I was eavesdropping earlier– and got more than I bargained for. It happened at my favorite store in Charlottesville, a shop full of local history and art, a genteel place where collections are sold on consignment for downsizing professors and the like.
Because the coffee date I drove into town for was actually scheduled for tomorrow, I had some extra time on my hands and decided to do a quick treasure hunt on my way home.
I’ve found some great things there. Like an 8.00 set of Topps trading cards from the early ’60’s chronicling JFK and Camelot.
And one time, hidden behind a silver tea service, I discovered a brick wrapped in ancient brocade fabric. It had a note pinned to it. Written in geriatric scrawl the missive explained that the block had been salvaged from the ruins of the original University of Virginia Anatomy Building, which had been demolished many years before.
Excited, I bought it for Keith. And it was indeed a true score in the spousal gift department. He displays it in his office in the new UVa medical school building.
Which is very cool in a full-circle kind of way.
But the brick also carries with it the dark history of Mr. (Thomas) Jefferson’s Academical Village. The red clay was undoubtedly formed and baked by hands that had no choice. Much of the beautiful campus envisioned by our country’s Founding Father — was built by slaves.
Bringing me back to the conversation that was being held over by the cash register. An older man, with an affable smile, was talking current events with a middle-aged, well-heeled saleswoman.
‘Rush says they’ll be coming for the American flag next,’ she said.
I froze. She didn’t mean Limbaugh, did she?
‘I listen to him every day,’ the man enthused. About the symbols he opined: ‘I think they should just be displayed side-by-side. That way everyone would be happy.’
Yeah, and a swastica could be sewed to a Star of David to placate Nazis.
‘I just don’t know what’s coming next,’ the clerk lamented.
Standing amidst all the antebellum furnishings I had dual impulses. One was to voice my outrage. The other was to bypass the confrontation and go straight to throwing up. Calmly I put down the glass pitcher I was on the verge of buying and walked out. The Confederate flag was flying inside my once-favorite store.
150 years after the end of the Civil War.