Between your Haight-Ashbury free lovers, your Humboldt County alternative "medicine" growers and your West Hollywood Let's-Make-Paper-Mache-Penises-And-Throw-A-Paraders, California may be the bluest, most progressive, gluten-free states in the union.
But don't tell that to the sun-baked, leather-skinned, jerky-chewers who populate the towns up and down Route 395, a two lane sticky asphalt highway that runs the length of the state on the eastern side of the Sierras.
Here in the Owen's Valley, nature's very own 100,000 square mile solar panel, you'll find the same kind of backwards thinking that would rival the newly-formed Caliphate in Syria/Iraq.
Am I over-generalizing?
Of course, I am.
But the similarities can hardly be dismissed.
First, there's this unholy fascination with God. And the curious notion that somehow these folks have been blessed by the Almighty to live on a land with less than 4 inches of annual rainfall.
The burka-clad women and mustachioed men of the Middle East call out to Allah 5 times a day.
But in towns like Olancha, Big Pine and Randsburg, Jesus is broadcasting 24/7/365 on every AM/FM station. And don't expect any escape with the Scan button, he's commandeered every preset.
Jesus even has his own network on XM Satellite, Savior 77. Commercial-free, just like Howard Stern.
Of course you can't spread the Lord's message of love, wisdom and brotherhood without guns. And military munition.
For every Kalashnikov and RPG in the service of the Holy Quran, there are tenfold AR-15's and Glock 9's available for purchase at gun stores conveniently located every 10 miles, from Mojave to the Mono Basin.
Most are next door to a Subway Sandwich shop. For easy lock and carbo-loading.
Besides guns and God, are there any other shared attributes between the Caliphate on the Tigres River and the one along the California Aquaduct?
Well, there's patriarchal misogyny, raging intolerance, overzealous nationalism, blind faith, anti-intellectualism, a seemingly genetic disposition towards violence, poor dental hygiene and an irrational willingness to blame all of life's problems on…wait for it...the Jews.
Maybe water and oil are not our most precious resource.
Maybe it's sunscreen.