In what is considered by many to be a huge blow to this town's Civil Rights Ordinance, the Arkansas State Supreme Court found that the City of Fayetteville’s law (meant to extend protections of civil rights to LGBTQ individuals) is unconstitutional.
If you know anything about this case, it came before voters twice: once in a special election in December 2014 to veto the City Council’s decision to enforce the ordinance (then 119) and when voters supported the veto by a thin margin (52-48 percent). Many thought the language on the ballot was confusing. After that vote, several people organized another group that came to be known as “For Fayetteville,” who were able to vote this by the council again and it passed in September 2015 by another thin margin (53-47 percent). Legal wrangling has gone on since the passing of the ordinance, but I should mention my thoughts on this ordinance, those figures who helped to pass it, and the future that lies ahead.
I voted at the ballot box to keep this ordinance, largely because I did not support the Duggar Family influencing our elections. However, my position has always been that a business owner has the right to refuse service and the free market should decide what happens to that business. I call this the “Pretty Woman” rule. I should be allowed to, as a business owner, refuse service based on my own religious and moral standing. Think about it: if the Westboro Baptist Church wanted a cake from me that had a message I do not support, I should be allowed to refuse their business just as anyone else should be able to.
There are other problems with the ordinance today that are more introspective than policy driven. Lately, the discrimination that exists among the LGBTQ community is consistently perpetuated from those within the circle and their far left allies who have banded together to point fingers at others to distract from their own bigotry. As a candidate for public office in this town, I was smeared, mischaracterized, and trolled by many in the LGBTQ community and their allies for conservative views I previously stated and still stand by. There were no calls by leaders in these pro-equality groups or by anyone in the community for civility and respect. In fact, many at the top lead the charge in the smearing and silently supported several attacks--some even racist and homophobic.
What the LGBTQ community at-large in Fayetteville has done is ditched equality stances, trading them in for the exact type of discrimination and disrespect they claimed this ordinance would solve. These groups (and the elected/appointed city officials with whom they reciprocate support) appear to be so in bed with other interests, like development, that they forgot their main goal: protecting the rights of all LGBTQ individuals.
The culture in the community and within these groups reeks of the sort of limited views and bullying that ran rampant at the national level of the Human Rights Campaign. Many people in and out of the area ditched financial and grassroots support of HRC after a lengthy internal autopsy revealed multiple issues with sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and racism at their national headquarters. These issues also exist in Fayetteville within the LGBTQ mafia, related organizations, and even elected or later-appointed officials who want their exclusive rights granted only to them and their heterosexual progressive (and pseudo-progressive) counterparts.
These groups pretend to be equal rights champions, but they are actually leftist extremists that do not want equality and respect for all, just for their own agenda. Anything that runs counter to them or their allies is grounds for an attack, including those like me and others who identify with those letters. Be they local or national, these extremists have made it clear that they want nothing more than to destroy the livelihoods and reputations of those who have legitimate questions about religious freedom, be it political smearing, doxxing, physical threats, or even contacting their employers for termination. As we move into 2020, the support for this movement is slowly thinning. Many who once supported civility and protections for LGBTQ individuals realize that thanks to the loudest, rudest voices in the movement that many have already achieved the equality they claim they do not have.
As I see it, there is no need for this ordinance. Period. It underestimates the will of the people, it undermines religious freedom, and it is a vanity measure for these groups to keep their bigoted, unnecessary stronghold on our town. Looking to the future, it is important that all Fayettevillians express to elected officials and these extremists that the right to equality, a separation of church and state, and discrimination protections should be extended to all residents regardless of sexuality, gender identity, race, religion, and even political views.
I often hear (and have repeated) the idea that entertainment has become too political and in many ways it’s true. In the sense that it intends to alienate instead of resonate, for instance, entertainment has become too saturated with political agendas. But we need to be careful in how we approach that. We come too close to stifling art. It's a societal problem as much as an ideological one.
The outrage that chased Kevin Hart out of hosting the Oscars is the most recent example of unrestrained mobbery. Hart's joke (an old one he told years ago) was social commentary. Comedy observes our insecurities and awkwardness - more specifically here, our relatable feelings toward what it means to be a parent, to be a dad, in a society that was wrestling with the open acceptance of the gay community. He apologized for it, but that was not good enough. Maybe the times were sensitive. But they always are, and much more now than ever. We are a prickly people and we have developed hyper allegiances to various causes and factions. Offense isn’t itself a bad thing - it wakens our humanity and critical thought. ‘Blind offense’, however doesn’t work this way.
For instance, every year a school district threatens to yank “Huckleberry Finn” out of the curriculum and local libraries, thinking they are on a righteous crusade to save impressionable youth from coming across the n-word. The blind reaction ignores that Twain was an abolitionist, the language of the time period in which it was written, and the Huck Finn story itself. And ultimately robs society of a positive cultural learning experience.
It doesn’t matter whether its an old comedy routine, a playful flirtatious song from the 1940’s, or interrupting “Shakespeare in the Park”, the reactionary culture police have been making noise and having success, and it will hurt us.
All of this modern cultural sensitivity brought me to read and think about a Russian composer named Dmitri Shostakovich. Stalin didn't care for him and many believe the reason is buried somewhere in the Shostakovich's opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk”, which you can read about here. The Communist state led a propaganda war against him. A condemnation of the composer came out in the official communist paper, Pravda, accusing him of cultural crimes. Critics who had praised the opera were forced to recant. That was 1936. Shostakovich withdrew his fourth symphony from the public out of fear of arrest. Though he would compose works that pleased the state, Shostakovich was declared an offender by the Central Committee in 1946 over his ninth symphony, for which he was forced to apologize. Though he got a little creative breathing room after Stalin's death, Shostakovich again found himself in trouble in 1961.
Consider the crushing of creativity - living in fear of your own work, allowing others to dictate what you can compose, and apologizing for stepping out of line (sound familiar?). And in between all this, he saw some of his contemporaries, friends, and family members imprisoned.
Our current climate is too comfortable with this oppression of art. We need to be careful about asking for the censorship of what we do not like in art culturally before we incidentally (or purposefully) invite government to decide for us what is acceptable. We will become a culture of freedom that will turn on itself, and appeal to a larger power to censor what we find offensive. As it stands, it is only a race to see who cedes the power.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.