What's a MIB? According to someone who is a long timer in this community, MIB means "Move In Bitch". (pardon the swear word, but I am not the one that originated this phrase). The term is used to describe anyone who moves here from anywhere else at all, unless he or she is related to someone who already lives here. The MIB appears to want to see changes made which, in an ossified community, are generally unwelcome. If you know, for example, that you will be expected to be hyper religious when you move to a place, you might think twice about relocating there. Or if you know that having different political opinions than good old boys whose families have been here for a hundred years will not just not be appreciated but actually fought against with spurious lawsuits, you might wonder about where the good is in such an intolerant, anti-American town. When I first moved here, I was told to be careful about who I spoke with about anyone else, because there was a high chance that the hearer was kin to the person being spoken of. That is the truth. I wanted to live here in Glen Rose on the basis of landscape, and didn't give any thought to culture. In fact, because I assumed most places were as tolerant as the ones I had lived in previously, I assumed it would be the same here. Nope. Incidentally, I have lived here for almost 20 years.
If I had kids in school, or wanted to attend religious-flavored festivals, or church, I'd have fit right in. Glen Rose culture doesn't just suggest, but demands that others toe the line. And in fact, I'm sure there are those who specifically move to Somervell County because they want the small town atmosphere, which, at least here, is heavily infused with religiosity.
What about someone such as I, who am an atheist and am simply not interested in participating in activities with religions specifically or tangentially in mind? I know for sure that there are other atheists in this community, that do not speak out because they are in *the closet*. Definitely this limits local activity inclusion for me, but I'm not feeling a void because of not attending.
What I do wish is that those who, for whatever reason, do have religion in their lives, would be at least tolerant of those who don't share their belief system. Unlike social posts on Facebook, in which people *blat* out whatever they feel, in face to face or phone conversations, one can choose to steer a conversation away from what divides and instead towards what unites us all. To me, it has never mattered what religion, or not, friends of mine had, because there was much more to unite us than requiring a particular religion to be the platform everything else was built from.
I have nothing against people who want to pray before they eat at meals. But I don't want to be included; it's a matter of respect. A long time ago I was invited to attend a weekly breakfast with some Glen Rose natives that I really enjoy. However, the group's custom is to join hands around the table and pray before eating. I had never encountered that before in my entire life, so I wasn't sure what to do, joined hands but simply didn't join in the prayer. However, it made me so uncomfortable that I never went to another breakfast. I wasn't asked if I wanted to participate, it was assumed that everyone would. Another time, when I had gone through volunteer training for a worthy project, some of us went out to lunch. At the restaurant, every single person joined hands to pray before the meal. Imagine the spot I was in. I could speak up and say, no, I'm not interested. I again joined hands, and didn't otherwise participate, but that was it for me wanting to go to lunch again. However, I'm a social person, I generally like most people, so I gave some consideration to what I would do if this happened a 3rd time. I've decided to push back from the table so that it is easy for those who do want to pray to join hands. If that makes anyone uneasy, well, it's not intentional, as I"m sure it's not intentional for the ones that do want to join hands and pray to make me uneasy. Note that I believe it would be better if there was, outside of church meetings, some common courtesy to have people who wish to indulge in prayers ASK before doing something that includes more than just one. If it was a turned table situation, wouldn't, for example, a christian want to be asked before being put in the middle of a muslim prayer interaction?
I have loved attending government meetings for years, and have appreciated that, until the last few years, government here has been conducted in a secular fashion (not including Glen Rose ISD, which has, astonishingly, had prayers at school board meetings for years). . That ended when a previous mayor, who was also a local pastor, decided that having prayer would be a fitting way to open Town Council meetings, and, when the newest county judge decided that prayer from the dais uttered by commissioners was appropriate. I don't pray with anyone else, don't bow my head, but also am not disruptive. I feel sometimes that local government meetings that operate this way seek to pretend they are a church gathering that requires the blessing of god(s) rather than common sense, ethics and good judgement to operate. And, when they decide to lock down only certain ones to do a prayer, those in charge of discriminating are subject to the law and court system.
I've been told that some ignorant people believe that because I am an atheist that I therefore believe in satan or otherwise indulge in ungodly rituatls. Nope. In the same way that Zeus is a myth to all of us, satan is a myth to me. What seems to frighten people is to consider that I might be Just Like Them, except that I don't worship god(s). If it were 1 that being religious or espousing a particular brand of religion made a person better than others, then it would be easy to tell. However, every single person I know, regardless of whether they have a belief or not, is a flawed human being, with good qualities and bad. Even though there are some who believe that one cannot possibly be *good* without god, I know that's not 1, and in fact, if it were, then anyone espousing a religion would be Perfection Itself. Criticizing me for being an atheist smacks of wanting to elevate the speaker to being above me, a way to put themselves up at my expense and in contravention of reality. Does anyone really want to believe I"m a terrible person because I have ethics that wouldn't permit me to go around threatening people, including relatives, with some awful gossipy stories? I also am against embezzling money from churches or harrassing people who want hospital safety, If you, reader, are one that wants to make justifications for those who break the law and don't own up to mistakes and responsibility, you and I will not agree. On the other hand, people can believe what they want about me, and especially in a place like Glen Rose that thrives in erroneous gossip and fear-mongering. I'm willing to bet most of the ones that are spreading lies have never met me, and for those who have, they know that what they're saying is not 1. If I, again, participated in more activities that were secular in nature, those that believe vicious lies would see how utterly normal and yes, sometimes boring, I really am.
What actually has really surprised me over time is how intolerant some are with regard to politics, specifically, local government politics. While people feel free to criticize politicians and decisions at the national level, it's a different story in a small town when it's an entrenched good old boy power network. The perceived power comes from old family and kin connections, but doesn't necessarily equate to being smart or informed power that looks to the shared values of the US constitution.
One place I do speak out, and regularly, is on my blog, Somervell County Salon, about practices of local government. I not only believe that it's possible for me to do so, and as harshly and criticially as I want, I believe it's essential to do so, since our tax money is being used to run government. And we get to have a say. I quite often create satirical pictures in photoshop to illustrate and shine a light on what our elected officials are doing and it's not always how the elected officials would like to be seen or heard. I also am a big fan of video, recording government meetings and making clips. My clips and commentary, again, are not always gushing 100 percent endorsements of what officials are doing. Here's an example.
I've seen plenty of people in Somervell County trash candidates and elected officials the state and national level, but pretty much stay hands off when it comes to local pols. I'm guessing this is because so often the person doing the griping is kin to the pol. But if a person can excoriate, say, Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump, or any other pol, on Facebook, I also have the right to excoriate local pols for what they do with our money, because we don't all have to agree. I suppose I could stop paying attention to local government, but why should I, particularly when our own State of Texas encourages citizens to be informed. Meanwhile, there is an absurd strain of authoritarian bullying going on to try to keep people in line from expressing any opinion but the *approved* one. I saw that recently on a video of a hospital district meeting in which a citizen with long-timer credentials was disrespected for speaking an opinion that the board president and HR person didn't like. For me, because I am a United States citizen and believe in freedom of speech, I won't be bullied into shutting up.
Other cultural signposts, including LGBT or even, just flat being FEMALE
I am happily married, so am not gay, but I believe there are those in this town who are. They keep it quiet or deny it, or perhaps, move away to be among those who are more accepting. Some men in this place also see women as second class citizens who cannot think for themselves without a man to *mainsplain* or control them. Unfortunately for them, Somervell County cannot simply put up a gate to keep out the modern world, and tolerence. Might work to some degree today but will not tomorrow.
Assimilated into the Glen Rose culture... or not..
I was asked at one point by someone why I had moved here. Why does someone move to a place where the over-riding culture is so different than other places in the United States? I moved to Glen Rose solely on the factors of nature, and not on any culture considerations. That still applies. Glen Rose is not a walled in subculture that operates under different rules and laws than the United States, even if some would have it so. I'm happy living here, even if, by necessity, it means that my social interactions are limited, and fun activities are pursued outside of the county. At some point, as more people *from the city* move here, the culture will change, dragging those who want no change kicking and screaming. When that occurs, those who actually are diverse may find it a less threatening situation to be who they are and conversely, those who are afraid of differences will get the opportunity to step out of their shell.
So, not that I want to necessarily be defined by such a pejorative term as MIB, but heck, I'm sort of proud to be a person who stands up for honestly held beliefs and actions.
I'm curious. If you live in Somervell County and you relate at all to what I"m saying, I would love for you to send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your experience.