But then I noticed the little boy holding the “God Hates Fags” sign in the background and stopped laughing. It’s so sad to see children participating in events like these, so troubling to think of how such memories will affect them as adults.
Now, I'm not a huge fan of crowds, but over the past few years, a couple of local incidents tempted me to get out my magic markers and make some protest signs myself.
The first, in 2004, happened when the Rhea County Commission voted to introduce legislation that would amend Tennessee’s criminal code so that the county could charge gays and lesbians with “crimes against nature.” The decision drew national attention to the area, and sparked protests from the gay community, as well as from the fundamentalist community. I remember that one street preacher carried a sign that said, “Sodomites don’t produce; they recruit.” At the time, I stayed out of it, but sometimes I wish I could go back and simply stand with the local gays and lesbians who turned out—just to let them know that not everyone in this community hated them or wanted them to be charged with a crime. The decision was overturned within the week.
I also thought about protesting when local activist June Griffin got away with vandalizing a Mexican store in town. The case was dismissed because the immigrant she threatened did not testify. Disheartened by the amount of support Griffin had received from the community, I considered showing up at the courthouse with a sign that included Exodus 22:21, "Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt”—mainly because June prides herself on being a strict biblical literalist. But, once again, I figured I’d just be contributing to the madness, so I stayed home. I read in the newspaper the next day that a small group of Hispanics showed up at the courthouse and stood alone.
In both of these cases, I’m pretty sure that my presence at a protest would have done little to change the circumstances. However, it might have made people from two of the most oppressed minority populations in Rhea County feel a little less alone.
So, have you ever been a part of a protest? If so, what did your sign say? What’s the strangest protest sign you’ve ever seen?
And what does God hate anyway?
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