Every country has its stereotypes and the US has its fair share. While many of these are more positive, one that bemuses and, for me at least, down right scares outsiders is the fundamentalist right wing nut. It is widely publicised that such people are concentrated in the conservative core of the country, the Bible Belt, and I was under the impression that the coasts (or at least the north-east and south-west coasts) were comparably free of this phenomena. Was this just wishful thinking?
My first two weeks travelling down the coast of California had seemed to substantiate this, where the people we met were generally charming, extremely friendly and normal in the good sense. OK, we saw the odd Church of Christ the Scientist in just about every town we passed through (don't look them up - scary, worth your ridicule, but not your time), but that was about it.
That run came to an abrupt end on our final morning in San Diego. Sitting at the breakfast table of our lovely B&B overlooking the harbour, we were introduced to and started conversing with a mother and her daughter who I guessed to be about 12. They lived in a coastal town an hour to the north, seemed extra friendly and, apart from pausing our conversation for an intense private grace complete with whispers and sternly clenched hands, relatively normal. How nice that the mother was taking her daughter down to the big city for tea at some fancy hotel. Good, honest hard working Americans. Salt of the earth... or as I was shortly to realise, frightening crazies.
The mother explained that this was an extra-curricular activity as part of home schooling. The ears prick up. "Oh, you home school your kid, how interesting. Not common in Europe for some reason... Please tell more." Try to grin in a non-judgemental way. Apparently the kids love it, she can make sure they do not associate with the wrong people, be taught unwelcome things or generally be left to the wind of a state school system you can not trust. "Oh dear, what is the problem with the school system?" You never know, maybe she has valid reasons for barring her children from a normal childhood. Of course. You can't trust the schools to give an education which accords with their faith and, blow me down, schools dare to teach evolution as a theory of our existence. I can't believe she is saying this. Yes, schools brainwash children to believe in unsubstantiated, un-Christian things like science and evolution and pollute kids minds with progressive ideas and sex education. She IS actually saying this, try not to snigger, it is NOT FUNNY. She can stop this secular tyranny by taking first hand care of her daughters education and concentrating on essential skills which can help her to be a good mother and wife, such as Bible class and (yes, she actually said it) napkin folding. No shit, the kid is actually folding a napkin as we converse. They moved to California because it has such understanding home schooling laws. No need for the parents to have any pesky things like qualifications or certification. In fact no need even for the kids to be tested. What in the fuck are wrong with these people? Need to question, want to go for the proverbial jugular, but can't as I don't want to hurt the girls feelings. "How interesting, but aren't you a little worried about the kids not socialising?" No, no that is all fine. While she has sensibly prohibited her daughter from going to girl scouts on the basis that it it is not sufficiently Christian, her kids will grow up with great social skills as they get to meet people at Church group...
Poor, poor kid. I pitied the poor thing as she kept on folding her napkins in uniform patterns. Only two paths seem open to her. One is to embrace the brainwashing and follow her mother's designated path to servitude (the mother refuted the neceessity of school testing, seeing them as a distraction from her daughter fulfilling her God-given purpose of serving her future man as a housewife and brain-washing the next generation as a mother). The other is to break free of the BS, but at what cost. With no proper education, no high school certificate and a family that might well disown her she would be left high and dry. Real cruelty. How could a thinking, caring mother do such a thing to her daughter? But that is the point, somewhere in this lady's brain a switch has been turned off. Ironic as it is, after millenia of human improvement built on our ability to question our surroundings, this lady has devolved to a state of non-questioning fundamentalism. Tarnishing your own life with such ignorance is one thing, destroying your offspring's is another.
Perhaps most sickening of all, this activity is effectively sponsored by the laws of the great state of California.