It's not everyday that our little county makes the news, but it happens occasionally. Today, however Caroline County was in the news in a big way, and not for anything that anyone who lives here did. You might have heard by now that Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in Doswell, VA which is in the southern part of Caroline, about 10 miles from my house. Personally, I don't think it matters where he's buried and I don't really think it should matter to anyone but his family. The most important thing about Tsarnaev's death isn't where he's buried. It's that there is one less terrorist plotting to hurt innocent people. And by terrorist I mean a person who hurts or kills innocent people, causing mass terror to make a political/religious point. I do not mean Muslim, Chechen Separatist, Arab or any other specific ideology, nationality or religion. Fundamentalism of any stripe is dangerous and leads to that kind of behavior. I would like to think that through reason, kindness and tolerance potential terrorists could be reformed, but that's maybe not so realistic.
There are actually two things that do bother me about Tsarnaev's burial in my neck of the woods.
First - We're a very small and frequently cash strapped rural county. My husband likes to say we live in the Middle of Nowhere. I prefer to view it as the Edge of Somewhere. We're just 25 miles north of the state capital and only 75 miles south of the nations capital, but we're also 10 miles from the nearest grocery store. Here's the Wikipedia page on us if you're looking for more info. Unfortunately, as idyllic as this rural setting can be it has it's issues, and funds are one of them. Our schools are barely adequate, no matter how hard the teachers and administrators try. Our county water system consists of a series of wells, some of which are prone to run dry in hot summer months. Our police and fire departments do their best to cover 539 square miles.
Now, they have to focus additional attention on protecting one small cemetery near the county line from vandals and hate crimes, whether they like it or not that is their job. But our county doesn't have the money for that. So, I would like to ask Martha Mullen who arranged the burial how she thinks we should pay for her doing her "Christian duty". Should the county put off digging a new well, or layoff one of my children's teachers to pay for the additional law enforcement around a cemetery that otherwise wouldn't need it? Those are the kind of decisions that our county Board of Supervisors face every year, and unexpected expenses like this cause real repercussions for those of us living here.
Second - Caroline is actually a really nice place with some great people in it. On of my favorite things to do around here is ride through the back roads of the county and it really is beautiful. My Instagram followers will be vary familiar with some of the sights here. It's full of rolling hills and tree farms and gorgeous historic homes and a rich history.
But like everywhere, we also have some bad apples. When the news broke today, some residents were actually calling 911 to voice their displeasure over the burial as if they could send police out with sirens blaring to stop something that happened yesterday. I've seen some of the comments on facebook and in our local paper loaded with intolerance. What the Tsarnaev brothers did was horrific, and inexcusable and people are angry about it with good reason. Unfortunately, I have no doubt that at some point someone from here or from outside the county is going to vandalize that grave or the whole cemetery. They are going to show the intolerance and bigotry that simmers under the surface of American society in ways that will not affect Tsarnaev or his family but will hurt the families of the innocent people buried there. I would like to think that we're better than that, but just like reforming fanatics that too is probably unrealistic.
That should not be the face that Caroline shows to the world. There is a lot more to our home than one cemetery. For me, this is the place where my ancestors first owned land in America after coming here as indentured servants. It's also the place where William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame was born. This is where John Wilkes Booth was killed after assassinating Abraham Lincoln. Until recently this was the home of Boy Scout Jamboree. This is where Secretariat was born.
Most significantly on the subject of tolerance, Caroline was the home of Richard and Mildred Loving. The Lovings grew up in Caroline, but were forced to leave when their interracial marriage was discovered by local authorities. At the time miscegenation was illegal in Virginia and many other states. The Lovings challenged that law, and in 1967 the Supreme Court found anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional. If it weren't for the Lovings and their desire to live here in Caroline, those laws might have taken a lot longer to be struck down. There are a lot of couples in America who owe the legality of their marriage to the Lovings. Here's the trailer for an HBO film about them.