(Image filched from Wikimedia.)

This is Mather Gorge, literally just downstream from the Great Falls on the Potomac River.  Mrs. R and I (and the gels) are planning to go hiking here Sunday afternoon with some old friends of ours.  Our friends live in Maryland while we live quite close to this spot in Virginia.  Over the past day or two, there has been some gentle back-and-forth tugging about which side of the river we would hike (there being trails on both sides).   While it has all been in fun, it is nonetheless emblematic of an underlying, but very real, deep-seated hostility between the two states about which I occasionally muse.

Very broadly speaking, and with all the caveats about generalities and exceptions and the like, Marylanders and Virginians dislike each other pretty intensely.  (For purposes of this split, I would mention that denizens of the District of Columbia almost invariably side with the Marylanders.)  People from Maryland believe that they are enlightened, socially conscious and hip, while their neighbors across the River are gun-toting, secret-bedsheet-wearing, knuckle-dragging rednecks.  Conversely, Virginians view Marylanders as priggish, self-satisfied carpetbaggers, while seeing themselves as possessing the better attributes of the Old South tradition.  

I suppose this divide is a legacy of the area’s history: It is, after all, the frontier between North and South.  And while Maryland was a fairly mushy Border State during the War, most of its current population are (I believe) the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of people who came down from New York and the like during the Kennedy Administration, bringing with them their Yankee prejudices and contributing to the current polarization of attitudes here.

What is funny is the fact that this is a highly transient part of the Country, and yet these mutual caricatures are readily adopted by people who settle here even if they have no local roots whatever.  I felt it myself when I came to the area 17 years ago: I had no connection with the region apart from having gone to law school in Virginia.  Nonetheless, the idea of living in Maryland was (and still is) perfectly appalling to me.  Conversely, our friends, who are house-hunting in connection with their upcoming marriage, refuse point-blank to consider the Old Dominion.

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