Three couples stand under a tent. A television playing images of people looking distraught, head in their hands. Two in black suit jackets, a third with sleeves rolled up and the women in dresses. Flower print patterns. Middle aged, they look eager. All six watching me walk in their direction. A woman walks from behind her post, around the table, holding her hands beneath her breasts and above her navel. Crossed, content and smiling.
I’m intersected by a balding gentleman with a small orange book. Psalms and Proverbs on its cover backed by vine looking vector images. A stock design. With the self-reflection Proverbs has provided on this trip I accept his gesture but not after letting him know I already have a Bible. ‘I bet it doesn’t fit in your pocket’, again, I accept. It’s the size of my iPhone so i tuck it the back of my jeans.
I express how happy I am to see the group of six, a mixture of being genuine and throwing them a bone. With my past connection to the Jehovah’s Witness religion, I admire their hustle and judge their ideologies. However, in a current search of enlightenment I am open to any tidbit of spirituality that can move my journey in a positive direction. They ask who I am and what I do. I answer with a pompous description rooted in humour. ‘I’m a twang warrior on a journey traversing the nation with light and love in search of authenticity and the Spirit of Real Country Music.’ It garners a genuine laugh, my welcomer, Grace, blesses me.
“Are you a follower of Christ, Son?”
“Ummmmm…yes. well…yeah, I am. I’m a version of Christian – still shaking it all out. But yes, I believe the teachings of Christ.”
“Are you a believer in the Word of God?”
“Ummmmm…yes. well…yeah, I am. I’ve found truths in the Bible. I question its history but I think its all there. I’m a traveller and its given some guidance for sure.”
Grace quotes Psalm 84. “…blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” “That’s for you, young musician.”
I’ve always been impressed by the ability to quote the Bible. The most Badass in Westerns seem to do it flawlessly. My desire to do so, however, could be ego driven. A display of intelligence opposed to its true worth. This is a nice opportunity to ask questions. I’ve allotted myself a couple hours before possibly making my way to Irvine. Yet to decide, influenced by the fact Travis Tritt is playing tomorrow night.
I’m asked if I ever wonder why God allows bad things happen to good people, this feels like a text-book approach to connecting with me on a humanistic doubting level. She points out the key word ‘allows’ and offers that it’s not ‘makes’.
I imagine it’s due to habitual practice, Grace assumes I’m a lost soul. I did give that impression with my choice of the words ‘journey’ and ‘searching’. I retaliate with a synopsis of my upbringing, my years as an alter boy at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Kennedy, my dedication as organist following that, what the Catholic Church instilled in me. She snagged the Catholic point and re-established her connection admitting her Catholicism at one point in life – she quotes Matthew 23.
“…and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethern.”
Another literal biblical point. How could you call one Father, when there is only one Father; God. Not Father or Rabbi, but Brother. Grace continues. This kinda works for me. The usage of the word Brother has become my most sincere form of connection. Yes, I agree, we are all brothers. Now I have them.
I challenged the updates of the Bible. They say we no longer speak in old english and the King James Version accommodates to modern linguistics. I take them back further to a time when the translation of the Bible left omittance. They ask how the Word of God could possibly be changed. I ask if we can still communicate with beings of love such as angels, they ask why would we need to if all the answers are in the Bible. I admit marijuana usage, they condemn its inhaling but condone its strength for rope. Graces husband enters at this point and begins to re-quote her already quoted passages. They follow up with alcohol consumption being acceptable. I verbally recount Rennebohm’s experience and attest for his core beauty. Members in his meeting hall living dual lives, the hypocrisy in his dismissal. They quote repentance. Through this rally, I am becoming fond of Grace, also a fellow Canadian. London, Ontario. I demand a critical mind and a compassionate heart in religious practice. Non-judgement. I’ve found seeds of beauty in all Faiths and more ties that bind than points of contention. Grace held her own in our discussion and wishes me well. Her husband is passionate in his mission, he pokes me in the chest in our engagement and shakes my shoulders. I appreciate the physical contact.
I make my way past a wood workings and crocheted dolls. To the Donald Trump cardboard cutout.
Two ladies manning the booth. Sweet in appearance, one wearing the revolting Make America Great Again cap. I have a short fuse for any Canadian that wears that cap out of irony. It disgusts me. An uneducated opinion attempting to snag attention, supporting an embodiment of racism, homophobia, corporate interest, male bigotry, and the objectification and degradation of women. Fuck them.
Phoebe on the other hand, actually wants to make America great again. Trump has successfully tapped into America’s fears implanted by past government and is perceived as a saviour to the desperate. His lies resonate as blinding truths that give hope. The issue with American complacency is controlled by Trump’s ice-cold stainless steel snaffle bit; giving into its direction, trusting the controller. Prejudices and racism live in all of us, it stems from the biological instincts of protection. Trump feeds this wolf making compassionate, hardworking, accepting people turn vile. A plethora of degrees.
Phoebe and Diana call me Love. Their southern charm is beautiful. They speak to me in a gentle calming tone. They’ve worked their whole lives and have been manipulated by the man. They disclose their Christianity and remind me I’m in the Bible belt. I’m so enamoured by their pleasantries that I don’t want to leave. They were Democrats, Kentucky has been a Democratic state since the mid-sixties. No more. I’m assured that Donald Trump will become the next President of the United States. I work my best at challenging their beliefs. I ask how a Christian could refuse refugees. I advocate my Nationality.
I’m introduced to Phoebe’s husband. Another good ol’ boy, Nick. He asks what I’m doing – strange question. Phoebe answers for me and says I study people. What a wonderful reply.
I’ve been in Kentucky for two days. The people have a soul that is unique to them. Accepting and talkative. Intelligent in conversation and proud of their beliefs. A sense of social progressiveness is awakened in conversation, a paradox to their Republican and Fundamental Christian titles. The ones that call me on my accent are thrilled it’s Canadian. It’s as if they have some unconscious connection to my homeland, almost stereotypically Canadian themselves.
I’m filled with their love but miss home. I missed home the first night in North Dakota but the sense of adventure overcame it.
My longing has returned.