Yesterday at the library, a woman with small children came up to the Youth Services desk and complained that people were chanting in one of the meeting rooms.
“I already have my religion,” she said, full-on Grumpy Cat. “I don’t need theirs shoved in my face!” Then stormed off, poor, poor kids in tow. I looked at the schedule and the group meeting in that room was some sort of Asian international group, not affiliated with any particular spirituality as far as I could tell.
God forbid these little Christianlettes find themselves exposed to Alternative Cultures! Is this woman’s faith so tentative that she’s afraid a little chanting (which might not have even been spiritual in nature) might lure her over to Satan’s Bosom? That she’ll wake up tomorrow and feel the irrespressible urge to practice yoga and drink kombucha? Or suggest curry for dinner instead of hamburgers?
I went to coffee with my dad this morning (always an interesting experience: he’s a self-proclaimed socialist, works as a graveyard shift maintenance man for a local Evil Corporation, has a thinning ponytail down to his lower back, and pronounces pesto “Paste-O” and chipotle “Chi-poodle.” He’s a wise, redneck, blue-collar curmudgeon.), and we ranted a bit about religious crazies (one of about three topics we regularly rant about, the other two being Missouri weather and people who don’t use turn signals), and I had an epiphany: I don’t mind being one of about 1,000 progressive non-Christians in a population of 150,000 Glenn Beckites. I sort of like it!
I’ve lived in all sorts of lefty havens, and it was easy to get lost. It was hard to find your people when everyone was your people. Of course it was nice to have the perks that come with living in a community of the like-minded (vegetarian/local restaurants a’plenty, protests and rallies at which more than three people show up, bike friendly infrastructure, etc), but it was so predictable. You knew that 9.5 of the 10 people in any given room with you at any given time felt exactly the same way as you did, and that other .5-of-a-person would likely come around after a civil debate.
Living as a progressive in a conservative Midwest town is exciting. Never a dull moment. Will my car get keyed if I have a bumpersticker suggesting that equality is a generally positive thing? Will my blind date, over appetizers, suddenly launch into a discussion about how women are too sensitive about rape jokes? Will the friendly old gent next door turn out to be a vicious, old school racist who still can’t get it through his head that minorities and women deserve, I dunno, THE VOTE?
But, when you actually do find someone who believes like you, it’s so wonderful. Kindred spirits. It is similar to the bond formed between two people who went to war together, and it almost (almost) makes up for all the “Go back to Iraqs” and the “Obama is a Muslims” and the “Homosexuality is an abominations” that you encounter on a regular basis. And then you find that this person who believes like you knows other people who believe like you, and the four of you form a little community, and you go out together for 1/2 Price Wine Mondays and rant about all the -Isms, and your bond is stronger than it might’ve been had you met each other at a well-attended rally of radical anti-war, vegan feminists.
Here’s to all the progressive Midwesterners who hold down the fort!