Anyone who has forgotten that America was built on foundations of religious persecution need only time travel to somewhere like Kalona IA, to see strong traces of the Anabaptist persecutions that caused the forebears of local Mennonite and Amish communities to flee those who were stabbing, hanging and drowning them in Europe, to the comparative safety of the New World.
That they then in their turn performed a kind of religious persecution on the “savage” locals who were either exterminated, moved on, ethnically cleansed and/or converted to Protestantism, is one more of history’s ironies.
It is almost as hard to find a Native American community around here as it is to find a Mennonite in Holland where their founder, Menno Simons was born, in Friesland (there are a few Mennonites still there, as there are a few Meskwaki here in Iowa, over at Tama).
But today, history is all material: mechanical, musical, edible and full of colour, from the radiant grinning pumpkins with their carved faces awaiting Halloween, to the apple butter pottles that sit in rows under the tents of their vendors.
Christian groups strum choruses and saw violins, as old time farm engines chug away almost at a standstill between revolutions, coughing out an old refrain: “speed ain’t everything, mister”.
There is more than enough to see and do, between scoffing sticky green candy floss (very rural) and touring the museum with its pioneer quilts, books of martyrs, genealogical tables and spinning wheels.
You couldn’t ask for more fun than this: better than a barrel of monkeys. I did see a rare Obama/Biden bumper sticker, but these are the sorts of folks who post huge billboards on the roadside: LET’S GET RID OF BIG GOVERNMENT!
Russell our University bus driver almost has a fit and runs off the road, when I read that out to him. He’s enraged: don’t they get it? Who wants to pay for his own State Highway, or her own Air Force? We rabbit on about the super rich and how they want government by corporate power and not democracy, whatever that was. The Koch brothers continue to siphon millions out of their billions to get rid of Obama and install Romney – but he’ll only be a finger puppet if those guys have their way.
Meanwhile the drought-struck land continues to burn up all around this oasis. I sit down outside the Museum beside two locals chewing the fat about roosters. No mention of politics or drought here: it’s all about shooting pheasants and the good dogs of old. That’s rooster pheasants, I finally divine.
One slow talker opined that the best dog he ever had for retrieving them birds – “why they fly straight up so’s you can shoot ’em easy, I don’t know” – was a bitch that you didn’t run, “she ran you”.
Well, I have to say, that apple butter on white at a mere dollar was so good, I went back for two, and this kid was happy as a puppy with own personal boy-sized pumpkin. So,God bless America – and please Lord, some rain soon on Kalona…please?