Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I'm back

Virginia despite the fact that it is home of the "fundie Vatican," turned out to be a very interesting place full of history and so much to do it would take three vacations or more to see and do everything there is to do. I have always wanted to visit George Washington’s Mt Vernon, and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. We chose Virginia for our vacation this year because our daughter lives in Richmond now, since she is a member of the symphony orchestra there. In recent years, while we prefer the west, northwest or the Great Lakes areas for our vacations, we end up going out east since we work in a visit with her at the same time. Otherwise we wouldn’t get to see her much.

Virginia is a beautiful state, full of magnolia trees which fill the air with a perfumy scent that makes me wish I could have one or two of them right in my own backyard. The surroundings are green and lush with flowers everywhere and colorful songbirds flying all around. People love to garden there. And most properties are well kept and very tidy. People are quite friendly, though very openly"godly." It's a big part of the culture there.

Settlers who arrived from the Old World in the midst of springtime must have initially thought they had found paradise. I wonder what the founding fathers who worked and fought so hard to uphold our freedoms and separation of church and state would think about their grand state of Virginia had turned into the headquarters of some of the most intolerant religious fundamentalists on Earth. (Falwell and Robertson to name two of them.)

We stopped at Mt. Vernon first, which is a beautiful mansion and plantation nestled on the hills overlooking the Potomac River. George Washington was a man of many interests and abilities, and he valued knowledge and reason. Not many religious references were to be found amongst the many, many artifacts which remain from the Washington family, except for a family Bible (which belonged to his wife Martha from her first marriage), and a few references in writings by Washington about “Divine Providence”, but nothing about Jesus or Christianity.

As noted by Franklin Steiner in “The Religious Beliefs Of Our Presidents” (1936), Washington commented on sermons only twice. In his writings, he never referred to “Jesus Christ.” He attended church rarely, and did not take communion - though Martha did, requiring the family carriage to return back to the church to get her later.

Washington was, at most, a deist, however fundies are determined to rewrite Washington’s beliefs and his stance on religion to suit themselves. In the museum that is on the grounds of Mt Vernon, there is a mini-sanctuary with pews to throw in a bit of a religious fiction to the whole “educational” experience, trying to make Washington seem like he was a Christian man when he was not (his wife was, but he was not -- it seemed as if he was just going along with her to make her happy). As his writings show evidence of, and as I said before . . . at most, he was a deist. [George Washington and Religion] The experience at the end of the tour was also quite irritating. At the entrance to Washington’s tomb there is a live prayer reading every twenty minutes, a prayer that was delivered by a Rev. Thomas Davis, Rector of Christ Church at his entombment. When the guide called everyone to the area in front of the tomb for the prayer, the sheeple dressed in their “John 3:16” and “Jesus Loves Me” t-shirts all herded in a huddle with eyes closed and faces squinched as if in pain as the guide read the prayer (most Christians seem very sad and in pain when praying). Some of us kept walking around irreverently taking pictures and ignoring the whole oogie boogie recitation. After it was over, I scooted in the out gate and took my photos of the tomb and sarcophagus.

Monticello was similar in the way the preservationists try to highlight Jefferson’s brief references to God, however I was glad to see that they did place emphasis on Jefferson’s adamant stance that knowledge was the key to success and happiness. While Washington kept his beliefs concerning religion private, Jefferson was more outspoken about where he stood, and therefore a bit more difficult to make shit up about his beliefs. However, Jefferson’s true beliefs were downplayed, while anything remotely “godly” he might have said was taken out of context, highlighted and prominently displayed. This following video contains quotes by Jefferson that SHOULD have been displayed, but weren’t.

Gift shops at the Williamsburg tourist trap information center were playing a steady stream of religious music . . . “and he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own” . . .and in most shops and restaurants we stopped at, church music permeated these public places full of tourists from all cultures.

During this trip, I came to realize how fine the line is drawn between church and state in the south, and in the same way they do their Bible, fundamentalist Christians choose to interpret and rewrite history to their own liking in order to force their beliefs upon the rest of us.

Good video in response by Dr. Michael Newdow on separation of church and state:

Going back to our hotel room one evening, there was a woman who scared me. She was standing at the railing of the balcony where our second floor room was located, and she was telling another woman how the “power of the Lawd shot down through her arms” and how she could “feel the heat and tingling as the power of the Lawd” went through her and “traveled out of her fingertips” and into the back of her little dog and healed it! I told my husband to hurry up and get inside our room and barricade the door!

On our way back home we took back roads through western Virginia and through the state of West Virginia. West Virginia is a whole other world, and could write a lengthy post on it's "weirdness". It's like going to another country. Makes Virginia seem like quite a liberal place. At lunchtime we started looking for a place to eat and we came upon a good-sized town with many restaurants and fast food eateries. We decided on Wendy's since we wanted something quick and cheap. The parking lot was jammed. It was around 12:30, and we remembered then that it was Sunday in fundieland. And all there is to do in fundieland is eat, and fundies favorite pastime is eating. We walked into what seemed to be a chapter in a Stephen King horror novel. The place was so full that not one seat remained. (I had never seen that at a Wendy's before at any time of day.) Everyone had on their Sunday-go-to-meetin' clothes . . . men in short-sleeved dress shirts and many with ties, and women in their flowery dresses and skirts. The order line was full and there were people in line to get into the order line similar to Olive Garden on a Saturday night. And all in their Sunday's best. And us in our jeans, t-shirts and Reeboks. We were obvious outsiders. We decided that we better find another place to eat.

We ended up at a Subway that was connected to a gas station several miles up the road in a town so small that you would miss it if you happened to blink while passing through. And who was the manager? An Indian of the Hindu variety! While we try not to stereotype people, the stereotypes are repeatedly reinforced for us and it was amusing to see Hindus in hickland.

Later, around our dinner time in southern Ohio we noticed that all towns seemed deserted. We were still on the back roads and passing in and out of towns along the way. The only way to really get a feel for the different parts of the country is to take the backroads.

We stopped at a Wendy's which was almost deserted. There were two or three workers. We ordered chili and a baked potato. The boy at the counter slowly gave us our change, and then our tray of food. We went to the condiments bar to find spoons. . . no spoons. We asked for spoons and the boy answered "we ain't got any spoons left". How can they sell people chili and Frosties when they have no spoons to eat it with? Lucky we had spoons in our van and my husband went out to get them.

While we sat there eating, we watched a couple people come in and out, and they seemed to know the workers well. That was kind of nice to see, a town where everyone knows each other. That could have a downside though, as with the village I now live in once was. When everyone knows your name, they also seem to be too interested in your personal business. Lots of gossip because there sure isn't anything else to talk about!

Like all vacations, as we got closer and closer to Chicagoland, I felt good. I felt good because of having a great vacation, but also a satisfaction that I was going home to where it is comfortable and familiar to me. And where I can go to Wendy's on a Sunday afternoon, find a seat amongst other heathens who are wearing jeans and Reeboks and don't bother with church.


Andrea said...

Great to see you back, Star! Sounds like a very interesting vacation :) The more I learn about the founding fathers, the more obvious it is how some people are flagrantly misrepresenting them. Do not bear false witness, indeed.

It's cool that you got to see those historical sites for yourself though. I've always wanted to do that. I've never been anyone near the east coast. I'd love to go to the Smithsonian someday.

Stardust said...

Hi Andrea!
The east coast is quite crazy as far as drivers go. Chicagoland is full of crazy drivers, too, but at least we are used to this kind of crazy driving. Out east they seem more "irrate" and aggressive probably because traffic comes to a complete standstill so often. I would like to know what is with that. You can be driving along at a good speed and everyone stops and it's usually because someone on the other side of the expressway is getting a ticket. What do they think will happen, the cop going to jump in the car and come after all of us going the other way as he is writing a ticket for someone else? Geesh!

If you go to D.C. it's better to park outside the city and take public transportation in as there is no place to park in D.C. It's an awful place to drive, too.

There is a lot of history on the east coast. Lots of old buildings, and really, really old sites.

beepbeepitsme said...

Hey welcome back!

Stardust said...

Beep...did you get the email I sent you?

Tommy said...

Welcom back from your trip to the Old Dominion!

That lady on the balcony who could feel the tingling of the "Lawd" pass through her made me think of this:

Stardust said...

Tommy, watching that video makes me think of what my husband and I were talking about after seeing and hearing that woman speak of the "power" going through her. Since humans are powerless, and so many things beyond our control, having some kind of fantasy that a supernatural force is working through them helps them to feel more secure, important, more special and empowered somehow.

Poodles Rule said...

Welcome home!

Stardust said...

Poodles Rule,
(I'm still trying to get used to your new name.)

Poodles Rule said...

I know, I am still not sure I am going to keep this one. Maybe I'll switch to "purple pansy" or something like that... I am not sure why this is so hard for me to choose sometimes. Maybe I'll pick something I am totally not, like fundy x-tian or busty hot blonde...

Stardust said...

Poodles Rule...

how did you come up with the name "Poodles rule"? Do you own a poodle dog?

I chose stardust because stardust is my favorite song of all time, stardust is what we all came from, and stardust is what all and everything will return to when the sun swells to a red giant and engulfs the first three or four planets before it finally shrinks and dies. Our stardust though will always float around somewhere in the cosmos. :-)

Poodles Rule said...

I actually have 2 toy poodles and one big black mutt. You can go here and see the little monsters.
I have always had poodles. I would have a bunch if the gov't would allow me to. I can't have more than 3 dogs, but the local mormons can have 12 kids. Funny.

I like stardust, it is a great pseudonym.