An obvious question on the minds of PeP Nation must be: Where's PiedPiper? Well, have a seat kiddos, cause Papa Pied has a tale to weave.
I've been recovering from (and catching up after) a weekend in the Middle of Middle America, otherwise known as rural Missouri. That's right folks; I travelled to the heart of the beast, looked it in the eye, and proudly said, "Howdy, ya'll."
I was there for a friend's wedding. As many of you are aware, I spent some months teaching English in the Czech Republic a couple years ago, and it was one of my roommates getting married. In addition, I met up with a number of other friends from my Prague days.
We all flew into Kansas City (that's Missouri...not Kansas) where I actually ordered meatloaf and mashed potatoes in a restaurant. Skeptical at first, I must admit, it was delicious. However, this lends well to my first lesson from Red State America...it's big. Obviously the geography is big, as evident on the Red State-Blue State map, with points of interest few and far between. More striking, though, is the size of the people, and I ain't talking about numbers of people. No, no, no, we're talking waistlines. Fast food on every corner, billboards that read "Beef: Why eat anything else?", and heavy use of varied condiments, particularly ketchup (or catsup...whatever), have a balloony breed of humankind.
The beauty of the bulge, however, is that Red Staters have adapted by building big. And that's where Wal-Mart comes in. On Saturday morning, I went to the Wal-Mart Supercenter - a mecca of consumption - where I walked around aimlessly for more than 45 minutes in search of a roll of Scotch tape. It's like a freakin' labyrinth with surprises around every corner. At one point, I turned a corner to find a fake mounted deer head trying to start a conversation with me.
And speaking of mounted deer heads, never have I ever been wished "Happy Huntin'" so many times in my life. We made the mistake - or perhaps had the fortune - of trolling through Missouri during the deer season opener. As usual, camoflauge was this season's in-style.
And, with no clever segue, that leaves only church. God is everywhere in Missouri. There are superchurches off the freeway, small chapels on nearly every corner, and my personal favorite, the First Baptist Church of Climax Spings, out in the country. The best stretch of highway we drove through had a church, a Budweiser distributor, and a bullet factory all within a half-mile of pristine blacktop.
Now, believe me, I don't wish to demean my Red State brethren. Without a doubt, any Missourian could spend a weekend in St. Paul and poke fun at the way I do things. But I think that's the point we're missing. Conservatives like to deride "multiculturalism" as this phony, lefty, PC conceptual nothingness. Yet, after spending a weekend in rural Missouri, I found my culture - if, as culture is traditionally defined, we're talking about basic mores and customs - dramatically different than that of my fellow countrymen and women. To deny that multiculturalism is a necessary part of our national framework is simply to deny our interwoven and opposing cultural reality. Maybe there's absolutely nothing to this argument, but I thought I'd throw it out there.
So cheers to the fat, preachy, consumerist hillbilly hunters out there! I hope to see ya'll again soon.