What a day, what a day. Straight into the heart of what I didn’t realize was enemy territory. Hey, I’m from Amish country. I thought I kinda had my head wrapped around the whole “Amish (bonnet, no zipper, no patterns)/Conservative Mennonite (bonnet, yes to zippers and patterns)/regular-Mennonite (no bonnet, regular but conservative clothes, hells yeah to zippers) /Party-hearty Mennonite (these guys play footsies with the devil by basically looking like us but don’t curse. Yowza!)” thing. I guess not. Man, there were Plain Peoples of all walks and stripes. I couldn’t categorize them. Do you understand? I COULDN’T CATEGORIZE THEM! There were people that looked Amish but had zippers, people that looked “back-to-the-land, I-gave-birth-at-Lilith-Fair-but-now-I-gave-it-all-up-to-serve-my-Promise-Keeper-Husband”, people who looked like hippies-for-Ron Paul, Amish ladies who looked like they were married to Rivers Coumo, but without the irony. I was confused. And everyone — I repeat, EVERYONE — had Ron Paul shirts on. And they talked empathetically about him. They love this guy here.
As I mentioned before, I’m from A-mish (long “a” sound , folks) country and the most I ever heard people talkin’ ’bout politikin’ was simply to say that they’re all lazy bastards who don’t do anything. I can relate to that. Sure, you had people mention democrats=evil and republican=freedom, but you knew these people didn’t vote so why care. Let them have their home schoolin’ hijinks. But you see, a funny thing happened on my way to finishing up Omnivore’s Dilemma. I finally understood these “people”. I could fully grasp that home schooling was a right. Funny, huh? Yep. I stopped short (way short) of a “Ron Paul Revolution” bumper sticker, but I could relate and most importantly, I could understand. And because of this, I finally made the last reconciliation between my Amish-playin’ past and my super-cool (ha!), city-dwellin’ present.
So I thought that I was safe going into Lebanon. I would be an emissary from the city, to tell these people that it’s safe, let’s all just get along, we have more in common than Common. I anticipated the God-speak, mentally prepared, got in a car and was on my way. This was gonna be great! Until pokey, the boring-as-shit pathologist sucked the life out of me and the Promise Keeper’s speech took me by the shoulders (metaphorically, silly) and told me that I had to get back in the kitchen (again, metaphorically. Now you’re just stupid). The men’s are back in charge, baby! Yeah! And I thought I was here for the food and to tell the government to get their grubby hands outta my raw (sorry, “fresh, unprocessed”, according to Pokey the Boring Pathologist) milk…
It’s a damn shame, too. A lot of what they had to say was amazing and frightening and pertinent. And the people were also friendly and amazing and alive and completely unaware of their power to frighten. Here in the heart of it, you see how feelings of very real persecution lead to feelings of lack of power and from their, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to getting really antsy about a bogey man. They got ants in the pants for Jesus because they made a connection between the real anxiety of government bureaucracy in selling fresh farm products to the unreal anxiety of government trying to take their baby jesus. And the really frightening part is that they might not know how friendly and amazing and alive we are, on the left side of the dial because we get all hung up on our own bogey men. So we do our little song and dance, each berating the other side. And here I am, doing it as well. Because they made me feel out of place. So what do I do? Rush home and write a blog that no one will read in a half-assed attempt to make them feel as silly as they made me feel? I never said I was witty. Just honest. On to the itinerary!
Wake up at 5-am. Ouch. I laid out my clothes the night before but now I’m having second thoughts. I mean, the brochure said to respect this family affair: no booze, no smoking, no cursing and no inappropriate clothing. “Oh shit”, me thinks. I just picked my new fave T and I think it might be offensive. I don’t know why, exactly. It says “It’s ok Pluto, I’m not a planet either.” Who could that offend? People that don’t believe in the solar system at all? People who believe that yes, in fact, Pluto is a planet thank you very much. I don’t know. I put it back on the hanger and just wear what I wore the night before. Stiletto heels and fishnets and hot pants. Fuck me perfect. I mean, why piss off people if you don’t have to?
Randy and I get into some serious deep shit about something completely forgettable. But it kills time and before we know it, we’re here. I take note that gas is $3.60 at a nearby Hess. Aw’right! Mental note to stop here on way back. Sunny day ahead!
Seems friendly. An Amish guy chats me up. I’m too respectful of their religion to say that he wanted me (but he did). We talk a bit about local foods and he seems genuinely interested that I’m from Philly. Unfortunately, while I’m talking about 20 people butt in front of me, so I gotta turn around and pay my dues. The lady tells us that the “cafeteria is down that way, follow the signs”. So we follow them, thinking that the cafeteria is where all the action is. It’s about 12 miles away and after walking for what seems like half an hour, we realize that the cafeteria is where they serve food (duh) and we’re here for a seminar (double duh). So we turn around and head right on back. The auditorium is about 3 inches from where you register. The auditorium — you know where people speak — is where we need to be. Triple duh.
Before we go in, we look around at the stands. A couple of places set up shop with brochures and T-shirts and books. Some interesting stuff, especially from the Weston A. Price Foundation. Ok, I know these guys get a bad rap. They’re kinda goofy. But I did a little test and in 1 column put goofy shit that Wes Price says and in another I put the goofy shit that the American Heart Association says and guess what — they both say a lot of goofy shit. On to the other stands: there was PICFA (PA Independent Consumers & Farmers Association); CARE (Communities Alliance for Responsible Eco-farming — get a website, you freaks); Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund; a Ron Paul truck (ok, it was parked outside, but from the inside — with the large glass windows and all the hubbub around it — it might as well have been a stand); and various stands that seemed to serve no purpose but to have slogans (“Raw Milk Rocks!” “The Revolution Will Not Be Pasteurized”… shit, i wish I would have gotten that T-shirt)
The festivities start with state senator Mike Folmer. What a douche. It’s nice to know that even in this dinky-assed district politicians can still be overly-groomed twats. He comes up to the mike, acts like he was debating whether to make a notated speech, insinuating that he decided against it and then continued to read from notes. I don’t think that one piece of useful information spilled from that man’s lips. It was all a circle jerk with just him inside and culminated in him getting all hot and bothered about imaginary enemies saying that he was crazy. To which he stood behind his pocket-sized PA Constitution booklet (we all got one. Yeah for booty) and said he was crazy because he stood up for the PA Constitution and the rule of laws. The rule of laws, BTW, that God gave Us. Shit! How lucky are WE?!?! God wrote OUR constitution. What do you think of that, Wisconsin?
Ok, so let me get this straight: “people” say that you’re crazy because you believe in the constitution? And how do you believe in this constitution? Not a peep. What a douche. What a twat. What a c-word. But I will sit here like a good girl. Yes, I will sit here like a good girl and listen to this pile of smarmy smarminess. All for Sally. Finally, fag-in-waiting Folmer gets his bag of ass off the stage and leaves it for some innocuous and nice and entirely forgettable 15 minutes speakers until they give way for my dear, sweet Sally.
Oh Sally Fallon. You came on the stage and smiled and made me realize that you are everything that I wanted Elizabeth Dole to be. And I mean that in the best way.
Sally was right on target. She spoke with authority and had the Power Point to prove it. I knew everything that she had to say inside and out, but it was a joy to read Randy’s face as it moved from interest, to anger to understanding. I consider myself a person with a consumer advocate bent and nothing beats the joy of me finding out how I’ve been fucked in the ass and resolving never to let them do that again and then berating other people for continuing to get fucked in the tush. Joy of joys.
This needs to be said: the Amish are generous with food. I don’t think that you understand me. They are truly generous with food. This was just the freakin’ break. And there were chunks of cheese (fantastic, farm-made, raw milk cheese) that were, no joke, 3-in squared. And there were large-sized smoothies that were made of pure, delicious, homemade raw milk yogurt and local fruit. I found myself doing impossible mid-line calculations: $20 a head to come in, about 100 people in attendance; $500 worth of food, just for the break. No wonder these poor people are, well, poor. Real Amish food is honest and delicious and generous. I chastised myself for almost forgetting.
This Is Where It All Went Wrong
I was so looking forward to a discussion of the science in testing for raw milk. It would serve as a counter-balance to the “Evolution is a Fairy Tale” bumper sticker in the parking lot. It would also prop up my faith that people hadn’t given up on science. I read the bio of the next speak, Ted Beals, MD and was elated. He taught college! He drank raw milk! He testifies to prevent closings of raw milk suppliers! What could go wrong?
How about 200 slides of boring aimless SHIT wrong.
I may not be a fancy-pants pathologist. But I think the first rule of giving speeches is to know your audience. And I’d say that 40% of the audience was Amish (8th grade education. I’m not being mean. That’s as high as they go to help with farm chores), 55% have no college education, 4% have a higher education, but in sales and the remaining 1% were Randy and I. He went on and on and meandered and was off-point so many times that I wasn’t sure if this was a speech about raw milk testing or “Power Point slides that I found after Googling ‘boring'”.
He started out boring — amazingly, unself-consciously boring. Then he got back on point and was interesting for 10 seconds, only to get boring again. At first I was embarrassed because Randy was falling asleep. But then my 2nd grade teacher came in and made me take off my clothes and give a speech in front of the class for which I was woefully unprepared for and I realized that I just fell asleep.
The points he made were important: beware of dogma and personal bias. This is so important today. We seem to either ignore science or place blind faith that science is some perfect medium. And it was refreshing to see someone say “no, it’s not perfect, here’s why”. But he needed to be concise where he was instead poofy.
It was only at the very end that he talked about the epidemiology of milk-borne illnesses and concrete ways to rethink the testing process. Oh wait, did I say at the very end? Um, no. This occurred at the end of his 45 minute alloted time slot. He went on to talk for ANOTHER 45 MINUTES!
I will say that it was a joy to see state senator Folmer trying desperately to get his attention and cut it short. He did this little dance that I will call “The Folmer Move”. I’ll videotape myself doing it and upload it. It’ll be the new sensation with the kids.
So, needless to say, that wiped me out. I was, literally, exhausted. I felt like I ran a marathon (or, at least, ran to the cafeteria). Mentally, I was vulnerable. Not the best time for…
CARE & It’s Purpose. This was what I sat through dipshit for. I was really interested in CARE ever since I went to my brother’s and we visited a CARE farm and I felt all bad-ass because they had signs all over that it’s illegal for government agents to step onto the property. What is cooler than that? Well, what if I told you that you had to pay a membership because these bad-ass Amish didn’t have a raw milk license? Man, I felt like I was 17 and listening to Metallica and thinking that I’d be a rock star.
And the speaker was everything that I wanted him to be. When all the other speaker wore lame-ass pantsuits (for the ladies) and suits (for the swingin’ dicks), he wore a T-shirt that said “Raw Milk Rocks” (shit, I wish that I would’ve bought that shirt). He got up and just rocked that mike like it was outta sight. Then, as he was gaining steam, it all came crashing down with (and I’m paraphrasing here): “God, channeling Ron Paul, natural law (God, conservative) against positivism (liberals and Nazi), how God gave us the land and Godly rights with men as head of households.” SMACK. That was the sound of my Sally Fallon high hitting the earth.
Remember that I said that the Amish were generous? Remember that I said that I paid $20 to come to this thing? Uh, yeah. Um, I ate about $300 worth of food. And then I left because I was scared that the Promise Keeper would make me wash the dishes, steal my shoes and then knock me up. But lunch was awesome. We had real, sustainably raised chicken smoked right outside while we all sat through dipshit (it took that long), real, sustainably raised pulled pork, fresh, homemade bread with real, raw-milk butter. Raw milk ice cream with pies (oh! the pies! I creamed my pants with raw milk Char). They even had freakin’ sea salt instead of Morton’s bleached toxin seasoning.
We stopped at that Hess I mentioned earlier and I felt like I was in that scene from a slasher film. The car windows are open. We’re in the middle of nowhere. The gas station is full of odd, mismatched people (he’s the “smart guy”, she’s the “whore”, he’s the “jock”, she’s the “good girl”). Tinny speakers play Fleetwood Mac. I was disappointed that no one was shot and made to eat a dinner of human flesh with a retarded family. It just seemed so appropriate. And local.
South Park Moment (or, What I Learned)
We’ve got a log way to go. A really long way. But it’s not unfathomable. It’s do-able. And when I think about the current Republican coalition (or even the 60-year-old Democrat coalition) it’s not entirely unthinkable. In fact, it actually makes a LOT more sense than religion/commerce or union/civil rights. What we need to do is get rid of that bogey man. The “What’s the Matter With Kansas-Right” need to believe — really believe — that we don’t want to take their baby jesus. And the “What’s the Matter With New York City — NEW YORK CITY?!!? —Left” need to believe — really believe — that the desire to be left alone isn’t a ringing endorsement of Left-Behind Armageddon. Food is the great equalizer. Everyone needs it. But a few LOVE it. Is it so weird to think that a voting coalition could be rallied around this? Hells no! Because for a growing chunk of peeps, food isn’t merely about “yum, that good”. It’s a political movement. It’s about our rights. When we’ve got a system that says that irradiating food and shipping it two thousand miles is “better” then eating what the good Lord/good Nature/Smart People intended — locally and seasonally — then we’re in deep State Senator Mike Folmer. This is a movement of practicality. It’s a movement that, when we get our act together, will be quite breathtaking and amazing.