Opinion: Racist rally demonstrates intolerance of differences
In a series of nationwide events promoted by Global Rally for Humanity, armed white people are encouraged to terrorize people in their places of worship this weekend. With a perverted sense of patriotism, local conservative groups have put Grand Junction on the national map of participating communities. (“Armed anti-Muslim activists planning 20 rallies at mosques and community centers across the US,” Raw Story)
Within hours of publication of that map, local progressives had organized a rally for peace and tolerance. Facebook RSVP’s for this new event, Grand Valley Unites Against Islamophobia, showed supporters of peace outnumbering its opponents 10 to 1.
As activists from all sides planned their rallies last week, their passions were ignited by news of the latest mass shooting at an American school, this time at a community college in Oregon where 10 people were killed and 9 injured.
That was also the day that a Federal District Court ruled that a Grand Junction panhandling law violates the First Amendment of the Constitution. The ordinance is so extreme that virtually any person asking another for help in public would be violating the law.
It wasn’t until I met with local activists the next day that the factor connecting all three of these events became apparent. As we ate breakfast together in a Grand Junction restaurant, we laughed about a group twisting their necks to get a better look at our party. Their interest could have been due to the fame of my companions. Most likely, it was intolerance and exclusivity.
Directly beside me was the young man whose arrest was covered by CNN when he hindered the slaughter of wild bison by chaining himself to a gate in Yellowstone National Park. He often lives off the land much like a mountain man, so his accouterments that day included a bowie knife strapped to his belt and a deer hide, which serves as his bed, rolled up with his pack. (“Arrest of local activist helped wildlife,” Grand Junction Free Press)
At the table across from me was the plaintiff known as the “former member of the US Coast Guard” in the ACLU’s lawsuit against the city’s panhandling ordinance. He sports a long beard and ponytail and uses a walking stick with an intimidating length of 4 feet as his cane. (“Challenge to Grand Junction Anti-Panhandling Ordinance,” ACLU of Colorado)
Next to him sat a 70-year-old lesbian with the cutest southern accent and best belly laugh anyone has ever heard. She was wearing the snappy, black bowler she’d just gotten at Moab Pride. Locally, she’s best known for her participation in a rally against homophobia for which she was introduced as “the town lesbian” on television news. Unlike the two men in our party, she carried nothing that could be construed as a weapon except by people who believe homosexuality is contagious.
And then there was me. As a middle-aged mom fitting best into the category of soccer mom, I know that my glares can be more threatening than anyone’s. Together, we must have looked like a pretty scary force, at least to people who are afraid of differences.
It was then that exclusion as an underlying force behind bigotry and violence became apparent. Exclusivity has become such a pervasive force in our culture that people fear anyone different than themselves and even resort to violence to eliminate those differences.
Anyone with a car in Grand Junction, including countless tourists, is aware of the Donald Trump mural overlooking Highway 50 and the Colorado River by Orchard Mesa. The illustration portrays Trump as a knight slaying a dragon, representing all the “evils” which must be eliminated in the United States, some of which include homosexuals and people with certain religions and political beliefs. With the use of “libtard,” people with developmental disabilities even make the list included on the mural.
Luckily, Grand Junction hasn’t made national news for mass violence. Hopefully, with the exclusivity we see here, it isn’t just a matter of time.
A fourth generation Coloradan, Free Press columnist Robyn Parker is the former host of the progressive community radio show, Grand Valley Live. She is a stay-at-home mom, active community volunteer and board member for local environmental and social justice organizations. Robyn may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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