The 12th day of Christmas, Jan. 6, is referred to as the Day of Epiphany in the Christian calendar, for that day marks the coming of the Magi, the Three Wise Men, who witnessed the manifestation of Christ. So it is that the word “epiphany” has come to mean any illuminating realization or sudden perception.
Here in Rappahannock County, Jan. 6 may also be remembered as the attack of the so-called Arctic Vortex. Certainly, I’ll never forget the frozen water pipe at my Amissville cabin.
When the pipe thawed, it burst — shooting firehose-like spray throughout the cabin for what must have been several hours before I came home to open the front door to a wall of water. The pipe in question, my plumber discovered, was a tiny plastic tube that brings water to the refrigerator’s ice machine, which ironically I seldom use.
So who’s responsible? Mother Nature? Or me? Or instead of stupid me, can I blame the appliance salesman who had talked me into buying an over-engineered gadget that I didn’t really need?
Man vs. Nature? Or Man vs. Man? In humankind’s long history, those are the two dominant narratives, in literature and in life. Dramatic variations include Man vs. God and Man vs. Self.
And here’s my epiphany: If I were a Republican, I would blame Mother Nature. If a Democrat, I would look no further than myself — and the people with whom I interacted.
That must be why rural voters tend to be overwhelmingly Republican. The daily life of just about any farmer is inevitably defined by constant efforts to tame and control nature. The last thing needed is any kind of constraint regulating individual behavior, especially the liberty to do whatever’s necessary to beat back the wilderness.
For city or suburban dwellers, which most Democrats tend to be, the battle is no longer with nature but with their fellow man. Restraints are needed on human behavior so that one’s own freedoms and rights are not infringed upon by others. Pollution restrictions and gun control are obvious examples.
For them, the recent cold snap is just a futile rear-guard action in a war that Nature has already lost to man-made global warming. Since the Arctic is heating up faster than rest of the earth, the vortex that usually spins tightly around the North Pole was suddenly pushed southward by now fickle air currents.
In the end, I have to be grateful for my busted water pipe, allowing me finally to understand why Democrats are lucky to get just 40 percent of Rappahannock votes in any election. And my wife is grateful because there’s now far less clutter in our cabin — with all my old, accumulated newspapers, magazines, assorted journals and scribblings now waterlogged and relocated to the local landfill.