I agree with Karl Martino in his disgust with both Pat Robertson and that pathetic minister from Kansas, Fred Phelps. Don’t need atheists to say anything bad about Christianity when you have men like this out witnessing for the faithful–usually by recommending that someone be killed.

I winced, though, when reading his condemnation of Ann Coulter. Oh, not because he condemned her. It was his reference to her audience:

And speaking of Ann Coulter […] did you know she actually suggested New Yorkers are cowards? I know many New Yorkers. They are the ONLY folks I know that compare to Philadelphians in terms of being tough.

She’s one of a growing chorus of opportunists that seek to divide the country for their own gain. She knows her fan base – Southerners – and plays to it very well.

Missouri is considered on the border between north and south, east and west in this country, but culturally, the St. Louis area aligns more southern than midwestern. And this is reflected in some of the votes that have happened the last few years, including those for President, Governor, and the overwhelming vote against gay marriage.

At the same time, though, even in the hot of summer a good crowd showed up at the Gay Pride parade in St. Louis, and most of the people were not gay. It made me feel pretty good.

During the trip this last week, I talked with a lot of people, and heard stories about mills, and whisky running, and the great flood of 1993, and I found the people to be both charming and friendly–especially in the Branson area, where everyone had a smile. But then, these people saw a straight, older, white woman. A straight, older, white, woman who they assumed was Christian. It was lucky that religion was never mentioned, because I was right at the buckle of the bible belt: the heart of the fundamentalist faith in this country.

No we didn’t talk about religion or politics so I was able to pass and had a delightful time. I’d like to assume, because I like to believe the best of folk, that if they knew I wasn’t Christian, or Republican, they would still have been as friendly.

I wonder, though. A couple of months or so ago I had a lovely email from a lady who volunteered at one of the local historical societies. She’d really liked my Tyson Elk story–you know the one with the atom bomb?– and asked how I had conducted my research. I love history, and it was wonderful to talk with someone about it, because I swear “history bloggers” are the rarest of the rare breeds. Anyway, we had a great exchange of emails, and were even talking about getting together for lunch to talk about Tyson, when I mentioned that she could see some of my photos of the area at Flickr. What I had forgotten is that it was fairly soon after the Pride parade and my Flickr queue was full of pictures from the event. I never heard from her again.

Still, most of the webloggers from the south I read are tolerant, intelligent, and open minded and I’d like to think they’re representative of most of the folks in the area rather than online freaks who have been perverted by all you folks out there. As for the north, well, I grew up in a town in Washington State that wasn’t far from the spiritual center of the neo-nazi movement, only forty miles away in Idaho. Heck, I’ll take a southern redneck from the Ozarks over one of those guys in the back hills of Idaho.

Perhaps tolerance is a myth made up by big city folk in the north to descibe what doesn’t exist in the south. Still, as Mark Twain said, All the talk about tolerance, in anything or anywhere, is plainly a gentle lie. It does not exist. It is in no man’s heart; but it unconsciously, and by moss-grown inherited habit, drivels and slobbers from all men’s lips.. Mark Twain was from Missouri.

I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks. Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and born in Alabama.

All I was doing was trying to get home from work. Alabama born Rosa Parks said.

Never drive a car that can handle more road than you can. Sorry, that one was me.

Bad, stupid, fearful people live everywhere. It’s just that most of the folk in the south are quiet and believe their ministers and not all of the “men of God” here are good people. Or at a minimum, tolerant. Nor do they have a whole lot of exposure to people who are different, and didn’t grow up in these parts; probably because people in the north don’t visit the south, and when they do, they treat the folks here like they’re inbred and stupid. Or they act like they’re inbred and stupid, themselves, and the southerners want no part of them.

Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt–distance does that.

Oh, and as an example of a typical southern person, Bush doesn’t count–he went to Yale.

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