The View from Charlottesville
Blog post written by Tim Smith, President of Carolon Capital.
The view from my office in Charlottesville, Virginia is a scenic picture of mountains and tranquility. During the weekend of August 11th, the view became bleak and disconcerting.
Almost a month later, I still find it difficult to clearly describe my feelings on everything that happened during the fateful 24-hour period in Charlottesville. Since then, my heart and head have hurt even more as I watch, listen to and read about how others have characterized my town and my community.
Over the past weeks, I have had an overwhelming desire to write something about the horrible weekend. However, I don’t know what to write. I don’t have any unique insight, recommendations on how to change the world or hard-hitting opinions. For me, it is more of a cleansing. Sometimes is simply helps to write.
As a starting point, it may be useful to provide some context as to why recent events are so personal to me.
First, I abhor politics. For that reason, I am not overtly political and I go to great lengths to avoid discussing politics for fear of saying something that might offend others. That is not to say I don’t have strong views. In fact, my friends would likely be surprised to know that my beliefs are a mixture of “right,” “left” and “middle.” I admit to being a politically confused individual. While I vote in every election, I have a strong distrust of all politicians (except Reagan...he was The Man). Every trip to the voting booth usually leads to an overwhelming desire to take a hot shower followed by a healthy dose of alcohol as I watch the returns being tabulated.
Second, while I am not a historian, I am a US history buff. I have slowly worked my way through the most dramatic periods of US history and the various conflicts that define them. Much to the chagrin of my London-based partner, my favorite period in US history is defined as the pre-revolutionary war years through the Constitutional Convention in 1787. I tend to enjoy the more esoteric and unknown facets of the historical periods which is why people like Nathaniel Greene, John Stark and the Culper Spy Ring are high on my list. All that said, I admit that my knowledge of history is sometimes shallow. I still wish all conflicts were like the Korean War when the folks from M*A*S*H were running things. Hawkeye, McIntire and Hunnicutt had so much damn fun.
Finally, and most importantly, I am a proud graduate of the University of Virginia and I live and work in Charlottesville, Virginia. For me, this town and this University are the best of the best. I will be here for the rest of my life and I will always be affiliated through multiple connections with UVA.
My dislike of politics, my infatuation with history and my love of all things Charlottesville/UVA together make recent events very difficult for me to digest. That difficulty is heightened given the experiences I had during the second weekend in August:
- On August 10th, I had a meeting on the Grounds of UVA. I was early so I took the opportunity to walk through the Lawn and settled on a bench in front of the newly renovated Rotunda. Right in front of me was our enormous, regal statue of Thomas Jefferson, the University’s founder. I am generally not a reflective guy, but for some reason, I vividly remember sitting on that bench and thinking about how much I loved that spot and my school. It was a goose bump type moment….and those are rare for me. By now, everyone has seen that same statue of Jefferson and that same bench as they were surrounded by protestors yielding tiki torches on August 11th.
- On August 12th, I was visiting Montpelier, the estate of our fourth President James Madison. Think about the irony for a moment – The conflict in Charlottesville was beginning to rage due to disagreements about taking down Confederate statues while my family was listening to a tour guide talk about James Madison and his loyal “servant” Paul Jennings. It was surreal, but, it brought the core issue to the front of our minds.
The timing of these events probably made me look at the actions over that weekend in a different light than most. I was unusually reflective. I have always had strong opinions on the fate of the confederate monuments and the tenants behind freedom of speech. Fundamentally, I am not honestly sure if my opinions have changed since August 11th. However, I will admit that my opinions on those topics are now forming through a different paradigm. When something so dramatic happens in your backyard, you can’t help but reassess your views.
Regardless of my personal views, I am hopeful that those not connected to Charlottesville and UVA like I am will realize that what they saw in the news is not a reflection of our community. I love this town, this University and our people. While I am not a social media maven, just take a look at #HoosTogether to see the many ways our University and our town are intertwined and full of goodness. The view from Charlottesville, while forever changed, is still beautiful.