Lately there has been a lot of bad news coming out of my adopted home town, Strasburg. From allegations of sexual assault on a school bus two years ago, to having volunteer first responders allegedly being involved in having sex with a minor. Quite a few of my neighbors are rather embarrassed and quite despondent over these latest allegations and think they will forever cast a negative connotation over Strasburg.
News of the school bus assault did reach Northern Virginia, and soon news of the fire department will reach that region also. And yes, some of my former neighbors will talk and cackle about how Strasburg residents are little more than just a bunch of redneck idiots who gang rape anyone they can. Let these bunch of elitists talk and have their day. I am here to tell you that nothing could be farther from the truth.
I moved here by choice a few years back, and before coming here, was told by my neighbors at the time everything from how racist the Shenandoah Valley can be, to how uneducated the residents are. And everything in between.
The fact is that the people of both Shenandoah County and Strasburg in particular are quite sophisticated thinkers and very aware of what goes on in their communities. Contrary to what the “sophisticated” people of Northern Virginia will tell you, the people of Strasburg are the most welcoming people one can ever meet. I lived in Leesburg for several years before coming to Strasburg. None of my neighbors ever said anything to me. However, on my first day here, I received no less than 25 hello’s from my new neighbors – including then Mayor Tim Taylor of Strasburg.
In my more than 50 years on this Earth, there has never been a more friendly and community-based town than Strasburg that exists. Take a look at the fire that touched one house this past Christmas weekend. Within just a few minutes of the fire, dozens of people in our town were coming up with different ways to help the family. If such a tragedy happened in Northern Virginia, the family likely would have been left to fend for themselves. A similar event happened to one of my neighbors in Leesburg about 12 years ago. Their house burned down and they lost all of their possessions. The family that lost their house was quite popular in the neighborhood – went to all the right parties, knew all the “right people.” Yet when they needed help the most, no one was there to help them – no one took a few minutes out of their day to offer a kind word or clothes or a place to stay. Interestingly enough, they never returned to Leesburg.
Most Northern Virginians and Washington, D.C., metropolitan area residents have very little idea what occurs in their own communities. Far too many elected officials in the D.C. area don’t mingle with anyone who is not a government employee or fat cat donor. Most Arlington residents can’t vote without a “sample ballot” as they have no idea who their elected officials are. As the former vice chair of the Arlington GOP, this was a running joke among political activists of both parties. Not so in Strasburg. Here our councilmembers and our local politicians for the most part are well known in the community and are out at local events as often as possible.
In Jackson’s 1862 Valley Campaign, a Union chaplain in the 2nd Massachusetts said of Strasburg that “it is the dirtiest, nastiest, meanest, poorest, and most shiftless town I have yet seen in all the shiftless, poor, mean, nasty, dirty towns of this beautiful valley.” The chaplain was wrong then, and those who doubt the resolve of our town are wrong today. We will rebound, we will do just fine. Does this town have issues? Yes. And some of the problems are not easily solvable. However, given the love of community of my neighbors and the knowing of our collective history, I have no doubt that Strasburg will do just fine. And to whose of you who are upset over the negative connotations which will come – don’t get upset over what a group of elitists will think of you. They’d look down on us no matter what.
John Massoud is the 6th Magisterial District Chair of the Shenandoah County Republican Party and is the head of the GOP Freedom Caucus.