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Vigliotti: Finding and keeping home in an outpost that retains its character | COMMENTARY

In the summer twilight, amid shadow-swept meadows and night-rushed farm fields, two empty roads approached each other, met for just a moment, and parted into the darkening world. The glittering, speckled glow of firefly lights appeared and vanished, appeared again, receding into the distance that, without the sun, seemed to reach on with the all the unrelenting vastness of space. Somewhere across that distance, the stars seemed to touch the Earth. My friends and I, driving back from Gettysburg but not quite wanting to return home just yet, decided to find somewhere in Carroll County we’d never been before.

I considered this at the steering wheel; and ideas about which way to go were as numerous as those friends in my car. We’d been listening to music, and talking about life, girls, where we wanted to end up 10 years from then, what God might have in store for us, and here we were at a crossroads in the place where we’d grown up. The idea was to get lost, and find our way back home. But within a moment of reaching those two roads, one of us recognized where we were. Accordingly, we took the other road.

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Among the reasons that Carroll was founded, we learn in Nancy M. Warner’s book “Carroll County, Maryland: A History, 1837 – 1976”, was, in part, the difficulty of having to travel to either Baltimore or Frederick for legal, business, and other errands over “poor roads.” Certainly, something closer to home with improved roads would be far more convenient for various reasons, including that Carroll herself is quite distinct in many respects from her neighbors. Most notably, she was and remains home for us.

So much of what draws people to Carroll — either those that have had the wonder of living here their whole lives or those who have fallen in love with her and moved in — is the realization that this is storied American heartland with good, decent citizens and a better way of life. In such respects, she is a refuge against the wider whirlwind of tempestuous events in other parts of Maryland, and indeed, across several other places in the United States.

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Our current landscape in America is one of challenges, between pandemic and protests, vitriolic rhetoric and violent riots. These events have touched us here in Carroll in certain ways, marks of national tragedy reflected in local concern. We are rightly concerned with losing our way in the course of such events, of losing hold of the best of everything we are as Americans. Some have even told us that we have to do this to be better.

When those individuals speak of “better,” they really mean “different.” They urge us on not forward, but toward a failed past, a red horizon in which espoused equality was merely a façade for brutal statist conduct. It only makes sense that we should be concerned about this, for there are many advancing the renewal of this archaic curtain.

Carroll County, amid the variating trends of her neighbors, has managed to retain enough of her traditional character and moral nature to have become distinct, an outpost of sorts in this part of Maryland. It isn’t merely political, that distinction, but it is also a matter of the heart and of the mind, of the idea that home means something, and so must matter against the greater arc and current of national events that appear locally.

There are many good people in the surrounding areas who are striving to get back to their home, and to their credit, they refuse to give in. In the present, Carroll stands as a kind of roadmap model, a reminder elsewhere of home that might be returned. Hence, the love that those who live here have for our county. In so doing, Carroll’s voters have consistently made wise choices in those local elections which directly affect both town and county, and in those selected to represent her in Annapolis and Washington, D.C. Such is a perennial responsibility toward home.

That night so many years ago with my friends proved to be as uneventful as it was memorable and amusing — because no matter where we drove, at least one of us knew where we were. But something else I carried with me from that night was a kind of comfort in knowing that someone did always know where we were, that we were never too far removed from home to find our way back. God lifts His hand, and ignites a star. The American Dream is still a promise, here.

As Americans, we make choices. Decision-making is inherent in our nature and our way of life. Who knows what roads down which we may some day travel, including those of our own determination? We, each of us, stand at a crossroads in every hour, beneath a star-emblazoned sky, not merely in politics, but in every aspect of our lives. We should take comfort that Carroll County’s early citizens determined that such journeys should say something of keeping home, that they found the way. That choice, too now, is ours.

Joe Vigliotti, a contributor to The Flip Side and a Taneytown city councilman, writes from Taneytown. His column appears every other Friday. Email him through his website at www.jvigliotti.com.

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