Central Virginia Honors the Memory of a Young Airman

Knots of neighbors gathered in tribute in front of the little strip malls, gas stations and fast food joints that line US Route 29 in Ruckersville, Virginia,  on Tuesday as the remains of Greene County's Airman First Class Zachary Ryan Cuddeback passed  by. Zachary Cuddeback, of Stanardsville, just down the road, was killed in Frankfurt en route to deployment in Afghanistan by a "recently radicalized Muslim" who claimed he was avenging American rapes of Afghan women he had learned about on the Internet.

For the greying Vietnam vets, little kids with flags, families of William Monroe High School classmates, and  those from Barboursville, Stanardsville and Ruckersville who did not  know Airman Cuddeback personally, it was just the right thing to do, and they knew how to do it right. They stood there -- no speeches, no angry signs directed at the killer or Muslims, just thank you for your service, comfort to your family and God speed you to your rest.

Sometimes I think Frankfurt and Greene County ought to have   some kind of sisterly link, since it is so common here to encounter those who, like Zachary Cuddeback, passed through Frankfurt on their way to some deployment or other. Greene County is the kind of place that has more than its share of military veterans. I can't say what was in the hearts of all those bearded guys in Carhartt or camo, or old men in blue baseball caps emblazoned with the name of their former unit or ship, but they all demonstrated outwardly the keenest appreciation for what was proper for the occasion.

Airman Cuddeback's body passed through Ruckersville on its way from Dover Air Force Base south to Charlottesville for a memorial service on Wednesday, March 9. Cuddeback was a dedicated hockey player and Charlottesville's big downtown ice rink is the focal point for hockey leagues in this part of Central Virginia.  Alongside Cuddeback's family, hockey coaches and players took the lead in the event and, accordingly, gave it an almost exclusively personal tone. No local politicians were on the program, or appeared to play any significant role, and the ice rink is a private facility.  Regardless, except for a few allusions by Cuddeback's Air Force veteran father to hoping the killer got roughed up a little as he was taken into custody, terrorists were barely mentioned and Muslims, never. So twice in two days, without any guidance needed from politicians or diversity experts, the kind of everyday Americans who  we are supposed to believe harbor hatred for all Muslims, their insensate violence kept in check only by carefully nuanced media reporting and circumlocutious official announcements,  evidenced nothing of the kind.

The character of the Cuddeback commemorations must have come as something of a shock to local political and cultural elites. Despite its proximity to Greene County, Charlottesville always seems like it would really like to be New York, or at least Atlanta. Unfortunately, this aspiration manifests itself in an annoyingly predictable progressive political and cultural stance, rather than, say, in a wealth of good restaurants.

Over-governed and over-dialogued, Charlottesville has talked, sensitized and regulated itself into stasis. Long before there were fiscal constraints, Charlottesville could not build roads or dams because it tied itself into knots through the kind of endless process that plagues its big city models. When a local City Council member announced that she would not be running again, she cited "the ‘snowball effect' of ... a city initiative to foster discussion on racism and diversity, as one of her most important achievements."

It is in the nature of things in Charlottesville that the city's shuttered businesses and unemployed citizens have to settle for eating the cake of such leaders' empty gestures.

Perhaps we can now hope that Charlottesville progressives, along with their national colleagues will come to understand that the constraints about language and image that make it inappropriate to name what took the young hockey player from his family and friends, and actually prizes not speaking the truth about the Jihadist threat are unnecessary. We can handle the truth, and still keep our good manners, at least here we can.
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