The From-Heres vs. The Come-Heres
From-Here or Come-Here? Sometimes you don’t even have to ask. You can tell by the accent, or lack of one. But that isn’t to say that people don’t care which one you are. It can make all the difference in the world, honestly.
We “don’t care,” my friend Jim Nichols famously wrote in a letter to the editor of The News Virginian back in February, referring to another friend, self-styled Damn Yankee Dave O’Brien, “how you did it in New York City,” criticizing O’Brien’s frequent hijacking of city-council meetings to air his grievances, which were often numerous and almost always ended with a telling of how those kinds of things would be addressed in the Big Apple, where he had once worked in local government.
Unexpectedly, I would say, Nichols ignited a firestorm of controversy among the Come-Heres, from New York City and elsewhere.
“Virginia is a beautiful place, and those who wish to move here for whatever reason have the right to do so, and as taxpaying citizens, they also have to right to voice their opinion without being given airline schedules. If Mr. Nichols believes so much in ‘social skills and grace,’ he might start by embracing other cultures and expanding his mind to include other ideas,” wrote Barbara J. Bortle of Waynesboro in a letter to the NV.
“I commute between the two locations, so unlike many of those people denigrating New York, I am able to compare the folks in both places. I get tailgated here daily, I seldom see a directional signal used, the only thing rarer than a smile on a stranger’s face is a thank-you for holding a door for them, and I am regularly cut in front of at a cashier’s line. There’s more, but I think you get the point,” wrote Loretta Hooper, also of Waynesboro, in another letter to the paper.
I should point out now that I’m a From-Here who feels at least spiritual kinship with the Come-Heres – my maternal granddaddy, after all, is a Come-Here, from up P-A way, though I’d better hasten to add that my other three grandparents are From-Heres with family roots dating back to the 1730s, so I can preserve some status with my fellow natives.
Ahem. So maybe, actually, since I have a foot on both sides of this fence, I can provide some valuable insight into this mortal combat.
From-Heres feel threatened because 20 years ago (heck, 10 years ago, even five years ago), they knew everybody, or knew of everybody. They either went to school with them or worked for their daddy in the summer or their cousin used to date their best friend’s little sister, that kind of thing.
Sidebar note – when I went to work at the NV after college, one of my first assignments was to go down to the courthouse to get the grand-jury indictments and list them all in a story. That first story included two relatives, one somewhat distant and one not-so-distant. Another time, later on at the NV, when I had worked my way up to chief government and politics reporter, I was touring the old Staunton Correctional Center with a delegation of state dignitaries when one of the inmates sidled up to me and asked me how my mom was. It was a first cousin who I hadn’t seen in, looking back on it, 12 to 18 months.
Those devils we knew. The Come-Heres, God love ’em, are unknown entities. That’s one strike against them, as far as the From-Heres are concerned. Strike two comes in the form of their relative wealth. Many Come-Heres are displaced big-city dwellers who smartly sold their overvalued homes and moved to the Valley to either get a much bigger house for the same money or get a similar-sized house and put the rest of their largesse in the bank. Which to me is just good common sense, of course, but I can understand the rankling, considering that a lot of the Come-Heres are buying houses in developments being put up by other Come-Heres on beautiful old farmland that the From-Heres think is going to now forever be sprawl and now we’re living in Northern Virginia and the world is certainly going to be coming to an end pretty soon and we hope it does after what those Damn Yankees …
A lot going on there, huh? And then comes the out pitch. Strike three is political – a lot of the Come-Heres are not just from the big city, but they’re big-city liberals. Egads, right? And they’re bringing their big-city liberal values with them. And they’re expecting the city to fix the potholes and the stormwater system and the schools that aren’t graduating 20 percent of the kids who go through them. And they’re voting for Barack Obama and Mark Warner and Jim Webb and Tim Kaine. And turning the Valley blue in the process.
There’s my spiritual kinship, for what it’s worth to you. But that isn’t what made me think to write this today. No, it was something that harkened back to that letter from Jim Nichols back in February. Joan Michaud of Waynesboro wrote The News Virginian this week to say that she felt “vindicated” to hear that the local farmers’ market that Nichols heads up was going through some tough times. “Maybe now Mr. Nichols will regret how many toes he stepped on in one particular letter he wrote several months ago, in which he stated, ‘We don’t care how you did it in New York City …’ Of course, I can only speak for myself, but I dare say judging from the sheer number of letters angrily responding to Mr. Nichols, that possibly that letter affected the turnout of his market,” Michaud wrote.
“If I can make a suggestion, it would go like this – an apology from you, Mr. Nichols, would go a long way towards easing our hurt from your insensitive comments,” Michaud wrote.
And here I thought it was just the From-Heres that were stubbornly holding onto old grudges. That Nichols letter is almost 10 months old now; and the farmers’ market shut down for the season a couple of months back.
Oh, well. Like my old grandpappy said – the one from the Valley, not the one from up in P-A – it takes two to two-step.
– Column by Chris Graham