language, misunderstandings, Virginia

What it means to be a native…

Good morning, blog fans. It’s a cool, rainy Thursday here in Germany, and I’ve been up for two hours already. Bill woke me up when he came back into the bedroom after his shower. I had to get up a few times last night and needed cough syrup to fall asleep in the first place. I’m mostly over my cold from last week, but still have an annoying cough. It takes me forever to get over coughs, thanks to asthma and acid reflux. So, even though I’m now feeling mostly normal, when I lie down to go to sleep, I still cough a lot. Thank God for NyQuil.

While I was eating breakfast with Bill, I looked at the weekly newspaper put out by my hometown of Gloucester, Virginia. I like to look at the obituaries to see if anyone I know has passed and read about things going on in the community where I came of age. Sometimes, I also read the opinion pieces and letters to the editor, but those often end up disturbing me.

Gloucester is a VERY red county, even though it was somewhat recently in the news due to a transgender student at the high school wanting the right to change bathroom preferences. That case went to the Supreme Court, which was quite a shock to me… not so much because of the case itself, but because it involved my high school.

I remember reading some of the letters to the editor when that was going on, and I was pretty horrified by what I read. Many people were full of hatred for Gavin Grimm, the transgender student who eventually won his fight after graduation. In August 2021, the school board was ordered to pay $1.3 million to resolve Grimm’s case. This sounds like a lot of money, but it was used for five years worth of attorney’s fees and court costs. It seems like it would have been smarter and much less expensive to just let Gavin use the boys room. But hey, that’s Gloucester, and people there are pretty set in their ways. A lot of people who live there are the type of people to put the below sticker on their cars…

This was actually suggested to me on Facebook. I reported it as promoting violence. Facebook said it was okay. And yet, I got a red badge of shame for calling Americans “dumb”.
Some of them might even put this on their cars… although I would hope they wouldn’t.

The point is, I don’t have the highest of expectations for people in the county where I spent most of my youth. Most of them are “salt of the earth” type people who call a spade a spade, and are slow to change their views on things. Don’t get me wrong. There are some genuinely fabulous people living in Gloucester, and I still have many friends there. But there are also some ignorant folks living there, as I guess there would be anywhere. And some are happy to stay ignorant as they stubbornly cling to their small world views.

So this morning, I was reading the obituaries and I noticed a photo of a woman in a wedding dress listed as among the dead. I didn’t recognize her name, but she looked young enough that I might have known her at some time. I took a look at her obituary to see if she might be someone from my past. It turned out she wasn’t, but her obituary was memorable anyway, because of this…

She was born in Rhode Island and was a native of Virginia Beach.


Uh, if she was born in Rhode Island, she can’t be a “native” of anywhere but Rhode Island. It doesn’t matter how long a person lives somewhere. If they weren’t born there, they aren’t a “native”. There are several definitions of the word “native”, but they all basically refer to someone or something being born in a specific place.

From Merriam-Webster: Middle English natif, from Middle French, from Latin nativus, from natus, past participle of nasci to be born.

In Merriam-Webster, there is a lesser known meaning that “native” can possibly be used to denote that a person has always lived in a certain place, which would distinguish them from being a visitor. But it seems to me that in the above case, the word wouldn’t be correct, as the person in the obituary did eventually leave Virginia Beach for the “quieter” living available in Gloucester County. This was actually written in the obituary– that they preferred the simpler lifestyle in Gloucester.

It was an obituary, so that means that it was probably written by one of the deceased’s loved ones, rather than a journalist. And I think, just as people misuse the word “prone” when they actually mean “supine”, this was just someone who thought they knew the definition of “native” and didn’t bother to look it up as they wrote the obituary. I also know this issue is not a big deal to most people. Most of us understand what the writer meant, which means they accomplished what they set out to do when they wrote the sentence. However, technically, what they wrote is incorrect, and as someone who finds words and language interesting, I decided the mistake would make for a good and potentially educational blog topic today.

I like to study different mechanics of the English language to see how it all fits together. If you know what prefixes, suffixes, and roots mean, you can often figure out what a word means– or doesn’t mean– without having to consult a dictionary. And it can also be very helpful in other languages, as you try to understand what the announcer on a Google Ad is saying while you wait for your YouTube video to begin. If you know the word “nate” or “natal” denotes birth, you know that a person who grew up in Virginia Beach, but was born in Rhode Island, can’t actually be a native of Virginia Beach.

I was born in Hampton, Virginia. That’s where my mom now lives, and where my father died in 2014. I am a NATIVE of Hampton, because I was born there. But, to date, I have spent only about six months of my life living in Hampton, and that was just after my birth in 1972. I have no memories whatsoever of living in the place where I was born, although I’ve visited there MANY times.

In 1973, we moved to Dayton, Ohio, which I also don’t remember, because I was a baby at the time. My earliest memories are of England, from where many of my ancestors hailed. I have a whole lot of Scottish and English DNA– like over 97 percent, according to two of the best known DNA sites– but I am certainly not a “native” of the United Kingdom. I am a native of Virginia, and to date, I’ve lived the most years of my life in Gloucester, where I’m also not a native. Germany is starting to catch up with Gloucester, but I’ll never be a German native, even if I live here until I’ve reached a ripe old age.

I don’t think there are as many true natives of Gloucester as compared to nearby larger cities like Williamsburg, Richmond, Hampton, and Newport News. Gloucester’s hospital doesn’t offer maternity services, and hasn’t for as long as I can remember. Because a lot of Americans would rather give birth in a medical setting, a lot of pregnant people in Gloucester give birth somewhere else. However, at least two famous people in history were Gloucester natives– Pocahontas was one, and Dr. Walter Reed was another.

Anyway, I thought I’d get that off my chest. My condolences to the family and friends of the deceased woman who prompted today’s rantings. It sounds like she was a very lovely woman who will be missed by many people. It also sounds like they are a good fit for living in Gloucester County, which does have its positives, in spite of some people wanting to keep living in the past.

controversies, music, politics, racism, social media

People “trying that in a small town”…

The featured photo is a screenshot of a map of the area where I grew up, from 1980-90. It’s gotten bigger in terms of population, but the mindset remains frighteningly much the same as it was 40 years ago…

It’s a cool, rainy morning here in Germany, and we’re on day two of Bill’s latest TDY trip. Yesterday, I booked the first three nights of our next trip together. It’s our biannual trip to the dentist in Stuttgart, which I’ve started turning into an opportunity to visit other places within driving distance. I already explained in my travel blog how we came to decide on the Czech Republic for our next journey, but before we head there, we have to get our teeth cleaned. So, for the first three nights, we’ll stay in the charming town of Tübingen, a place we already know well and love.

As I sit here thinking about how I want to arrange the rest of our trip, I can’t help but reflect more on Jason Aldean’s current hit song, “Try That in a Small Town”. I wrote a blog post about it a couple of days ago. It was mainly based on my initial reactions to the song and its video, which came across as belligerent and obnoxious to me. Unlike some people, I didn’t initially see the song as blatantly racist. There truly aren’t any lyrics within the song itself that are obviously aimed at people of color.

The video, on the other hand, seems very much geared to spin up the MAGA extremists. Parts of the video were shot at a Tennessee courthouse where a Black teenager was lynched in 1927. Those who defend the video point out that the same courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee has been featured in Disney films and other productions. That point, to me, seems irrelevant, though, when you consider that “Try That in a Small Town” is a song about small town folks kicking ass and taking names against anyone who dares to step out of line (in their view). It seems to me that in a country as large as the United States is, another courthouse location could have been used… or, perhaps a different type of place, altogether. They could have used bucolic landscapes, instead of a courthouse.

@destineenstark I may be petty, but my THOROUGH and petty! 😂 Here is my dissertation debunking Jason Aldean’s claims about his 🎶🎥 propaganda. #jasonaldean #countrymusic #debunked #debunktok #factsoverfeelings #propganda #americanpropaganda ♬ original sound – Destinee Stark

There are many very quick clips of violent uprisings and riots shown in the video. However, TikToker Destinee Stark was among the first people to determine that a lot of the clips that were used weren’t actually from events that occurred in the United States. More worrying is that Ms. Stark is now reportedly receiving racist and violent hate mail from fans of the song. It seems to me that if this song is so innocent, people wouldn’t feel the need to harass Destinee Stark for simply having and sharing her opinions, as well as real evidence that the video is a crock of shit. Stark discovered that one clip used in the video came from an event in Berlin. Another clip was stock footage easily found online. Other clips were also questionable as to whether or not they originated in the United States. Of course, no footage from January 6th was used at all.

According to the linked article on NBC News:

“I just think that people have a right to know,” Stark said. “Things like this, they inform politics and it informs how we vote, how we see the world and who we interact with. And I just think that if we’re consuming content that’s not even accurate, that it’s just propaganda. And it’s just fueling people, you know, to commit more violence.”

As I mentioned in my first post about this song, I don’t think Aldean should be censored or canceled. I do wish, however, that instead of racing to defend this song and its message, people would take a few moments to consider the other side what is being communicated. A lot of people are claiming that this song is just about standing up for small town values and people “protecting their own”. As someone who grew up in a small town and both witnessed and experienced the negative side of that upbringing, I can truthfully state that the message in “Try That in a Small Town” is a bit distorted. It IS true that if you were born and raised in a small town, and people there consider you to be “okay”, you probably will get help from your neighbors when you need it. But if you’re different somehow, you will probably face harassment and suspicion. And people can be very slow to change their opinions in small towns.

Take for instance, a news item that came up in my memories a few days ago. Three years ago, some people of Mathews, Virginia– a county adjacent to Gloucester County, which is where I grew up– were very upset because there was talk about renaming an elementary school. The school in question, then named Lee-Jackson Elementary School, was named after Confederate war heroes Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. I see that today, the school is called Mathews Elementary School. If you click this link, you can see who showed up to demand that the name didn’t change. It’s a whole lot of older White guys carrying Confederate Battle flags.

I don’t know for certain, but my guess is that a lot of those folks aren’t that interested in education in the first place. Most educated people would not show up to a public event in the United States carrying flags and signs that are deemed overtly racist. Even if someone privately sympathizes with the “good ol’ boys”, smart people don’t go around broadcasting what a lot of people would associate with naked racism. It’s not good for business.

Things haven’t changed in over 40 years…

Looking at the photo from July 2020, I am transported back about 4o years, when my parents first moved us to Gloucester. In those days, Gloucester was a VERY rural place, and Mathews was even more rural. It was not uncommon to see the “stars and bars” displayed everywhere. I well remember being bullied when I arrived in Gloucester, because I was “different”. Every day, I would come from school in tears because people in my class and on my bus harassed me. But, at least I was straight and White, and in spite of being a little eccentric, I really wasn’t that different than other people were. I did eventually fit in somewhat, even though it took about a year or two (to a child, that is an eternity).

Other people weren’t so lucky. I remember a lot of race based fighting when I was in high school, mostly between Black people and folks from an area of the county called “Guinea”. It was well known among my classmates that Guinea was a place you didn’t want to go to after dark, unless you were from there. I know there are good people in Guinea, but it did not have a good reputation, at least when I lived in Gloucester.

Years later, Gloucester was in the news because of a transgender student named Gavin Grimm, who took his case to the Supreme Court in order to be able to use the boys’ bathroom. I had long left Gloucester by the time Gavin Grimm was in the news, but I do recall reading some pretty horrifying hate-filled letters to the editor from our local newspaper, which I still follow. In August 2021, the Gloucester County School Board was ordered to pay Grimm $1.3 million to resolve the lawsuit.

I was inspired to write today’s post, in part, because of an op-ed I read in the Washington Post. It was written by Brian Broome, a gay Black writer who grew up in a small town in northern Ohio. His piece, titled “Jason Aldean? Please spare me the small-town nostalgia.”, is a shout out to those of us who were deemed different somehow, yet stuck growing up in a small town, where people refused to accept our differences. Broome no doubt had it much worse than I ever could have. But, instead of his community embracing and protecting him, as Aldean’s song suggests, Broome experienced racism and homophobia. And instead of being encouraged to speak out against the discrimination, Broome was encouraged to “shut up and color”. He was not free to be himself, and he couldn’t wait to leave that stifling small town, where too many people thought too small, and had no time for differing opinions or new experiences.

I was further inspired today when I noticed the most recent crime log from Gloucester, Virginia. It looks like it covers the last month. The list of reported crimes include things like DWI, assault & battery, grand larceny, breaking & entering, strangulation, and a host of other offenses. Granted, Gloucester has grown a lot in population since I was coming of age there, but it’s still a very conservative place, and it’s still sort of a “small town”. I wouldn’t say that the sentiment of Aldean’s song is ringing true there. People are still misbehaving, with no blowback from the locals. Not that I’d necessarily want the locals to engage in vigilantism, as Aldean’s song suggests. I guess it just goes to show that the sentiment in the song is a bit mythical, and it’s designed to inflame right wingers, who don’t embrace people who aren’t like them. And that doesn’t necessarily just mean people of color, either.

Here’s a gallery of screenshots from the local paper, Glo Quips, referencing people “trying that in a small town” over the past month… Eleven whole pages!

If Aldean and his songwriters really believe in their lyrics, maybe they should focus more on being tolerant and decent to other people, rather than promoting vigilantism and suspicion. “Try That in a Small Town” just sounds to me like a bunch of scared people rattling their sabers, threatening those who don’t subscribe to the typical small town mindset. I suspect that the song is intended to rile up the right, as another election cycle gets into full swing. Lots of people are terrified of the idea that people other than conservative Christian white males might be on top, for a change. So, instead of being positive and peaceful, they spin up more divisiveness with threatening, belligerent anthems that aren’t even based on actual events in the United States. And the less curious among us are lapping it up with gusto, believing the narrative without a second thought as they holler about how “non-racist” the song is.

I wish some of those people would stop for a moment and consider that real freedom should be for everyone… and maybe it’s time to think of the whole country as a “small town”, where people look out for each other. Or hell, maybe we can consider that the whole world is full of good people— people who, when it comes down to it, have blood just as red as yours is.

News, politicians, politics, travel

Do letters to the editor ever sway your vote?

Well, we’re now in Croatia. Our hosts had a nice fire ready for us, but the house is still a bit chilly. I think we’re going to like it here, though… it’s in the middle of the country, with lots of beautiful views and plenty of peace and quiet. It took us about seven hours total to get here from Wels, because we were stuck at the Croatian border for a short while. We had to stamp out of Slovenia and into Croatia. They didn’t seem too concerned about our vaccines, but they did want to see passports.

We had lunch at a truck stop. The food was very good… in fact, I was delighted by how tasty it was. I am full enough now that I think we’ll just stay in and watch Netflix by the roaring fireplace.

On our way over the mountain to the house where we’re staying, I decided to read the letters to the editor in my hometown’s newspaper. As Election Day is approaching, the letters were all about the people running for local office. Since Gloucester, Virginia is a conservative town, most of the letters were bitching about how awful Joe Biden is and how Virginia needs to vote for Glenn Youngkin for governor and for all of the conservative candidates. I think I saw one letter for the lefties…

As I was reading, I wondered how many people rely on letters to the editor to help them choose the person they wish to cast a vote for on Election Day. I will admit, there are often local candidates I don’t know anything about, especially since I now vote in Texas absentee. But when it comes to the governor, or the president, or other higher ranking folks, I usually have a good idea of who my choice will be before I hit the polls (or by the time I get my ballot). I figure anyone who is going to take the time to read letters to the editor are probably not the ones who are undecided. It’s the ones who don’t read who may need assistance. But really, even those people should be allowed to choose without too much harassment.

The people of Gloucester are, by and large, pretty good people. They’re salt of the Earth types… especially the ones who have lived there for many years. Unfortunately, a lot of them vote for parties over people. From what I’ve heard about Glenn Youngkin, he has very conservative values, but is trying to suppress them. If he is elected governor, he’s going to do everything he can to overturn everything Ralph Northam has done. I think Northam has done some really amazing things. But I am no longer a Virginia resident, so all I can do is watch from the sidelines.

Anyway… I just wonder why people bother writing letters to the editor in newspapers. How many people even bother to read newspapers anymore? I get a kick out of the Gazette Journal, because that was my HOMETOWN paper, when I was growing up. It only comes out once a week, but it has all the local news. And since I still know a lot of people in Gloucester, it’s fun to read. But I do have to sigh when I read some of the conservative and extremely religious views… even as I also find them interesting and kind of entertaining.

I didn’t like Gloucester when I was a kid, but I can see now why people stay there. It does have a lot going for it. And once you’re accepted, as I finally was after a year or two, the people can be very good. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can go “home” again. I do have a lot of memories, there, though. Many of them are good… and some are not so good.

Well, this is our first time staying in Croatia, so this should be an interesting trip. On Monday, we’ll move on to Slovenia, which is one place we’ve been to a couple of times. Unlike a lot of people, we didn’t come to Croatia for the coastal towns. We’re here to see Plitvice Lakes, which I’ve been wanting to visit for years. The fall colors are beautiful, so I expect I will have some gorgeous photos… as long as the weather holds.

Hopefully, the good people of Gloucester… and the Commonwealth of Virginia… will get the best leaders on Election Day. I hope they don’t get dragged back to 1950, though. I’m sure most of the people I still know in Virginia know who will be getting their votes by now.

The fireplace in this house rocks.