An open letter to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, members of Arkansas Legislature and courts, cultural and community leaders, and every one else in The Natural State
I’ve always been proud to be from Arkansas where the libertarian spirit thrived for so long but the recent attempts to regulate ethical and moral truths- i.e. equality- is both un-American and un-Arkansan. While the beauty of our state’s independent attitude toward nationalism and the politics of Washington has always been a source of pride for its residents, it has now tipped too far and is threatening to obscure the very spirit of its people and erode the rights of its very tax-payers. Reactionary, fear-based and dogmatic policy has no place in our free republic. When a state so over-reaches its bounds as to deliberately aim to oppress a part, ANY part, of its culture or aims to protect one groups chosen religious interpretations over the inherent and moral imperative of another groups protection, no one wins. Only by coming together, as a unified state, working in partnerships based on mutual respect, not for each others beliefs, lifestyles, or politics, but for each other’s shared humanity and shared state of choice, can real progress happen. Once before, our great state has been faced with a great cultural dilemma, a chance to show the nation and the world and more importantly the citizens of its own mountains, deltas, fields, and valleys, that Arkansas, as a state, holds true to our founding fathers ideals. Like our state, even our founders made mistakes and stumbled in enacting the actions of equality their words had put into the minds and hearts of a revolution. We have a chance now to show that the wonderful, messy, complicated and beautiful system of our free and democratic government is still BY the people and OF the people AND for the people. Even LGBT people. Even the aethiest people. Even the people we disagree with on a profoundly deep level, our opportunity here is to demonstrate freedom, of religion AND from religion. Our chance here is to not be a petulant child, forced into progress by the shifting tides, but to be a leader in the South on equality, civil liberty, and the democratic way. Let’s not make the mistake we made when we had this chance during the 60’s, this time we CAN get it right. We don’t have to all agree, in fact that is how you know the system is working, but we do have to preserve the integrity of our republic by using those differences to our advantage by providing REAL, demonstrable growth, protection and unity for ALL our citizens, so that no one is silenced whether it be my very conservative Southern Baptist minister Father or my wonderfully smart and talented gay friends who just want to be treated no-better and no-worse than any heterosexual citizen or visitor in our state. Real Christian roots do not need to make a show of themselves, for if they are deep enough they will give shape to our cultural landscape by showing only love, grace, and liberty. Nothing exclusionary can exist in a spirit of unconditional love. You can not preach God’s love as indelible, infinite and unconditional and then also claim that those values lead to discriminatory attitudes. If you wish to hold on to your “Christian” roots, then I challenge you to do the Christian thing. Love thy neighbor. Unconditionally. Like he or she were an extension of you. Love them like they were your very soul. Love your neighbor, your LGBTQ neighbor like he or she was Jesus. You want to hold on to your Christian roots? Fine! Stop watering the weeds of disharmony, hate, fear, and judgement. Because your citizens are smart and will laugh at your idiocy and mourn for your ignorance and then eventually we will leave, taking our love to more welcoming places and leaving you with your hate and fear and emptiness. I don’t want that for my state. Neither do you so please, please, please let us all practice love. Love in the cracks between opinions. Love in the gaps of culture and policy. Love in the uncomfortable places, the disagreeing places, the “I just don’t understand” places. Let’s practice love for the liberty and justice FOR all that we aspire to and work for daily.