I can hear my mother's response to this post now. "Why can't you just go and have a good time?" Well, I did go. To the North Carolina Mountain State Fair. And I did have a good time. But because I'm never able to fully turn off the analytical part of my brain, I couldn't help but go into the experience with an anthropologist's eye. Hey, I took two courses of Anthro in college, so I think I'm qualified.
We had been warned beforehand that there would be a larger religious presence at the fair than we're used to. We're used to the Los Angeles and Orange Country state fairs, which are pretty secular as fairs go. I didn't give the warning much thought until we entered the vendor exhibit tent, innocently looking for a new veggie chopper. (Tangent: We bought a veggie chopper thing a few years ago at the L.A. fair and used it constantly. It broke recently, and since we bought it at a fair, we thought every fair would have them.)
Sadly, we didn't find our veggie chopper. Instead, in between the homemade soap and the Ginsu knives, we found the anti-abortion people. Then the various churches and ministries. Then the Sons of the Confederacy. Then the Republicans. I lump them all together, because they all find justification for their extreme behavior in the Bible. I've reached the point in my life where I physically cringe and shudder when I see any depictions of Jesus or see any religious icons. It's like I've become a vampire and recoil at the sign of the cross. Though it would be easy to blame my reaction on my demonic bloodthirst, it's actually much more simple. When you're bludgeoned with a hammer all your life, you tend to cringe when you see a hammer. You avoid trips to hammer conventions. You stay away from Home Depot.
As if the vendor/revival tent wasn't enough, there were scriptures dotted around the fairgrounds. Scriptures don't bother me so much. I'm usually sort of interested in how people quote them. I quote Shakespeare and The Simpsons all the time, so I am a student of context/quotation strategies. But I'm still puzzled by John 3:16 posted at the pony rides. It's like saying, "Hey kid. Hope you're enjoying your ride, because Jesus died for your sins." It seems a little drastic, when the Golden Rule would have sufficed.
In most all aspects, it was like any other fair. Animals, food, rides, games, etc. The religious and racist elements were jarring, to say the least. Like the attendees are dreamily eating their cotton candy and thinking, "This would have tasted better if it had been made by a slave. Ah, the good old days." I don't know. I was heartened by the surprisingly mixed crowd. People were there of all colors, origins, sexualities, economic backgrounds. It was the perfect picture of a melting pot society. Much more diverse than, say, the Orange Country fair, which can be blindingly white. So in the midst of all this diversity and seemingly harmonious co-existence, a family walks by all sporting Confederate flags and the Jesus people hand me a stack of mini-Bibles that promise comfort on the cover, but deliver the dreaded "God is angry" on the inside.
Admittedly, everyone we were with had a great time, laughing, eating and screaming on the rides. I seemed to be the only one looking over my shoulder and wondering if I could use a corn cob as a weapon if suddenly attacked by the Christian puppet show people.
"Why can't you just go and have a good time?"
Okay, okay. I will try.