“Missing you around here but heartened by your presence in a solidly red state.”
So begins an email from my friend Mark, one of those sensible Massachusetts folks that I grew up with. Let me point out, it takes a lot to get Mark fired up and his electronic mail message, mostly in response to my gay marriage post
and how the 11 state gay marriage amendments turned out, was brimming with anger.
Although it is a fairly frequent occurrence in general, I spent a lot of time in the last week defending this strange place that is Utah; between quick rants of disbelief and confusion, explaining to friends in Mass., NYC, LA, here in Salt Lake, various other places, and even to myself, why I remain in Utah.
More or less, everyone I love is a two-day drive away from Salt Lake and I would have to spend about as much time in the car to reach a place where my views fit into the greater majority.
A little background: I moved here a year ago after a string of seasonal positions and varied zip codes, thinking that I would be carrying on the nomadic tradition with a layover in the snow-filled Wasatch and a pillow in Salt Lake City. I had been pressured by a couple of friends to make Utah my interim home since visiting them after the Olympics in 2002. Though I enjoyed my visit, there was always a reason not to pack my belongings West on I-80: school, a job, a girl, etc. Heading into the fall of 2003 with my then-current seasonal position ending, nothing really stood in my way and the promise of a new place complete with 500 inches of snow annually, a fresh set of friends and the support of a couple of old ones, was simply too tempting.
“I’ll probably just be here for the winter,” I told the world.
Well, I am still here -- have moved into my own place even! -- and while my great escape didn’t go quite as planned last April, keeping me in the land of Mormonism, I could have since left if I needed to, but, I didn’t.
I am a self-proclaimed adaptable person; a chameleon, if you will, only personified and minus the camouflaging survival instincts. Nonetheless, I grew to like it here, even after the snow had left. I also enjoy (usually) being part of the minority. Last Tuesday, 71 percent of Utah voters voiced their support of four more years of the Bush and Dick show. Utah supported the Dynamic Duo more than any other state and when this is all over (via nuclear proliferation, a move to Canada, the end of rampant homophobia, or however else it may play out), I can some day proudly say that I was one of the 29 percent who voted against them.
It is frustrating living here for many reasons, don’t get me wrong. There are several things about various other places that I wish could be incorporated into SLC life, but then, it wouldn’t really be SLC life. And really, the thing about living amidst such a conservative strong-hold while holding differing views on virtually everything, is that, while exasperating at times, it makes me feel stronger in my beliefs and more importantly, offers a connection to the community of those that share my views (I think there are 17 of us) that is impenetrable.
Not to say that Utah is my home -- I’ll probably just be here for another winter.