On a recent drive down Route 460, I came across a sign just outside Appomattox, Virginia, describing it as “where America reunited.” I found that to be a rather charitable interpretation of an event that signalled when some Southerners decided to stubbornly hold on to a disreputable history rather than join the rest of us.

Hopefully the decisive Obama win in Virginia portends the eventual end of Virginia’s less admirable traits. Although Virginia’s previous and current governors are Democrats and voters just elected a second Democrat to the Senate, Virginia still struggles with a troubling past that includes segregation and massive resistance to integration, racism, and for some, a blind dedication to “Old Virginny.”

There are other glimmers of hope for change in my adopted state. Democrat-turned-Republican Virgil Goode (last name rhymes, ironically, with “rude,”) was defeated for reelection to the House of Representatives. Goode’s history is, frankly, embarrassing to those of us who live in the 21st century. He supported Big Tobacco and even hoped that his elderly mother would not be denied ‘the one last pleasure’ of smoking a cigarette on her hospital deathbed. In 2006, after Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, a Muslim, was sworn in with a Koran rather than a Bible, Goode famously expressed his fear that lax immigration laws would result in an influx of Moslems to the U.S., some of whom might be elected to public office. Not surprisingly, Goode was either ignorant of or unimpressed by the fact that the Koran Ellison used once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, who is still revered here.

So it’s buh-bye to Virgil, and hello to real change. Northern Virginia’s progressive influence continues to grow, much to the chagrin of Old Southerners in Southside and Southwest Virginia. The state is riding out the economic slowdown at least in part due to the high tech businesses that have flourished here, thanks to our higher education system and the forward thinking of many Virginians, Democrats and Republicans. For all of us, I sincerely hope a sign that “Old Virginny” is fading to an unpleasant memory.

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