(Please Do Not) Carry Me Back To Old Virginia


I crap you not - this is a quote from the history textbook I was given to study in the 4th grade:

"There is recorded in history no greater act of
self-sacrifice than that of Virginia in withdrawing from
a Union she did not wish to leave, in order to help other
states defend what she had always maintained was her
right and theirs."

I finally found it by searching through images until I found one of the book's cover. Can't forget that. It was first published in 1898, and the copy I got in 1979 looked to me like it must have been a first edition. It loomed so thick and threadbare in Ms Firestone's hand that first day, it scared the living shit out of me. All of my off-fucking and nose-thumbing (which I'd assumed would last at least until high school) had apparently expired, alongside the glossy covers and bright inks, and the sacrosanct game of Red Rover. I'd stumbled into an adult conspiracy so vast and calculated it made Santagate seem quaint by comparison - and from that day forward academics would surely be a frigid, patrician exercise in brutal discipline.

Of course within an hour or so I realized it was just gonna be the same old shit, but probably more irritating. And much like in the bible class that was thrust upon me later that day, in that very room, in a public school in Appalachia USA - the confusion came not from the curriculum, but from its purveyors. I was still too young to figure out why, but I'd already known for years that not all grown-ups were worth looking up to.

I have a vivid memory of a question on a test in that class about the causes of the Civil War and the reasons for Virginia's secession. It was multiple choice. I can't recall the exact wording, but I remember being well aware that the choice containing the word "slavery" was officially "wrong", and that "state's rights" was the one that would get me the credit. It was all so confusing; I knew deep down it was bullshit, but for the life of me I could not figure out why my teachers would insist otherwise.

And since my grades were awful from refusing to do homework for 3 years (since pretty much the day Principal Watson beat the shit out of me with the thick wooden paddle with the holes in it that hung on the wall behind his desk, for writing "Dear Kendall - Do you want to fuck? Love Donny" for my friend Donny, and getting no credit at all for nailing the spelling of a word I'd never heard before, just because Mom taught me to read and write before everyone else), I wrote down the thing I was expected to write down, and I got an A, and I felt like a coward.

At the time of the test, of course, it did not occur to me to wonder how my black friends must have felt, or which answer they chose.

*History Of Virginia: A Brief Textbook For Schools, by Royall Bascom Smithey


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