It ain't easy, being a war-protesting, tree-hugging, feministing, straight-ticket Democratic-voting, yoga-practicing, Molly Ivins-worshipping blue speck of a person, desperately howling at the moon while lost in the vast red wilderness of beer-drinking, church-going, gun-toting, farming-ranching, "ahl-bidness"-ing, rodeoing, Bush-worshipping west Texas.
And I live right smackdab in the big ole buckle of the Bush Bible belt.
To the north, about a hundred miles, lies Lubbock, Texas which, in 2005, was rated as the Number Two city in the nation for conservative thought and Bush support, according to the AP, by a Bay Area Center for Voting Research, a Berkely, Calif., think-tank.
(Number One was Provo, Utah. Need I say more?)
Oh, and Number Three?
That would be Abilene, Texas, which is located about a hundred miles south of me. Abilene sports THREE church-supported universities (Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ), and Dyes Air Force Base, home to the B-1 Bomber. (Just in case you had reason to doubt.)
And a hundred miles to the west of me?
Uh, Midland, Texas. Yeah, THAT Midland, Texas.
If you didn't talk to me, and you just looked at how I live, you would assume I was One of Them. I live in a 100-year old rock farmhouse on a small ranch, have been married to the same cowboy for more than 30 years, raised two reasonably well-adjusted kids and, because I was a writer, I worked from a home office, so I was always here for them. I even baked cookies, now and then.
From refrigerator dough, but still.
Behind closed doors though...I was a fierce pro-choice feminist, an environmental conservationist, student of all kinds of spiritual practice, including yoga, (which I had to do at home alone, with a video, because there were no classes ANYWHERE), a proponent of gay rights, and I fought my way up in a male-dominated field--crime fiction, and worked with law enforcement officers all over the country researching my books, long before you could watch the kinds of things I did on CSI. Wrote four rejected novels out here, by myself, before finally breaking into New York publishing.
(My local friends seldom read my books--like most conservatives, they prefer romance over reality. When I would travel out of state to research my books or speak at writer's conferences, they would say things like, "I can't believe your husband actually lets you go so far away all by yourself." To which I would drolly reply, "Well, he IS my husband, and not my DADDY.")
Both my kids grew up independent, fiesty, and strong-minded. My daughter studied for a year in London, lived in New York for three years after college, and moved to L.A. My son also graduated from college, but 9-11 changed his career plans.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps as combat infantry. And went off to Iraq. Twice.
Unlike every single solitary person I knew, including my husband, I opposed this miserable godforsaken war, from the start. I got so frustrated and weary of trying to talk sense on the matter to people that I decided it was too exhausting. I just got sick unto death of flag-waving yellow-ribboning pseudo-patriotism that swallowed whole whatever propaganda Kool-Aid the White House doled out.
Eventually, I withdrew altogether and became a recluse.
Sort of like Georgia O'Keefe, only without the genius. (And with the husband.)
And from my hermit-lair, I began to speak out about this war. I sent my son off to fight it twice with the Marines, my beloved nephew three times with the Marines, and another sweet nephew just deployed to Baghdad with the army as part of Bush's Escalation. Two other family members deployed to Afghanistan with the army. I could see up-close and personal the very real costs on military families for Bush's War. Somebody had to speak for them because they couldn't speak for themselves without getting into some serious trouble.
So I pointed my nose to the moon and howled at the top of my...er...computer keyboard.
My son knew how I felt, and he not only supported me, but after he returned from his second deployment angry, disillusioned, and frustrated, he gave me a T-shirt he bought in Tombstone, Arizona, that quoted Kurt Russell in the movie, "Tombstone":
"You brought down the thunder. Now you got it. Tell 'em I'm comin', and all HELL'S comin' with me."
He told me to wear it whenever I was posting a blog.
Meanwhile, my daughter marched against the war in New York during the Republican convention in August 2004, wearing a peace sign medallion around her neck that I sent to her, with her brother's Marine Corps photo pinned to her shirt.
I decided to join Huffingtonpost.com's "Off the Bus" project because even as my howls have grown hoarse and weary, I have begun to hear, way off in the surrounding wilderness, small echoing yips of agreement.
That means hope, boys and girls. Incremental, but real, murmurings of hope that, finally, people in redneck states like Texas are actually beginning to listen.
On the one hand, it's still conservative, all right. I tried to hook up with a crowd SOMEWHERE for Barack Obama's Walk for Change recently.
Lubbock had two people signed up. Midland, two. Abilene, three.
My husband, a moderate Republican combat vet (Vietnam) who works as a wildlife conservationist and livestock nutritionist, travels a great deal all over the Southwest. Most of his clients are very, very conservative. And he has noticed a vast undercurrent of frustration and humiliation over what George W. Bush and his Machiavellian minions have done, not just to their party, but to their country.
I've even noticed a change with him. He used to argue with me about the war. Now, after nearly five years of it and two harrowing terrifying deployments for our son, he argues ABOUT the war with his conservative friends. Recently, one said to him that tired old cliche about how we had to fight them over there, right? So we wouldn't have to fight them in the town square or whatever.
And Kent said, "Okay. Which one of YOUR kids do you want to send to Iraq?"
The man stammered, then, shamefaced, said, "Well...neither one."
Kent looked him in the eye and said, "I rest my case."
But he told me something one day that REALLY gave me hope. He said he was having breakfast in one of those nondescript small-town country diners that cater to farmers who gather for coffee and eggs early in the morning. Vigorous discussions about politics take place there, and they are usually pretty one-sided all around.
Two farmers in faded gimme-caps and overalls were sitting in the booth opposite my husband. One heaved a sigh and said, "Well, it looks like we're about to have either a woman or a black for president."
And the other farmer said, "Maybe it's time."
I think that, as the months pass and Bushian outrages mount, you will begin to hear a gathering chorus from some of the most surprising places in our country, and they will be singing one song:
MAYBE IT'S TIME.