My husband and I just returned from a few days in Branson. We were hoping for some nice fall colors, but that part of the state is even duller this year than the St. Louis area. At the last minute I decided not to take my car which is a moving advertisement for all things Democratic because, I’m sorry to admit, I was afraid. SW Missouri has a well-earned reputation for keeping the local folks pretty much in the Dark Ages. I lived in Springfield during the 1970’s and part of the 80’s, so I know whereof I speak.
My mood was probably influenced by something that happened last week as I was coming home after dark on I-44. Even though we were virtually alone on the highway, the driver of a semi pulled up close behind me and then began blinking his lights. I know that rude drivers do that when someone is poking along in the passing lane, but I was in the middle lane. He could pass me on either side easily. He continued tailgating and flashing his lights for a few more miles while I tried to stay in my lane hoping he would pass me. Finally he did pass, on the right, and laid on his horn as he went by. I don’t know if he was trying to tell me to move into the right lane or if he didn’t like my bumper stickers. My husband thinks it was the latter. He’s probably right.
So we took my husband’s very conventional Chevy Malibu, sans bumper stickers, to Branson. Springfield is Roy Blunt’s home base, so it was no surprise to see hundreds of big “ROY” signs. There were also many “Vote No on Prop B” and “Vote YES on Prop A” signs as well. SW Missouri is teeming with puppy mills as well as voters who believe “Let Voters Decide” is a good idea. The Branson area is hosting a huge veterans celebration next week which is a natural extension of many of the year round shows there. During the height of the Iraq war hysteria, we attended a patriotic music show (only because we had out-of-state guests who wanted to go) where the grand finale brought the flag and cross together as one huge symbol of love of country.
The subtle blending of religion and patriotism blankets the hill country like morning fog. Busloads of senior citizens come from all over the country to revel in it and to go home “saved” once again. I thought I was beyond being shocked by all the appeals to emotional servitude, but one gigantic billboard caught my attention. It was a double size sign – enormous and hard to miss – along hwy 76 just outside the actual City of Branson. The letters that spelled out “Book of Revelations” were in the shape of a question mark. Next to that it said, “What Does it Mean?” and “Who is the Anti-Christ?”
I didn’t catch the details about where this “show” was being presented, but I certainly caught the message. And I can guess who the anti-Christ is. This is what rational people are up against. Wingnuts like the tea partiers come and go over time, but this foundation of nativism provides the bedrock for the type of fanaticism that always was and always will be a part of our American character.
The good news is that, according to the executive director of the Greene County (Springfield) Democrats, Springfield now votes close to 50% Democratic. So maybe there is still hope.