At this writing it appears the snipers have been caught. If found guilty, let us hope they receive their just reward, which should involve a lethal dose of something -- my choice would be a lethal dose of rope.
They have done much damage, of course, and not only to individual human beings. They have completely destroyed a long-standing prejudice here in Virginia. That prejudice involved the supposed differences between Northern Virginia and the rest of Virginia, formerly known as "the real Virginia."
Prior to this Monday, the people in the "real Virginia," including those us who live in or around Richmond, Capital of the Old Confederacy, had very distinct ideas about Northern Virginia. To be suitably blunt, Northern Virginia was the Sissy Region -- white wine territory, full of pantywaists, girly men, sensitivity training experts, public policy drones, bureaucrats and other members of the massive horde that lives off the government teat. This was were the liberals lived. It was land of the Limp Wrist. If Alan Alda or someone of his ilk were forced to move to the Old Dominion, Northern Virginia would be the place. Those of us in the "real Virginia," meantime, valued Northern Virginia for one reason only: It provides a large chunk of state tax revenues.
Yet this recent crisis revealed the true location of Sissyville. Make no mistake. It is time to redraw the maps.
For the fact is, Northern Virginia was much closer to the bulk of the sniper shootings than the "real Virginia," yet Northern Virginia -- and even Montgomery County, Md. -- held steady. First and foremost, these areas did not close their schools. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Richmond, or for that matter much of Central Virginia. When the snipers came within 15 miles of town, we showed our true colors: solid white. All told, 10 or so school districts called off classes -- not for one day, but two. This involved 125,000 or so public school students, by one CNN count. Private schools followed suit.
This was a massive wimp-out, perhaps the most massive wimp-out in American history.
As such, it will not be forgotten. It cannot be forgotten. Nor should it be forgotten. The world has been turned upside down. From this point on, when Northern Virginians ask "Where were you on October 21-22, 2002?" -- no more need be said.
The reasons given for the surrender were twofold, and both shamefully pathetic. Parents supposedly demanded the schools be shut down after officials initially said they'd be open. This represented a surrender to public hysteria and cravenness. The other reason, which seems to have been the deciding one, was that the alleged snipers -- one of whom is a 17-year-old -- left a warning saying no child would be safe "at any place, at any time."
That, of course, was a generalized threat, directed at all children in all places. It could hardly be considered a threat directed at the children of "real Virginia." Yet the "real Virginia" was the only place that blinked when the snipers played the "kid card."
We can guess what the snipers were up to. They perhaps sensed that the public -- and especially the television public -- would soon grow bored with their crime spree, at least so long as it targeted adults (which it had done, with one exception). From their point of view, a lack of interest would have been disastrous.
Theirs, after all, was a crime spree made for television. It was covered around the clock. "Experts" rated their performance: the supposed choice of a white van was deemed "brilliant." There were points awarded for marksmanship, stealth, and mobility -- and rave reviews for their overall ability to terrorize an entire region. Eventually, the police would communicate with them through the media.
But as Tom Shales pointed out, people were growing used to the killings. So it came time to play the kid card. This would inject a new dose of terror. It would keep the ratings up. And it might also ensure greater public pressure on officials to pay the $10 million the pair allegedly demanded.
So the card was played. Northern Virginia held firm. Montgomery County, among the most liberal counties anywhere, held firm.
Richmond wet its pants.
In these parts, that will be the lasting legacy. No longer can the "real Virginia" sneer at the North. No longer can its citizens claim to possess the spirit of its former leaders -- Marse Robert, J.E.B. Stuart, and especially the beloved Stonewall. We are forever cast from their presence, by our own hand.
No longer can the "real Virginians" strut about as if our hearts, like the hearts of our legendary forebears, quickened at the first whiff of grapeshot and beat ever more gloriously as the bombardment increased.
That is all behind us. After a single shot was fired, we turned tail and ran.
We no longer live in the land of the Proud Gray. Hell no. We're living in Petticoat Junction.