Before you read on, you need to realize that what you’re reading was written by someone who closely fits the profile of the anti-christ. All I need to do is go into politics and pretend to be a Christian and I’m there, 100%. Or so I am informed by preachers on local radio, driving from Kansas and Missouri to Illinois. All political views held by my personal party of preference in the Netherlands (D66) are immediately identified with the Prince of Darkness by these extreme right Republicans.
Euthanasia is murder of a despicable nature that far exceeds anything Nazi-Germany ever imagined. Abortion would be worse, if there was room on the evil-spectrum. Allowing the government some control over shared funds is putting yourself on the highway to communism, which obviously is evil without further argument. And if you think drilling for more oil might be a problem for the environment or that over-population could get troublesome in time, you’ve clearly lost all faith in Jesus. Afterall, if the good Lord wouldn’t have wanted us to get to the oil, why did he put it there in the first place? And it’s God who allows all these people to be born, surely you wouldn’t want to imply that he would allow this if the Earth (which he also created) would be unable to support them?
I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. It’s intriguing to follow their lines of reasoning though. It seems that extensive knowledge of the bible and related writing would be required to even enter into a meaningful discussion with the people holding these beliefs. And it’s not just the odd crackpot either. Obviously, not everyone holds the extreme ideas I summed up above, but going by the reach of radio like the sort put out by the BOTT Radio Network and by the responses of listeners calling in, it’s more common than I had expected. Callers are likely to be screened before going on the air, so any criticism won’t enter into the programming, but the views expressed by people that do get on seem to match fairly closely with what I’ve been hearing from people I’ve engaged in conversation.
What is interesting is that many people with whom I’ve spoken on this subject distance themselves from the extremist side, but simultaneously express similar ideas. They don’t take them to the extreme in that they don’t go around picketing with “fags doom nations” signs and photographs that are supposed to portray the normal procedures of abortion (warning: explicit!). But apart from those extremes, the opinions closely match what evangelists preach. And when argued with, even in the most lenient and open-minded fashion, the bible will enter into the discussion within a few sentences and it’s there to stay. Starting a discussion on any of the hot topics will turn seemingly normal people that are friendly and outgoing into close-minded, raving extremists that conjure images of brain-washing and bloody war.
Frankly, that’s a lot more scary than driving through some of the bad parts of cities like St. Louis, where my car and its contents get a lot of looks that a piggy bank is likely to get. With the windows up and the doors locked, it’s not hard to see why most middle-class and white Americans will stay out of these neighbourhoods on the North side. I refrained from getting out and talking to some of these people, since I’m out here by myself and not proficient with (or in the possession of) fire-arms, which seems a requirement…
Apart from those areas St. Louis comes recommended if you like jazz and want to experience the feel of a ‘gateway to the west’. I came out to St. Louis to visit a friend and take in the scenery and hanging around the city in the evening I found that jazz literally spills into the streets. A small festival was going on and some of the bars downtown had great musicians playing. Mixed with the tourists, the streets had aged black men that fit the stereo-type of the wizened blues player hanging around with their guitar cases, looking for an opportunity to join in musical activities. It’s one of the cliches that I hadn’t expected to actually run into, but somehow it’s been little or no trouble to find all of those iconic stereotypes. Ranging from the extreme-right evangelist Republican to the granny I helped down the stairs on her way to see Obama – she told me she had seen Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech and she wasn’t going to miss this one either – it’s all there.
If you’re considering travelling the States yourself and are looking to get into similar company, bring provocative T-shirts. I get into all sorts of interesting conversations wherever I wear my newly acquired “Change” shirt with Obama’s face staring out of a stylized postage stamp. Granted, the conversation is likely to start with “Where’d ya get that, red?” or you just get a stoney look and a “where you from?” once your greet the unfriendly. But generally, it grabs the attention. My “The worst is yet to come” shirt is a hit too. I considered wearing my Obama shirt to the Republican rally I visited in St. Louis but was unsure the if humor would be appreciated. After being reassured this would be ‘suicide’ by my friend’s family, I decided on another garb.
The rally itself had a decidedly different feel than the energized and expectant atmosphere I felt in Denver. Mostly families, many dressed in articles of firetruck-red clothing, came to the baseball stadium looking like they were out for a day in the park. The general atmosphere is hard to describe since on the surface, the support for McCain was clear. There was plenty of cheering and applauding in all the moments that required it. But somehow, the affair lacked real enthusiasm and people seemed to be waiting for something to happen or come that didn’t. Where the main feeling with the Democrats would be best desribed as hope, optimism and energy, the feeling with the Republicans was matte, obligatory and even a bit reluctant in places.
It made me think about a man I had seen on television who is in the business of selling T-shirts on a large scale, for any side of the political struggle. He explained that he had been doing this for 5 elections now and every single time, the candidate selling the most T-shirts ended up winning the elections. This year, Obama shirts are selling like crazy, but the McCain models are more impopular than any before. If this salesman’s track record is any indication at all, that spells good news for Obama, especially since it doesn’t seem to be related to the specific demographic of Obama supporters. The Bush shirts sold just about as well in the previous two elections, after all.
Something I noticed myself, which isn’t touched upon in the US media, is that among the people I’ve talked to, most that claim not to have voted in the past couple of elections would all vote Obama now, even though they aren’t sure they will even vote now. The age-old (and faulty) argument “my one vote doesn’t matter” being the most commonly heard reason. A close second is “Obama won’t be able to fulfill his promises anyway” either because “they won’t let him” or “he’s just saying it to win votes”. It’s discouraging to see a country that wages wars in the name of democracy having such an undemocratic populace. And the media not paying any attention (none that has come to mine anyway) to this problem seems to only make things worse.
Oh and I was wrong about Kansas. It doesn’t have the most adult stores, that would be Missouri. Also, Missouri adds innumerable fireworks outlets to the mix. Nevermind the occasion or the amount, fireworks ranging from sparkle sticks to roman candles and mortars are in ready supply. You can pretty much go out into the parking lot of the store and light them, for as far as the law is concerned, as long as you don’t ‘disturb the peace’.
I’m headed south from here, but Gustav is currently making landfall in Louisiana, so I’ll have to wait and see how that pans out before deciding whether it will be worthwhile to go to New Orleans or to just skip it.