This week, I attended gatherings at the Arkansas Capitol building to show my opposition to House Bill 1228. I was proud to exercise my right to assembly and free speech. I was proud of others who did so as well. I was proud to see some friends and I made some new friends.
I was proud of many of my fellow protesters who remained respectful. I heard that others were not respectful, and for that, I am not proud. But I cannot control other’s behavior, only my own.
In a moment of enthusiasm, I ran up one side of the steps and down the other, high-fiving and thanking those who were there. I was so happy that we were doing our thing, chicken wing, and felt celebratory.
(P.S. I was pleased I did not trip, especially as I was sporting these shoes. Thank you, Nike Air technology, Cole Haan.)
After my little high-fiving party, a photographer from our statewide newspaper approached me. He asked for my name in case the paper decided to use it.
My pride and enthusiasm evaporated, WHOOSH, replaced with fear.
I said I preferred not to be in the paper. “Are you sure?” Photog asked. “It’s a really good picture.” He seemed genuinely disappointed (bless him, can you blame him? I’m cute! hehehe). I work for a state agency, I explained, my voice trailing off in an apologetic tone. I said I needed to protect myself and the agency from any possible criticism or backlash.
Arkansas is a right-to-work state (what a misnomer) and I could be fired for any reason, not the least of which is being present at a political rally (during the work day, yes, but on my own time) about a hot-button issue. And being gay.
On my walk back to the car, I wept. I felt ashamed at saying no to the photographer. Which spilled over into feeling ashamed for who I am, what I believe, who I love. Crying prohibited me from seeing some mud on the sidewalk and –SQUISH– this happened.
Then I laughed. How appropriate. I got a little dirty doing the most American thing I can think of (other than voting)…I am not ashamed of who I am, what I believe, and who I love, but I am ashamed that I live in a place where I have to worry about it.
Thoughts still floating around about my experiences this week and the odd connections I’m drawing to Holy Week.
It’s Good Friday. Jesus knew who He was (is), what He believed (believes), and who He loved (loves). He too, lived in a place and among people who were unwilling to allow Him to be. I imagine His human-ness felt fear knowing what was ahead, His calling, and He didn’t want to hide. His feet also got dirty.
And so I live with the tension between being who I am and being part of movements to support freedom, and the very real concerns for safety and security.