Friday, December 12, 2014


Every now and then someone starts throwing around the idea of a ‘Dislike’ button on Facebook. And for whatever reason, people tend to get behind the idea. And to them I say, NO!

Fortunately, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg dislikes the idea of a ‘Dislike’ button as much as I do. And to him I say, thank you! Oh, and thanks for letting us use Pusheen stickersthey’re so gosh darn cute!

Why am I such an opponent of the ‘Dislike’ button? My reasons aren’t exactly complicated. But in case you don’t want to continue reading, the simple answer is that it discourages civility, effort, and critical thinking.

Sorry, I just wanted to post another Pusheen. SO CUTE.

As if the internet wasn’t already a hostile enough place, we would be in a position where we don’t even have to specify why we don’t like something, we can just click ‘Dislike.’ Think about any comment section you’ve seen for a news item--even on a topic that’s not really that controversial. It’s littered with trolls and assorted asshats who have a keyboard and a comment section, and they’re speaking their minds, regardless of how ignorant, hateful, or incorrectly spelled it might be.

Do you really want to just give those folks a button? At least right now they still have to take the initiative to state why they don’t like something someone’s posted. (As opposed to ignoring it, but who does that?!! Lolz!!!) Commenting requires effort and at least a minuscule amount of thought--something that doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people. The convenience of a button would bypass both effort and thought, making Facebook and Facebook linked platforms an even more vicious arena for semi-anonymous, completely detached feedback, trolling, fighting, and general rudeness.

A ‘Dislike’ button will also encourage attention whores to be even worse than they already are. You’ve seen the posts. They’re like diary entries with an emo soundtrack. ‘Life is le sad for whatever reason and these are all the things wrong with life and life is terrible and I’m terrible and everything goes wrong in my life and this world and I’ll always be unhappy’ etc., etc., etc. Usually people post words of encouragement, along with the occasional clever person who posts, ‘dislike!!’ If there really was a button, imagine all the people who would select ‘Dislike’ as a sign of solidarity and support. The poster would be validated with the attention and amount of ‘Dislikes’—look how many people recognize the depths of despair you feel!!

Although to be honest, most people would really just be thinking this:

Not because we don't love you, but because you're being a drama llama and it's better to talk to your friends directly than to post to the world at large how awful life is for you. We just want you to be happy! WHY AREN'T YOU HAPPY??

But on a very basic level it creates a setting for people to feel bad about themselves. Bullying would take on a completely new dynamic. But setting aside the enormous problem of bullying, think about how you’d feel if people ‘Disliked’ what you were posting about? And I’m not talking about controversial topics. I’m talking about posting things like, ‘Just bought a new dressI feel so pretty!’, ‘Person A and Person B are now engaged!’, ‘I really like [whatever it is you like]!’, ‘I had a great time with friends A, B, and C!’, a duck-faced party pic, a selfie, or an oversharing/TMI pic of yourself/your family/your vacation. Yes, people post everything from the inane to the routine to the life changing on Facebook. And sometimes others think what you’re posting is dumb or uninteresting. Sometimes these people will take the time (why??) to post a dry, sarcastic remark, a backhanded compliment, or a passive aggressive response. But again, that requires effort and thought. There are people who are rude, petty, and bored enough that they’d revel in such a button.

Now naturally there are arguments for a ‘Dislike’ button. There’s the efficiency of simply clicking ‘Dislike’—it would save time! Or perhaps one might lack the appropriate research or vocabulary to tackle something they don't like, but they could still express their feelings on the matter. To mirror one of my previous points, arguments on the internet would be revolutionized! No longer would we feel the need to argue with trolls; we could simply ‘Dislike’ what they’ve said! Take that, jerks!

But those arguments of support don’t really outweigh the arguments against. A ‘Dislike’ button is just a bad idea. It engenders hostility, negativity, and laziness--things we already have enough of in this world. So let’s 'Like' more things! Let’s be more civil! Let’s have thoughtful, well researched debates and conversations! Let’s support one another! Let’s be awesome!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cold Hands, Warm Hearts.

My friend Jessi is always the first person to get cold. While most people are running around in short sleeves, she’s got on a sweater, and in the evening, bragging/complaining about her electric blanket and space heater.

Note: Jessi looks nothing like Nick Offerman.

It’s totally okay though; we trade off on teasing one another about our internal thermostats, as I’m usually the first person to get hot. At like 67°.

What are friends for, right?

One night, not too long ago, I stepped outside of my apartment and thought, ‘Huh, it is a bit cool out. I bet Jessi is freezing! Haha! At least she’s got her layers and space heater!’ But that passing thought kept bothering me. What about the other Jessi’s in my community who don’t have such things? Richmond recently lost one of its homeless outreach facilities, in a town where heating shelters only open in the city in emergency (read: extremely cold,) situations. They don't open for every other winter night that's just plain cold. And despite the great organizations that offer housing, there are still plenty of people who don't make inside on cold nights, for one reason or another And that made me feel...

*sad pug is sad!!!*

I decided that action was needed. Recalling a homeless outreach organization I worked with in the past, The Daily Planet, I checked out their needs on their website. And their list is straight forward:

  • Knit hats
  • Gloves
  • Scarves
  • Thick socks
  • Blankets
  • Thermal underwear
  • Sleeping bags
  • Winter coats
So I propose this: I want you all to check out your closets, chest of drawers, or heck, maybe even the sale section at Walmart, Target, etc., and see if you've got any of those items. The goal is simple: We can make our notoriously erratic Virginia winters a little easier for those who don’t or can’t have a place to go. I’ll even come pick donations up from you, if that sweetens the deal!

Everyone of us has a scarf or pair of gloves that we never wear or a blanket we never use that just sits in the back of our cars. How many pairs of socks do you have? Do you really need that many? No you don’t. Just do your laundry more often.

If you’re interested in participating, please let me know! If you don’t have my email address, you can message me on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comment section that you’d like to participate. Let's make Richmond a little warmer for some folks this winter!

(Note: I know I have some really cool friends who work with different organizations or heck, they have their own organization. I’m not trying to outshine them or neglect them--I love anyone who’s doing good stuff--this was just the first organization I thought of.)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Heifer: That, which I am NOT!

For the record, in case there was ANY misunderstanding, calling a person, particularly a woman, particularly a woman who is fat, 'heifer,' even if you're "just joking," is neither appreciated, nor acceptable.

Why? Because a heifer is an animal of the bovine persuasion who has yet to have her first calf. The implication that I’m young and without child is certainly apt and possibly even appreciated, but I can definitely do without the bovine part.

Not pictured: Me.

See I've spent most of my life trying to battle a public that on the regular attempts to compare me to a barnyard animal, among other things, and having someone, however funny they think they're being, call me, 'heifer' is not helping the situation.

Of course that’s assuming you’re referring to me as an animal, which you probably aren’t. The truth is you’re probably using it in the non-barnyard vernacular, which is, according to Urban Dictionary, “A prodigiously large female.”

I'm pretty sure you know what 'large' means, along with female, but let's do a quick Google search on the word, ‘prodigious’.

Remarkably or abnormally! Oh! And massively! VAST. COLOSSAL. MAMMOTH. So I'm a mammothly large female. You're calling me that while laughing like the funny person and/or friend that you think you are! Well that is just charming.

But of course you’re just playing, right? You’re just taking a word that makes an observation about me and using it in a manner that you consider to be non-offensive and should therefore be non-offensive to me as well? That’s great. That works both ways right? Because if that’s the case, I can pull together a list of things I can call you too. So if I comment on your race, gender, appearance, or sexuality, don’t get offended--I’m just playing!! See! It’s funny! We’re all laughing, right?

Wait, we’re not? It’s not okay for me to use a slur against your race, gender, personal appearance, or sexuality? But… I’m confused. So it’s okay for you use a slur against me, but it’s not okay for me to do the same about you. Huh. That’s weird. I guess the only thing I can say is…

I understand this might be very confusing for you. To assist you in understanding what or who you may call a heifer, I've created the following list:

  An actual cow, preferably one who hasn't had her first calf yet.

This guy from "Rocko's Modern Life," although his name is spelled 'Heffer.'

A charitable organization to which you can/should contribute. In fact any time you try to call someone a heifer, donate to this charity. It’ll be like a swear jar.

So in conclusion, in case you haven’t gotten it through your head yet, DON’T CALL ME A HEIFER. Or else my prodigiously large ass and attitude will put you in your place, publicly, loudly, and mercilessly. Got it? Now you go have yourself a nice day!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams, 1951 - 2014

I remember the first time I heard “Reality...What a Concept.” I’m not sure how I got my hands on it, but I know I was not quite 9 yet because I hadn’t seen “Aladdin.” Obviously it was not age appropriate, and I knew it at the time. I remember listening to the cassette in my bedroom with the door shut. About 60% of the content went way over my head, but that which didn’t left me laughing, hard. It was my first experience with stand up comedy that I really liked. I remember looking at the cassette and thinking 2 things: 1) This was Robin Williams, that guy from that Nick-at-Nite show, “Mork and Mindy,” and 2) I wanted to hear more stuff like his stand up and less “Nah-Nu, Nah-Nu.”

Like every kid my age in America, I saw “Aladdin,” “Fern Gully,” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.” I begged my parents to let me see “Toys” and “Dead Poets Society,” but I wasn’t allowed. See, I was just a kid. A kid who knew great jokes about Village of the Damned People.

I remember when I saw “Hook” for the first time, and I was one of the Lost Boys. “You’re playing with us, Peter!” He portrayed a man who, as it turned out, never really grew up. Not really. And it seemed even then that maybe Steven Spielberg might have been typecasting. Because I don’t think for a minute Robin ever grew up, and maybe that was why it hurt so much to be him at times.

When I was 13 I used Napster to download “A Night at the Met.” It was one of the first things I ever downloaded. I still have the CD I burned it onto. And being older, I started to get a lot of the jokes and references, even though several of them were, again, above age appropriateness. But I was hooked. It was intelligent humor, a display of a genius at play, and the funniest thing I had ever heard in my young life.

See, for me, Robin Williams was more than an actor or a comedian. He was the man who introduced me to my sense of humor, my particular preference for smart comedy that went beyond the juvenile humor of my peers. He was topical and playful; smart, yet not above a crude joke. A master of characters and play, he seized upon every opportunity to adlib and improv, exploited irony, and used history and facts to delight and make you think at the same time. His humor made me feel validated and less alone because even though I didn’t laugh at the same things as my peers, here was a guy who represented that which I found hilarious. He made me laugh in times when I was so very much alone and sad as a kid. He taught he how to make jokes that elicited laughter from adults and eventually kids my age, and it was through humor that I learned how to fit in and deflect the worst parts of being a kid and teenager.

As I got older I saw many of the movies he was in and loved them. I’m nowhere near having watched everything he’s ever been in, but I guess I need to apply myself more. I won’t go through the full list, but there are so many bright spots and very few ‘wrongs’ in his career, as far as I’m concerned. Except for “Death to Smoochy.” *shudders*

His HBO specials, “Live on Broadway” and “Weapons of Self-Destruction” were nothing short of brilliant, and I frequently reference and quote both in everyday conversation. I had the privilege of seeing him live TWICE: Once in Richmond,  while he was on a stand up tour, and once on Broadway in the production of “Bengal Tiger at Baghdad Zoo.” It was after the latter that I met him.

They say don’t meet your heroes, and I’m betting there’s some truth to that, but thankfully not on this occasion. The crowd around the railing was pretty thick after the show, but I had somehow managed a spot at the front. Everyone was taking pictures with him and getting his autograph. I got my program autographed as well. As he was signing it, I stammered, “I am such a huge fan. You taught me about comedy when I was only 8. I think you’re brilliant. Thank you for all you do!” He murmured a ‘thanks,’ and then posed for a picture with me. He was really tired and there were a lot of people around. The only problem was the woman who took the photo didn’t understand camera phones and got a shot of my elbow. She asked if I wanted to try again, and I said, trying to keep the note of sadness out of my voice, “I don’t want to take up anymore of Mr. Williams’ time. Thanks though.” He immediately turned back to me and asked, “Would you like to try again?” I beamed, “Yes sir, please!” And he did! He gave me a smile and shook my hand, giving my hand an extra squeeze. I remember walking back through Times Square like I was on a cloud. I couldn’t wait to call my parents and friends and tell them I met Robin Williams, my hero and favorite comedian.

There’s a movie that sometimes gets poorly reviewed and regarded, but I love it. However in light of today’s events, it’s gone from one of my favorites to possibly the most tragic: “What Dreams May Come,” a film in which his character, who has died and gone to Heaven rescues his wife from Purgatory after she commits suicide, out of grief.

Robin Williams left the world this morning, most likely at his own hands. He left behind three children, a wife, numerous fans, and unfinished, brilliant work. I won’t speculate on the hows or the whys, but we can all surmise that he had to be in a very dark place to do such a thing.

I have been crying off and on since I heard the news this evening. To those who think I might be overreacting, boo-hooing over some celebrity, I say this: Robin Williams was more than a genie, a nanny, a cabaret club owner, a doctor, a bat, or an alien. He was, to my mind, my professor of humor and comedy, my hero and inspiration, and a man who taught me how to be me, starting at age 8.

I hope that he’s found peace, and a great reward for all the joy he brought to so many of us. I believe that the pain and pressures of life are gone and that he can finally let go. And I hope that when I reach the same place--wherever that might be--there’s a stage-side seat for me. Because God knows even he’ll be able to work up some amazing material about the afterlife.
You’ll be missed, Robin. Thank you for everything.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Hurricane Names for 2014 Are Totally Lame.

My friend Jack got me to thinking after this tweet:

I have to say I thoroughly agree with him. I think it’s pretty clear that the 2014 Hurricane season’s names are the worst yet. Sorry in advance if your name is Dolly, Fay, Nana, Teddy, or Wilfred. Although I’m not sorry, your names are terrible hurricane names. You should complain to NASA or NOAA or Al Roker or something.

I can't hear 'Hurricane Dolly' without thinking of Dolly Parton. Or maybe a sheep. Or maybe a sheep dressed as Dolly Parton. Supposing there is a Hurricane Dolly, it had better be absolutely fabulous, with a disproportionately (and possibly artificially) large western wall. All news segment music intros had better include a chorus of “Jolene.” And Jim Cantore better be clinging to a sign post, winds bearing down on him, making a “9 to 5” reference.

Okay, so maybe that hurricane isn’t so bad. But Hurricane Fay? … … Never mind, I’m related to a Fay, and she is definitely a hurricane--in all the best ways, of course. She is in charge, knows how to make a grand entrance, is good at organizing people, her arrival is greatly anticipated, she's frequently found in Florida, and her penchant for shopping is certainly hurricane-like.

So we’re good with Hurricane Dolly and Fay. But what about Nana? What is she going to do? Harass you about when you’re going to FINALLY get married and have babies? Or when are you going to cut your hair? Or lose weight? Or wear nicer clothes? Or put on some make up? Or when are you going to do something with your life? Or dump one guy for another? Or go to her preferred church? Or clean your house to meet her level of clean? Or criticize some other part of your life?!?!?! … … Never mind, that is all very destructive and scary. Hurricane Nana is also very, very terrifying.

Well Teddy can’t possible be that intimidating a name. Teddy makes me think of bears, and bears totally--

Terrifying. Teddy is effing terrifying. Never mind.

But we can all agree that Hurricane Wilfred is not at all scary. Not even a little. Wilfred is a middle-aged man in a dog suit. Sorry Wilfred.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Deli Counter: Confessions of a Fat Girl

The story you're about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the jerks. Today, on Fatnet...

On Sunday I went to the grocery store; I needed some stuff for breakfasts and lunches during the week. My first stop was the deli counter--there was no line, so I wanted to go there first. I ordered some thinly sliced country ham. The idea was I’d get slices of country ham and put them on whole wheat biscuits.

As I was putting in my order, a woman walked up behind me. “Country ham? I didn’t know you could order that from the deli counter!” she said, pleasantly enough. “Oh yeah, I didn’t either for a while! But I love to put it on biscuits for breakfast.” Then there was a pause. The lady behind the counter actually stopped loading the ham into the slicer. The Deli Lady and the Customer Woman exchanged a quick look and the looked back at me. And then this happened:

Please picture Deli Lady like this:

Please picture Customer Woman like this:

Please picture me like this:

Deli Lady: Baby, you don’t eat that every morning do you?
Me: Oh no, I--
Customer Woman: Because that is really unhealthy. There are definitely better things to eat for breakfast.
Me: I know, but it’s a great source of protein, and I--
DL: You don’t have blood pressure problems, do you, hon?
Me: No, I’m lucky in that respect! But I only eat it--
CW: Well that’s not too far away. You’re lucky that you’re young. If you don’t eat healthier you could end up with any number of problems. High blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer--
Me *in a rush*: That’s why I put them on whole wheat biscuits and have Greek yogurt and fruit with it. It’s a balanced breakfast.
DL: Do you want me to cut you off a slice of turkey? See if you like that better?
Me: Well I am also going to get some of the Boar’s Head cracked pepper turkey for lunches.
CW: There’s so much salt in deli meat. You could definitely have a nice, filling lunch if you did a salad with some grilled chicken. Depending on the dressing, there’s no salt in that.
DL: Oh, I love grill chicken salads! They are so good!
Me *dully*: I’ll have to make that some time soon.
DL and CW exchange a final look that clearly said, ‘We did our best...’ before DL continued slicing up my ham and CW went back to browsing the deli counter.

As I walked away, I could tell they were both watching me. And I felt so awkward. Of course they meant well enough, but really, they had been so rude.

I have been in similar situations before and I have handled myself in such a classy and beautiful way that the people didn’t realize I’d put them in their place until I was already walking away.

But then this was also sort of different. These weren't my peers. These were older women. I remember I had this one client who saw me doing something in what I felt was a highly efficient manner, but she felt differently. “Your attempts at efficiency are nothing but poorly disguised laziness. And if you don’t stop being so lazy, you’re going to die young. You need to make a change in your life. I’m 45 years old and do a lot more physical activity than you do, clearly, and that’s disgraceful.” Obviously she was no longer talking about how I was moving the copy paper. She was older than me, a client, and essentially in a position of power, because one word could have had me fired in an instant. (Long live the at-will hiring in this, our fair Commonwealth! *eyeroll*) But in that situation I needed the job.

In this situation I just needed… ham. I dunno. Ham’s pretty important though, right?

I know what some people going to say. "Jess, why didn't you go to the manager or tell them to get stuffed?!" Well the simple answer is this: In my mind, arguing with them or telling where they could shove their grilled chicken salads didn't seem worth it. They weren't going to change their behavior and it would only leave me looking like that angry fat person who wanted ALL THE HAM. And personally, I'd rather be irritated about it initially and then write a funny blog post about it later. And eat my ham biscuits. (Do you get how delicious these things are???)

Sometimes it seems as though people think I have no idea that I'm fat; that it's going to come as a shock and surprise to me. Sometimes I really want to turn around and be like, "Omg, where did all of this ass come from?!?!"

Seriously folks, I know what a salad is. I don't need your assistance in nutrition, and if I do, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to solicit the advice from the people at the deli counter.

Whatever. I ate my ham biscuits this morning and they were delicious. Those women don’t know what they’re missing. I bet they eat muesli or drink kale for breakfast or something. And that's why ultimately, I pity them.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Southern Love, Without Apologies.

I was born in Richmond, a city in the South, the capital of Virginia. I lived in a few other places including in the Midwest before eventually making my way back to RVA, where I’ve lived for the majority of my life. I take pride in being from the South, in the same way that anyone takes pride in being from their region. For me, I think living in the South is wonderful, and what’s more, I think Richmond is an amazing city.

There’s no getting around a fact though: 153 years ago the American Civil War was declared, with the last shot was fired four years later in June of 1865. Richmond served as one of two capitals, the first being Montgomery, Alabama.

Though it’s been 149 years since the last shot was fired, sometimes it feels as though we are only decades beyond the beginnings of Reconstruction. I often read travel articles about Richmond (because we all like to hear good things about ourselves,) and frequently find the first sentence goes something like this, “Coming out of the shadow of its past as the Capital of the Confederacy, Richmond is well on its to becoming a destination.” Don't believe me? It’s as though we’ve only just rebuilt the city after the retreating Confederate army burned it. One doesn’t read articles about Chicago that start off with, “Rising from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire, this city is now a place to not to be missed!” Of course you don’t! Because it would be absurd to write about an event that took place in 1871 as though it happened in the last 50 years.

Like any place that has historical significance or interest, history plays a role in encouraging tourism. We tell people that if they’re a fan American history or have a particular interest in the American Civil War, there is no better place to be in the South because Virginia has it all: Battlefields, the White House of the Confederacy, birthplaces of famous officers, burial sites and cemeteries, retirement camps, ruins, chapels, the site of the end of the war, museums galore, and historical markers every 10 feet. There is so much history here! I love history! And for the same reason I like going to Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York, etc., because they all have something interesting to teach. And I think that’s where many miss the mark when they think about Richmond, Virginia, and the South.

There’s a condescending attitude that we are interesting despite our history, not because of our history. Despite our history, we are a destination, a good place to visit or to live. Despite.

I was interviewing one of my favorite musicians a few years ago for a local news site. The singer happens to be from New England. I received the following instruction from the person who assigned the interview to me: Make the article relevant to Richmond; ask about what it’s like to play in Richmond, what makes it different or special. So I asked the singer, and his answer was more than a little awkward, and he stumbled as he tried to come up with an answer. “Well you know, it’s great being in the South, Capital of the Confederacy and all…” And inwardly, I sighed.

The South is more than the former Confederate States of America, but we can take pride in it being a part of our history, a part of what makes this place so great. Living in the South or being Southern is not something one needs be ashamed of.

There’s an old regional joke that refers to Northern Virginia as Southern Maryland, and it’s not because of how they vote or how much money they have. It’s because sometimes it seems like Northern Virginia would rather not be associated with the South. A simple Google search will you this is not a minority opinion; a lot of people put a large wedge of separation between Northern Virginia and the rest of the state. But then that idea started making its way down interstate 95: Towns like Stafford and Fredericksburg were becoming “less Southern.” The idea is starting to permeate Richmond now and I’ve found is common around “moved-here’s.” I had a person who moved here a few years ago say to me, “We’re not really that Southern.” Of course we are! But there’s an inherent sense of shame for being from or living in the South that seems to have held on for the last 150-ish years, and leaves me disappointed.

Like so many things, the South is stereotyped, making us one extreme or another. I don’t need to outline the stereotypical Southerner, but needless to say,  “reality” shows like “Honey Boo-Boo,” “Duck Dynasty,” and “Buckwild” are not documentaries. They no more representative of Southern life than “Real Housewives of New Jersey” or “Jersey Shore” are of New Jersey. I think in trying to avoid being seen as a stereotypical Southerner, people go the opposite, extreme direction, rejecting much of the South when possible, and that includes an interest in the local history.

Recently, Mom and I were standing on the porch of the Confederate Memorial Chapel at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The museum stands on the grounds of the former Confederate Soldiers' Home.

I had toured the building with my parents and grandparents. The place is beautiful, not to mention pretty neat when you pair the place with old pictures and a diorama of the camp. There’s a lot of history. Mom looked over at me and said, “I wish there was a way to be interested in history without the feeling like one needs to apologize.” I knew what she meant. There was an air of defiance in the tour guide’s voice as he explained the different artifacts and displays, “It’s not too popular these days to--” was said multiple times when referencing the celebration of history. Being a Southern history enthusiast seems to require a balance between justifying your interests and apologizing for them, because otherwise people will think you’re one of those Southern history enthusiasts. You know the ones that I mean--the ones who use the Stars and Bars as a poorly disguised code for racism or the Flaggers who have hoisted a historically inaccurate flag over 95 outside of Richmond.

Therein lies the problem: Because so many people associate the history of the South with the Confederacy and the terrible things that went with it (slavery, destruction of families, farms, towns, economies, deaths and injuries of over a million, ultimately the assassination of a sitting President, tell me where to stop…) and later racists or people who do inflammatory things, one can feel the need to disassociate themselves from the South and even disparage it.

I know that I had multiple ancestors who fought in the Civil War, on both sides, including my great-great-great-great grandfather Williams Evans Davis Sr., who is buried in Hollywood Cemetery.

We hope to have a headstone placed at his unmarked grave with his name, ranking, and dates of birth and death.

I take pride in his sacrifices because I know that any human being doesn’t take lightly the act of taking up arms, going to war, and killing others. Everyone knows the conditions were appalling, the environment, unforgiving, and the treatments available to those injured, nothing short of horrifying. Why should I feel any amount of shame for having him on my family tree? Because he was on the wrong side of a war that was fought over slavery, under the guise of states rights? Because if that’s the case, then the natural conclusion is anyone with roots in the South should be ashamed of their ancestors and history--and I say, no, that’s not okay.

It is possible to have an interest in the history of the South without being a supporter of all the negative things associated with the Confederacy; therefore there is no need to be ashamed.

Being from the South does not require an apology, and neither does loving it. It’s a balancing act and requires compromise, an open and reasonable mind, and compassion for your fellow man. Carpetbaggers and people from the North alike can leave their baggage at the door when they’re here, and Southerners, you can too.

Come to the South if you’re want to experience a lifestyle of hospitality and good manners. Speaking for Virginia, come for days on lazy rivers and rapid ones alike. Visit museums with exhibits that’ll only make one east coast appearance--and it’s not in New York or Washington! Enjoy amazing food from nationally recognized restaurants and chefs, and great wineries and breweries scattered all across the Commonwealth. Take in festivals for everything you can imagine, great performances and concerts, local arts and music scenes, roadside attractions, natural wonders, theme parks, and fairs. Visit local artisans, farmers, craftsmen, and cooks who sell their wares in general stores and farmer’s markets. And yes, take in the history. Because we have plenty of it! From the tribes that hunted and gathered on the land, to the first successful American settlement, to the American Revolution, to the American Civil War, to civil rights, to well beyond. We are Southern, we are proud, we love our home, and we look forward to sharing it with you.