As many of you already know, I live with my family in rural Oklahoma. It's a nice place to live once you get used to searing heat, high humidity and mosquitoes the size of small helicopters. Those phenomena are natural, simply part of the tapestry of life and you get used to it.
There is, however, another tapestry of life here. A social structure that is rather less natural in that it is entirely contrived by man. It is judgmental, exclusive and visited on the children, by adults who should know better, but who are oh so righteous.
Required Disclaimer: I understand that there are people who hold "belief" as an integral part of their lives. Many readers of this site represent the finest of that tradition and I have zero, nil, no argument with those folk. Indeed I admire them. If all "believers" behaved this way my family would not have these issues to deal with, and this Diary would not have been written
I have friends and family who live all over this great country, and in several other countries spread as far and wide as the UK and Australia. Myself, I was born and raised in England, by Atheists and Socialists so for me, that is my normal.
I am asked about the "Bible Belt", from time to time, by people who have never been here, never experienced the reality of life in a place like this. It is fair to say that they find it very hard to understand the answers I give, or grasp the pervasive nature of Evangelical Christianity, and how it perverts communities. Strong words, yet beating around the (burning) bush is futile. I see it that way from my perspective, you are perfectly entitled to take a different view and I am content with that.
The general attitude from the UK is that Oklahoma, and it's environs, are "a bit like Surrey, but with more churches". They tend to view Christianity from their own perspective and why would they not? That was how I thought about it too, if thinking about the Bible Belt was anything that crossed my mind.
So I try to explain just how intrusive it is, and how malign an influence, how destructive to society, how .... Un-Constitutional ... is the approach of Evangelical Christianity, and I am met with blank stares and, quite reasonably, asked why we don't move. Questions that there are no good answers to other than an inner certainty that no, they don't own Oklahoma, they will not be allowed to corrupt America. We will not move, and they shall not pass. If I prove to be so un-neighbourly, then they can move.
I was prompted to this by a small example that happened today. There is nothing unusual about this, such examples happen frequently. For me they are just "how it is", and however annoying it becomes, you get used to it. Occasionally I might become irritated, I also feel pity towards those who live such narrow lives that they are scared of difference. Really, I do believe that much of the climate around here is a consequence of fear.
Fear of change, fear of inclusiveness, fear of compassion, fear of color, fear of teh gay. Fear that their teachings, their philosophies are so shallow that they cannot withstand the slightest scrutiny. They don't know me personally, but if they did they would be afraid of me too. Not because I am scary, or violent, or powerful and rich. None of those things. They would be afraid of me because I have a strength of conviction that would challenge their "truths". A determination to live free from their influence, and a preparedness to go toe to toe with their arguments, and damned well make them prove it, or shut up. They cannot do the former, and don't really want to comply with the latter.
The result of all of this is that life will be uncomfortable for anyone who thinks critically, can muster an argument or can see through the false equivalences and contradictions, and is prepared to speak. Anyone, in fact, who is not one of them.
So what happened? I hear you ask.
Something that is no more than a straw in the wind. An example so small and petty that one would be minded to ask why it is important. In of itself, it is not important and I describe it simply because it is typical, and an example of how deeply such matters reach into our lives, and the lives of our children.
In July our daughter is attending 8th Grade Band Camp. She went last year and it was a bit of an ordeal, such was her homesickness. Homesickness to the point that our young son was heard to remark that next year, we would drop her off at Camp then change our phone number. Kids, huh?
Be that as it may, she is a year older with some stunning successes behind her. She plays 1st Chair Alto Sax, she made National Junior Honors Society and has a wide circle of friends. She wants to go again and hopefully with the benefit of her experience last year, she will enjoy it more.
So she got herself a room mate and all was set. Then the room mate broke her arm, and suddenly she needs a new place to sleep. A couple of her friends were very happy for her to share with them, and so arrangements were made.
Then came the fly in the ointment. The Mom of one of the other girls does not want her to share a room with our daughter. Is there a space problem? Nope. Does our daughter have some gruesome communicable disease? Nope. Does the Band Director think it would be a problem? Again, no. The only person who thinks it would be an issue is one girl's Mom.
This is the Mom who no longer encourages her daughter to associate with our family because she once invited our daughter to attend Church with them. A kind offer that we very politely declined because we are not a Church-going family. Despite this the two remain firm friends at school and wanted to share a room.
Our daughter is not a stupid girl. She fully realises why she cannot share a room with her friend. She knows that she has been shunned by an adult, because we do not go to Church, and therefore are not "living right". Her daughter can not, must not be exposed to those attitudes because hey, she is a Christian and she might not be if she talks to another thirteen year old who doesn't attend Church.
It is beyond all reason, except for the fear factor. Well they should be scared, because they are going the way of the dinosaurs, those six thousand years ago!
Yeah, I know the Mom "might" be worried about over-crowding, she may have all sorts of secular reasons for objecting, and I might be making a mountain out of a molehill. I would agree were this the only example. I would concur were we not faced with similar challenges, from the same people, time and again. There comes a point where the conclusion that you jump to is simply born of bitter experience.
And that is what folk who don't live here find it so hard to understand. I hope that you never have to.