I love where I live.
Today, it’s 70 degrees and sunny. The air is clear again, the trees are dancing like a hippie, and Friday offers the promise of weekend relaxation.
The city is bustling right now. A bunch of celebs are in town for an annual charity event. Head downtown tonight and you’ll see Kevin Costner, Joanna Krupa, George Lopez, Cheech Marin, Catherine Bell, John Elway, and a bunch of other folks are enjoying this progressive little city on one of its nicest weekends of the year.
Wait. Did I say progressive?
Well, yes. It tries to be. It really does. It’s part of what’s kept me here for so long. The problem is, its attempts run smack dab into the face of the general populace.
There’s a bar called Brew’s on the edge of the city. It’s a dark little place near Interstate 85. Walking in the front door of the joint feels like walking in the back door of any other bar. It’s a popular dive with cheap beer, late hours, and a pretty good mix of people.
The other night, a man was leaving the bar when a car pulled up, a guy jumped out, smacked the man in the face, and watched him fall to the ground. As the sucker-puncher pulled out, he likely didn’t see the man fall and hit his head on the ground.
Sean Kennedy died later at the hospital.
What we learned in later reports was that Kennedy was gay. We also learned that the cops believe Stephen Andrew Moller, an eighteen year old from a working class suburb, attacked Kennedy because he was gay.
Because South Carolina has no hate crime statute–surprise!–the case has been handed over to the FBI to see if federal charges are in order. That seems to be a reasonable solution. What’s got me a little sideways is the public’s response.
Our local paper made a decision a few months back to solicit comments from the public. The result has been the same kind of forum silliness you see elsewhere on the Internet. To be fair, there were a lot of compassionate people commenting on the story. However, there were also a number of other people who felt it appropriate to write this in a public forum:
“Another notice for gays, you are in the wrong state. A lot of people go to church here and will not tolerate your kind here.“
The wife wrote something this week that speaks well to this subject, so I’m not going to go on and on about it. There are a ton of good people here, church-going and otherwise, who would find the above quote as repugnant as I do. As it happens, we are also the kind of people that stand to get beat down in a bar parking lot for disagreeing with the more ignorant members of our fair community.
Now, a lot of you might say, “But, Otis, you’re not gay. Why should you care if people are intolerant of homosexuals?”
Well, there’s a number of reasons. First, I find intolerance of any kind (race, sexuality, religious, lactose) to be unacceptable. Second, one of my best friends is gay. Third, I have a lot more friends who are gay or lesbian. Not one of them (okay, ONE of them) has ever espoused any intolerance.
Here’s the thing. My friends and I frequent a dive bar. It looks rough, but it’s actually full of good people. Most of them are working class country folk. A few weeks ago, five of us sat at a table. One of us was gay. If you’d had to guess which one of us it was, you would’ve had a hard time. In fact, I bet if we’d bet someone $100, they would’ve picked me.
I’m just not sure I could handle it if we’d faced a beat down on the way out of the bar that night. If one of us was dead right now because of one of our sexual orientation, I think I’d lose my mind.
That has to be how Sean Kennedy’s friends are feeling right now.
So, my heart goes out to Kennedy’s friends and family.
Yours should, too, no matter what state you live in.
In other news, it’s good to live under a rainbow.
That’s the family and I (left) last weekend. We got caught in a sudden thunderstorm and took shelter under the eve of a smalltown newspaper building with our friend T and his daughter. When the clouds broke, we found a rainbow.
Thanks to T for the pic.