Hello RNC, can you hear me? I'm in Salt Lake City dreaming of how we used to be.
Image taken by Flickr user More Good Foundation
By Miles Fuller
America, if you really wanted to go back to hooking up with rich white presidents, why weren’t we the right choice for you? You kept telling us you were looking for someone more traditionally Christian, because back in 2012, you were trying to get your finances together and really settle down. But why didn’t you whisper across the Rocky Mountains that you were into such freaky stuff?
We started chatting online, when you finally looked us up to see what the heck we’d be doing since 1830. We totally should’ve put out more, right away, if we wanted to be your president. You kept sexting us pictures of the Washington Monument and snapping us your favorite Rihanna videos, and we kept sending back only smiley faces. We wanted you to know, we were saving ourselves for the White House. But we really liked you, a lot. We actually got down on one knee and proposed to you twice, with two Republican candidates.
It’s a sin for us to smile naturally (we call lips, “Face Erections”)
Those boys looked perfect—like cartoon astronauts—but you told us they were too rich, too out-of-touch, somehow overly conservative and not conservative enough. Then you started hanging out with the ghost from a Charles Dickens novel, the human equivalent of a Chrysler LeBaron (frumpy styling/dangerous handling), and a block of Colby Jack cheese so racist it refuses to be shredded on anything Mexican. Gosh, what gives?
We really compromised for you the last election, because politics are hard for us. It’s a sin for us to smile naturally (we call lips, “Face Erections”), or to talk about minorities without saying the word, “urban”. But for you, we almost gave up the identity you historically imposed on us of being gigantic Barbie & Ken dolls without genitals—who everybody knows still worship a cave demon in a pirate outfit named Joseph Smith. It wasn’t easy seducing you, from the comfort of our long underwear, but we tried to act like a president/partner you’d be proud to invite to an inauguration.
On our first few dates we thought we’d be really compatible with you, America, because from what you told us about your past, the ultimate goal for anyone who belongs within your borders, is to become a sexy grandpa. That’s the American Dream. You are ruled by handsome silver-haired men with gold watches and cologne that’s kind of dated—yet still smells so delicious—like you want to skin that handsome old man and make a Snuggie out of him, for those cold autumn evenings on his yacht in Bar Harbor.
If we’re honest, one of the reasons we didn’t work, is because we had so much baggage together before we ever started dating. For years before we even kissed, you kept bringing up all our faults, complaining we never showed you our gold plates (you probably just wanted to melt them down to put a ring on it), or that we totally murdered a bunch of your men, women, and children in The Mountain Meadows Massacre. You can’t be mad, America, because back then, we were on a break. That was like—way back—during our freshmen year. Right after we first met, one of the guys in your group, Missouri, made a law that anyone could legally kill any Mormon on sight (and that was a law in Missouri from 1838 until 1975). We were just trying to grow up as a religion, and be like, yolo while we strived to be the perfect utopia for sex addicts and schizophrenics who were tired of farming. Sure, we were super annoying back then, always converting your daughters, then hooking up with the underaged ones after we’d been doing shots of the Holy Spirit like it was Jägermeister; but everyone was crazy back in the 19th century. It was the 1970s of centuries: hairy and violent and fun.
So what if our founding father was a conman who started a Ponzi scheme so big it would make Bernie Madoff blush? At the same time, you had a president, Andrew Jackson, who was basically just Scarface with more gold buttons on his jacket. Back then, we were all really trying to find our identity. You were a little older than us, but right after you rejected us the first time, back in the 1850s, when you sent Federal soldiers to that apartment in the former Mexican Territory where we were hulled up, getting high on our own power, it was clear you thought of us as an old-timey prairie version of the Taliban. Not that we even remember specific dates during our relationship, because it’s all a blur, but on November 28th, 1857, Harper’s Magazine called the invasion of troops into our territory, “The Mormon War”.
That’s when we were like, “We don’t need this drama, America,” and really started going to parties with the upperclassmen of America, those native tribes who were hanging out in jean jackets all along the hallways of the West. They were the cool jocks of the frontier, and we were the nerds. So to impress them, we definitely murdered a bunch of other European settlers with hatchets and face bullets or whatever—as a prank—then afterward, when we tried to follow the Native Americans who helped us, they were like, “whatever, dorks,” and drove away in their Ford Broncos. Just like a 1980s teen movie. (This is all referenced in the American History textbook, Putting It Lightly. That’s also the name of every book on history).
We took this dry mountain valley that used to look like Kim Kardashian’s psoriasis scales, and we made it look Kylie’s face.
We know you don’t think of us Mormons anymore. On Blake Shelton’s new album, he has two songs asking basically “Do you think of me?”, and even if you don’t listen to us, listen to him, because the album is surprisingly honest—right from the title—and even more honestly, those songs are clearly not about his divorce, they’re about the breakup between the Mormon political machine, and you, mainstream America. We get it; you’re fine. Because you’ve got your cool life of twerking and tweeting, wearing the fake flannel of liberalism, while your bra straps of drone bombs and unequal pay are tethered to the remnants of Jim Crow, and obviously showing, every day while you’re totes “working remotely” in the Starbucks, drinking the Devil’s Cocoa and listening to those fallen angels formerly known as Nick and Joe Jonas.
Even if you’re too cool to remember us, sewing our own clothes and blogging about scrapbooking, you should respect us Mormons for building something, and being independent. We took the worst property on the block, basically just a litter box of dry sage and rattlesnake urine that we flipped and sold for a higher price to tech companies, after we renovated it down to the studs, way better than those bar-brawling brothers on HGTV ever could. We took this dry mountain valley that used to look like Kim Kardashian’s psoriasis scales, and we made it look Kylie’s face.
Maybe we’re just another whiny ex, but we want you to know, we’re not just a religion, a cult, a culture, or some mountain cannibals like you remember: instead, we’re your wet dream, America. We, the Salt Lake City Mormons, are a burgeoning ethnicity, a sequel to those Ancient Israelites (wander through desert, make a lot of rules), who are now peopled and led almost entirely by identical white men. These leaders try to tell us they’re not sexy, and to stop thinking about sex, but they are very spry old men, and our imaginations are in a drought since we found that one tattered Playgirl near that gentile’s house in the 6th grade.
We thought maybe the last election was our chance to get with you. We ran game on you, with our best pickup line, a claymation millionaire we thought you might like, because he was the handsomest grandpa-governor of all. He even worked in finance, and you needed a financial plan to get out of your Uncle Sam’s basement back in 2012. Because aren’t we exactly what you wanted all along? Isolationist, xenophobic, wholesome, and full of conservative values? In Salt Lake City, the very fortress for our little theocracy within the wider dogma-cracy of this nation, we’ve been like the test-tube baby for all your Apple Pie Doctrines of the 19th-21st centuries, but we’ve been doing it better than you even noticed, right under your nose.
So when we turn on the news or look at internet pages to see what you’re doing since the breakup, we realize that you are more like us, skittish alarmists who don’t want to think for themselves, who are begging to be led by one delirious prophet. Because you inspired us, America. By 2012 we finally got the courage to send you more of a wink to our affection than just the crotchety old senator, Orrin Hatch, with only his palsy for a smile. Yet what you could learn from us, is to get awkward, before you get angry. We Mormons don’t know how to act, America. Before, during, and since our brief relationship, you keep sniping at whatever leaked documents someone found about our policies we barely know, or don’t read anymore. You’re happy to gossip about what you’ve heard we’ve been doing since the breakup, especially from our mutual friends (the Baptists).
Remember that you left those attitudes in our apartment, along with your favorite sweatshirt, and we’ve tried them each on for years, trying to feel closer to you.
However, what you didn’t notice as we were getting closer, was that we represent the underlying values you said you’ve had all along. We mirror you, with a milder, less caffeinated intensity. When you’re smug about new national legislation that gives equal protection to all sexual identities—without a true change of attitudes across the country—we become old-fashioned. But just wait. We are slow, but steady in building our own isolated experiment of the American dream, far more intensely than anywhere else, within our landlocked island between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierras, quilting together values that you mentioned you were into—such as religiosity and traditional gender roles and big families and even bigger corporations and daily Bible study. Yeah, The Bible. We’ve got tons of them, only ours are bigger, because we supercharged them with some other cool stories about boats and magic rocks and stuff. Our freaking Bibles make your Bibles look anorexic.
We definitely shun people and create discriminatory policies. But remember that you left those attitudes in our apartment, along with your favorite sweatshirt, and we’ve tried them each on for years, trying to feel closer to you. All the while, our home was a place no one else wanted: Utah is the only state to be denied statehood 5 times, and the Salt Lake Valley was never permanently inhabited, by human beings until we chose to live there. Then for some reason we gave up everything, even our own invented language, Deseret, to get close to you. To get closer to you, we gave up our families. You continually remind us about polygamy, still refer to it as a reason why any relationship won’t work with you. Yet no matter how gross or abusive or weird, those were our families before 1890; until we longed for your singular love so much, America, that we tried to become just another society obsessed with a glorified monogamy we can’t live up to, like you.
Now that we’ve gotten closer, but never quite close enough, we understand the system: when you act bigoted and reactive and generally bad, you are more like us. When you are progressive, we remain an old-fashioned cult. Yet we learned from the best, and occasionally, you should learn from us. We may get half-chubs for our big guns in the back of big trucks during deer season, just like your vocal little brothers in the South, but we are pacifists. We cannot kill you with awkward glances and guilt trips, although some of our grandmothers sure try. We’ve done this American experiment even more purely and rigidly than any other European settlers before, and it’s still not enough. The next time you spout off wishes that the entire country should be caucasian and Christian and straight and capitalist, look over to Salt Lake City. (Yes, we’re Christians, duh: “Mormons” is a nickname you gave us. Our name actually has Jesus Christ in it like seventeen times. You could call us the Banana-Bread-Bakers of the Narnia-Hogwarts-Cosplay-Convention of Both Baby & Man-Jesus Christ, and it would be far more accurate than totally separating us from Christians). So look at us, before you run your mouth. Salt Lake City is the best case scenario for what people with closed cultural borders, without open ideas, can accomplish alone. We’ve done every contradictory thing you said you wanted to do yourself, America, but we’re still not happy. We hurt our friends and family and strangers, and so many people who live around us are hungry.
Since you dumped us, we’ve been going through all the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bed-wetting, and internet shopping (bargaining). Perhaps during this election year we could even accept why you didn’t pick us, because you’re clearly going some aches of your own. But after all the therapy, we still want to ask, Why him? Anybody but him. Or him. Or her. We know it’s weak, and we should move on, but anytime you’re ready for this sin-circus to end, we will send you another, mild, Mormony kind of president (and sure, he’ll probably be super white, and have a mumbly voice that just sounds like someone left the bathroom faucet running). We listen to all your Broadway musicals on repeat, and if we hear our name in them again, then we’ll know that’s the special signal to meet you at the White House. Because we love you, America, even if you never love us back.
P.S. We heard maybe Ryan Gosling was a Mormon. Who needs a president?
Miles Fuller is an essayist with an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from the University of Iowa. He currently teaches creative writing and comic book workshops at the University of Louisville. His work has received accolades through the Academy of American Poets, AWP, Pushcart, and Best American Essays. As a 6th generation, “OG” Latter-day Saint from Salt Lake City, he enjoys taking long walks with his handcart and wearing puffy white shirts. Miles is currently finishing a memoir about Mormons, mental illness, and the regional foods of the Intermountain West.