remains the focus of all local culture and politics. In fact, addressing racism, victimization, diversity, and inclusion has become the central purpose of local government. All else is secondary in Charlottesville.
The town seems afflicted by a form of mass paranoia with its attendant mistrust, hypervigilance, difficulty with forgiveness, defensive attitude in response to imagined criticism, and preoccupation with hidden motives. Factitious disorder, which involves making up or exaggerating grave symptoms in others, also comes to mind when observing local government antics. ”More to C?” What about “Reach out and accuse someone?” Or “Not your racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynist father’s Charlottesville.”
Not very long ago, Charlottesville hired a new police chief to replace the designated fall-guy for the Unite the Right! rally. In light of her preferred form of address, Dr. RaShall Brackney has an advanced degree in some field, presumably one having something to do with law enforcement. This high level of educational attainment, in conjunction with the fact that she gender identifies as a woman, ditto black, and her demure demeanor, all indicate she is unlikely ever to have ridden with a white supremacist biker gang. Within any reasonable intersectionality scale, she is tops. Nonetheless, in one manifestation of the madness, Charlottesville’s progressives are giving her a hard time. Specifically, she is charged by eager busybodies with the outrage of not making herself available for what is the alpha and omega of all Charlottesville governmental activity – a meeting to establish new rules and procedures – in this case for ferreting out and punishing police perfidy. You see, Dr. Chief, meeting or no meeting, review board or no review board, there is no amount of sensitivity, or paeans to diversity and inclusion, that will keep the permanently aggrieved at bay for long in a town unhinged.
Some nervous locals may wonder how the More to C tourism creative consultants and mouthpieces are going to go about promoting the glories of Monticello when the Mayor’s recent proposal to abolish celebration of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday as a local holiday is adopted. Since he “raped Sally Hemmings,” stripping Jefferson of his status as local hero is “a conversation that we definitely as a city need to have,” declared another city councilor in endorsing the proposal.
The politics of identity and symbolism is driving Charlottesville rapidly down the road to madness and ungovernability, and yet there are a few bright spots. The talk of dissing Jefferson may be inspiring a new form of local tourism. An apparent artist from Oakland, California, recently broke into Monticello and managed to punish Jefferson’s memory to the tune of $4,000 in felony destruction of property, obstruction of justice, and trespassing. With the proper grant from Virginia Humanities, the resultant performance art film will no doubt be riveting, and could be the model for all manner of new defacement tourism.
And speaking of the arts, a Charlottesville high school drama teacher has confirmed that mass paranoia can be a powerful, if depressingly predictable, muse. Under her inspired guidance, “the school has mounted student-written shows such as “A King’s Story,” about a fictional black Charlottesville teenager who is shot and killed by police; “#WhileBlack,” about racial profiling; and “Necessary Trouble,” which explores racial and identity symbols that high school students can encounter during a normal school day.” She will accordingly receive the 2019 Excellence in Theatre Education Award on June 9 at the Tony Awards in New York City.
Late in life, Jefferson warned: “[A] man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without a rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck.” Good advice for his home town.
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