It has been wonderful, scary, exciting and a bit melancholy to walk down those roads and remember these names and faces from what seems to be a lifetime ago.
It's a bit funny how time and distance grants a new perspective to everything. I've always heard and said "Hindsight is 20/20" but am now seeing a whole new perspective on what that saying actually means.
I wonder about the other friends and classmates of mine who left Tennessee...do they look back at our hometown with the same scrutiny that I do? Do they hold a nostalgia for a home that probably never really was quite what they remember?
I found that most people, when asking about my family, are never at all surprised to hear that I only recently regained communication with them. The most common response being " I remember it was always very strained..."
Yeah, to say the least.
I think it was a recipe for a perfect storm of familial dysfunction. I was the artistic, agnostic, free spirit, liberal, budding lesbian being raised in an uber-Christian, bordering on fundamentalism, Southern -Republican, sports-centered home. Water and oil.
The Wifester and I watched a documentary last night about Cults in America. They said the number 1 misconception about cults is that people who belong to them always live in compounds. They went on to show many churches, most of which were identical to that of my parents'. They showed families who had left these churches, and entered a rehab for cult survivors. (Which, by the way, did you know that the U.S. has the highest number of religious cults of any country in the world? Many of which call themselves Christian fellowships. These are the "Religious Right" who influence lawmakers in our country and bully our Senate to vote as they deem appropriately. That's a scary prospect. )
As we watched this Sundance Chanel documentary, I was struck by the similarities between the way many of the children were raised, and my upbringing.
Finally, I looked to my Wifester and said, half jokingly " Honey, I had those same rules. I had those same punishments. I'm starting to think I may have been raised in a cult!" To which she casually replied, " Duh! I thought that was self evident."
"No," I insisted. " Sure, the church they belong to now I do believe is a cult, but I was raised in a Catholic church and Catholic school. I never thought of anything that we were taught or the ways we were punished as being in any way related to cult-like behavior."
"But the predisposition was already there, and you experienced it first hand. Later, they simply found a church in which their twisted beliefs were considered to be normal and they felt like they fit in there, that's all. But everything about your upbringing says you were subject to the same things as some of these kids that are in this movie."
It was hard for me to reconcile. I remember my parents being fun loving, joking, partying people. But I also remember the strict discipline, the religion and fire and brimstone, the constant reminders of what would send me to hell if I continued to think, act, or say...
I look at Wifester's family. They are Christians. They practice love, tolerance, and patience. They attend church. They work with the poor. But you know what they don't do? They don't abhor Wifester and I for being gay. They don't discount me as some evil demon who's corrupted their daughter, sister, granddaughter. They all welcome and embrace me into the family.
That's what Christianity is about, I believe.
Not this stuff we hear today from these fundamentalist extremist who preach to kill sinners, to hate those who disagree with them, who teach hatred and intolerance. It makes me sad that there are so many people out there looking for something to hold on to, and instead of finding something good and enlightening, something that fosters real introspection and growth, they find this virulent filth that masks itself as gospel and decays their ability to decipher logic from insanity.
I don't know how I escaped, without becoming a mind-numb lemming, I'm just glad I did.
I wish I could save them all, and show them how much happier, truly happier they could be without that fear, hate, and judgment constantly in their hearts.
Today, that is my wish to all those people who don't think they are in a cult, only because it is so hard to accept and admit that such a thing could happen to you.
I wish you a moment of clarity and an opportunity to heal.