Monday, August 13, 2007

Today's essay: What I Saw at the County Fair

I hate labels, except when I'm putting them on someone else.

So, when I went to the South St. Louis County Fair last weekend, I became a little distressed when I realized how much I didn't fit in with everyone around me.

Now, fitting in with the folks at the county fair doesn't necessarily sound like a life goal but county fairs seemed a lot different when I was growing up. Something is going on here. Is it the soft glow of selective memory? Is it the crustiness of age? Is it the difference between Minnesota farm folk and Michigan farm folk? Or has the overall agricultural gene pool been so decimated by herbacides in this country that if you stand in the middle of the corn field, you can actually hear the IQ's falling?

Let's examine, shall we?

The soft glow of selective memory: I grew up in Genesee County, Michigan. We were surrounded by farm fields (not our own), and I think we had the idyllic surroundings for kids: fields, trails, ponds, streams, and just enough wild life to keep things interesting. It's not like we went to the county fair ALL THE TIME but it was a big deal when we did. The rides were dodgy, that was their charm. The carnies were weird, but that was in their job description. We even went to the Michigan State Fair once and I recall a lot of walking and getting very tired, but it was fun nonetheless.

But the South St. Louis County Fair was, how shall I say this, quite the eye opener? There is apparantly a St. Louis County Fair further north and from the miniscule size of the South St. Louis County Fair, I'd have to wonder why they would split it up. I could see everything from one vantage point and after ten minutes of touring the animal barns and walking the grounds, I was ready to leave. It was at that point that I started people watching.

I believe this is the point in my diatribe when I touch on the crustiness of age:

Statistics say that there are still 25% of Americans that think George Bush is doing a great job and fully support him. I have often looked at this stat in amazement. Guess what? I found myself surrounded by that 25% at the fair. Now, I know that rural America swings hard to the right (I lived in Bum Fuck Oklahoma for far too long to not know this), but my trip back to White Trash Republican-land was disheartening at best. (My husband and I coined that phrase while living in Oklahoma. These are the folks that vote based on the following topics: God, Guns, Gays, Gynecology, and God. It doesn't matter that every single economic policy that their chosen candidate professes will do them harm. They are not there for deep thinking, just a shallow skim thank you very much. Give'em guns, save the babies, and keep the queers under wraps. That is ALL that matters.)

Now, examining the difference between Michigan and Minnesota farm folk is a little difficult. As a child in Michigan, I didn't understand a lot of the complexities around me. As I think back, there were more than enough occasions when I heard the N-word bandied about and I knew that I didn't like it. People liked their guns and hunting and if you lived in certain areas in Flint, people liked to hunt other people. But rural Michigan is undoubetdly like rural Minnesota, only there is probably a better chance in rural Michigan (particularly the UP) of finding such niceties in the farm basement as flags of the Ayran Nation or perhaps an amonium nitrate bomb. Yeah, perhaps Michigan lacks that "Minnesota Nice" quality that says it is wrong to kill people that you disagree with.

So, now I am brought to the question of the gene pool. It's really not fair to question herbacides and IQ levels of rural folks when the definition of "life on the short bus" can be found in any major city. But I suppose it is celebrated more in the country. It is "the way it is" and if anyone has any ambitions aside from getting married at 16 and having 5 babies in three years, they just have designs above their raisin'. Perhaps it is the rural idea that anything different is bad that keeps them so isolated. When you live in a community that comes down hard on anything new, you will either physically or metaphorically start screwing your first cousin and that never has a good result.

Side story: When I lived in Oklahoma and worked for months at a time in Japan, I was seen as a frightening oddity. I wrote a check at a store in Shawnee, Oklahoma and the woman asked for my employer's phone number on my check. I told her it was an overseas number and she got an astonished expression on her face. Now, she was in her early twenties and she said to me "Gosh, I ain't never even been out of the county before." Yes, I did mean to say county, not country.

So, what label do I put on myself? I love the Birkenstocks, I love the farmer's market, I love not using chemicals in my garden, I love to make things like soap and yarn from scratch, and I delight in sitting quietly in my flower garden and watching the bees. I actually get a little sad and nostalgic when I spend time with my bees as I am concerned for their future. Does this make me a tree hugger? An earth muffin?

Some will probably say yes. But in all reality, I think I can label myself.

Judgemental Bitch comes to mind.

Yeah. I am sooooooo being reincarnated as a dung beetle.

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