Peace & Love Rise Above in Harrison, Arkansas

Harrison has a hate problem.

I live in a community that has long been plagued by the pernicious acts of a hate group. There are various splinter groups they organize under in an attempt to re-brand themselves and disguise their true intentions, but it's always the same gang of familiar scowling faces.

They purchase billboard space along the highway that runs through our town and use the space to promote their hateful racist philosophies. I won't do these goons the favor of publishing their messages or the names of their leaders here, but you can easily find all of this with a Google search. The dominant theme of their messaging has been one of white supremacy, but as you will see in this photo essay, their true stock-in-trade is hate.

I'm here to tell the world the truth: we are not afraid of these people. We reject and rebuke them and their hate in the name of Love. Harrison is a kind and loving community.

The good people of this community - and there are many of us - are disgusted and frustrated by the continued antagonistic actions of these who hide behind their symbols and misappropriated religious philosophies. The legion of true Christians in our community is disgusted by the hateful perversion of Jesus' Gospel of Love to promote their poisonous philosophy of hatred.

Our community is harmed on a daily basis by the selfish and crude acts of these hateful few. Our local business owners - especially those with a tourism-based business - see their revenue dwindle as more and more tourist traffic is frightened away from stopping here due to the hate speech on our highways and the negative press that constantly rains down upon us by well-meaning but misinformed news media from across the nation and the world. They are polluting the minds of our children who see these messages in public and are subconsciously taught that such language and philosophy is acceptable in civilized society, and that Christianity is about hatred and judgment and fear.

It's easy for outsiders to point fingers at our community and say, "They shouldn't allow that," but the problem is much more complicated than any simple solutions would suggest. There are freedom of speech issues, religious freedom issues, and frankly there are issues of fear and safety.

A Culture of Fear

I cannot overstate the fear and intimidation factor that the hate group once held over the people of this town. It's not hard to understand why: we live within easy reach of extremist religious zealots who seem dangerously misguided, heavily armed, and very capable of violence. They are also invisible. The secretive nature of their organizations means that anyone could be a member or a friend of the group. This creates a culture of fear and mistrust. Imagine that you wanted to do something to fix the problem, but you feared for the safety of yourself, your family and your pets. That's been the climate in Harrison. People try to keep their heads down and their noses clean, to stay safe. It's time for that to end.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Sometimes, under cover of darkness, they leave hateful propaganda in our yards as a tacit threat. My dog knows what to do with it.

Love always triumphs over hate

"Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love" - Bill Hicks

Fortunately for Harrison, the times are changing. Human progress inexorably marches onward, despite the eternal resistance of those stuck in the past. The hateful elements of our community have cast a long shadow of fear and terror over the silent majority for many years, but their power is now diminishing day by day as the light of love is cast into the dark shadows where they lay, exposing their poisoned philosophy as fearful, divisive and ignorant.

Much like the Wizard in the Land of Oz, this local hate group is nothing more than an illusion of bluster and bombast, with a frightened and confused little man pulling the strings at the center of it all. The masses are awakening from this long nightmare and realizing that we are being frightened by a paper tiger - something that seems threatening but in reality is ineffectual and unable to withstand challenge.

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always." - Mahatma Gandhi

A Point of Pride

In the wake of the vicious shootings at a gay club in Orlando which left 49 people dead, Harrison's local LGBT community decided to host the first-ever Harrison Pride Parade and Festival as a fundraiser for the victims' families. No event of this sort has ever been attempted in Harrison, and no one knew quite what would happen.

these colors don't run

Make no mistake; to organize, support, or attend this event in such an oppressive environment is to commit an act of incredible bravery and dedication to the American ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I submit that the organizers and attendees of Harrison's first-ever Pride Festival are courageous patriots who are absolutely worthy of our respect and praise, regardless of what you think about LGBT issues.

lib·er·ty /libərdē/ n.

  1. 1. the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views.
  2. the power or scope to act as one pleases

Soon, the League of the South responded with an organized protest and march of their own. The League of the South is a neo-Confederate group that advocates for another Southern secession from the United States. It is classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

As the date approached, tensions mounted on social media and elsewhere as it became clear there would be a confrontation of some sort between the two causes. Members of the hate group made comments about carrying weapons to the protest, and screenshots of those comments were passed around in fear and trepidation. Would the hate group actually show up? Would the local police be able to contain them? Would violence break out?

On the day of the event, both groups (the Pride folks and the LOS protesters) marched separately from the Harrison Square to the site of the Pride Festival at Minnie Harris Park. The parade launched a bit early and I missed both of them, so I went straight to the Park. The first thing I saw as I approached was a small group of miserable-looking people and children carrying signs and flags and scowling in the general direction of the park. This is what hate looks like:

The shady side of the street...

In my humble opinion, this group is a dangerous gang of religious extremists who seek to inflict fear on their fellow citizens with tacit threats of violence implied in their symbols of hate and their language of death, deceit and despair. Their choice to bring the Confederate Battle Flag to a "Christian" protest in support of traditional marriage proves that hatred is their business.

The only connection between the Confederate Battle Flag and a Gay Pride event protest is hate.

A few of our best Harrison Police Department officers were stationed at the entrance to Minnie Harris Park as I walked into the Pride Festival, and I asked them the rules of engagement of this event with regard to the protesters. I was told that I could cross the street to interact with the hateful protesters if I chose to, but that "they aren't coming over here". The officers told me that at least two of the LOS folks were carrying firearms, and assured me that all officers were aware and that everyone was keeping a close eye on the armed protesters. The tension in the air was palpable.

The sunny side of the street :)

Love Vs. Hate

Hate is weak, but Love is strong.

When I saw the LOSers carrying their Confederate Battle Flags and Southern Nationalist flags, the true issue suddenly became very clear to me. The many good people of Harrison who have been battling against these hate groups for so long - myself included- have been fighting a symptom of the disease rather than the disease itself. We have been combating racism, but the true issue is hatred. We are fighting the very forces of evil and darkness and the only way to defeat it is through love and openness and acceptance. We must love them and forgive them, for they know not what they do. They are sadly misguided ignorant people who think they are doing what God is telling them to do. This makes them both dangerous and pitiful.

There are no words
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Martin Luther King, Jr.

I'm sure at this point you are wondering what happened on that fateful day. The beautiful truth is that very little actually occurred that wasn't positive. There was one minor incident that I'm aware of. The LOS folks (numbering around 25, including 6 or 7 small children) stood along the roadside in the direct sun with no water or shade for about an hour before retiring. I believe their fearful leader was anxious to flee the vicinity, return to the safety and isolation of his remote compound and write deceitful propaganda about the protest's numbers and accomplishments on his propaganda news website. A couple of my brave friends from the festival attempted to show love and kindness to the protesters by taking sealed packages of bottled water across the street to them. Their leader, choosing to be motivated by fear and disgust over the obvious thirst of his followers, dumped out all the water and refused the gift. It must hurt to fear so deeply.

"Love is kind, it does not dishonor others"

And just like that, it was over. They walked back across the Lake Harrison bridge, into the past where they belong.

Walking back into the past where they belong
Later, haters

Peace and Love Rise Above

And now, let me show you a few of the brave and beautiful souls who came together to stand up in solidarity against such darkness. My deepest respect, gratitude and admiration to you who made this day such an epic success for the good and true and right in this world. You are all patriots, heroes and Warriors of the Rainbow.

"Everybody's got their freedom of expression...[the protesters] have got their significant choice of words, and I've got love, acceptance, community... I think we look like we're having a better time," says Alexx Breedlove, one of the organizers of the Pride Festival.

The Faces of Love

A new day has dawned in Harrison, Arkansas

"I see it as a tremendous success, and a giant leap forward towards a fully diverse and unafraid community. The more Pride Festivals we have, the more people will start to realize that we are not what the [hate group] marks us as. We are all people, we all deserve love, and we are most definitely not degenerates." - Alexx Breedlove

Step into the Light

People of Harrison, please know that the spell has now been broken and that the forces of darkness and hate hold no power here anymore. The Pride Festival was a watershed moment for our community. As a spiritual and political statement, it concerned many issues beyond simply gay pride. This event gave us a simple and clear choice as a community: love or hate. It really is that simple. We cannot allow the hateful and ignorant to control the conversation any longer.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
"I am officially standing up against the hate and division, speaking for those who cannot and will not. As a part of the LGBT community myself, I understand what it's like to be verbally beaten down by people who just don't understand. People need to realize that you don't have to understand someone to let them live in peace, and love who they want to love. We don't want to take over and corrupt innocent children (lol), we simply want to COEXIST in a town we've grown up in." - Alexx Breedlove

This event was a brave and mighty rebuke of the hateful minority, a beautiful blossoming of our loving majority, and a fitting funeral for the old ways of ignorance and judgment that we are hereby burying and putting away forever. The most effective way to defeat terrorism is to refuse to be afraid. Their only powers are those that we give them. Let's give them nothing but love.

The official count of guests that signed waivers for the 1st annual Harrison Pride Festival was 277, and over $3000 was raised for One Orlando! One of my goals for this essay is to illustrate how safe, fun and positive this event was and to encourage all of my local and regional friends to come support this event and others like it in the future. We can and we must stand up for love in the face of such obvious and wicked hatred.

A Tale of Two Wolves

A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other.

One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.

The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”

The grandfather quietly replies, "The one you feed."

I know which wolf I'll feed. How about you?

"There is nothing to fear but fear itself." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

What You Can Do to Help Us

People of America and the world, please recognize that we as a community of loving and kind human beings hereby reject and rebuke every action ever taken by these misguided, fearful and dangerous souls. We need your help spreading the good news of the love revolution that is taking place here. We are going to drown out their hateful rhetoric and lies with simple truth and love and hope. We need your positivity, your love and your prayers as we take back our community from the grip of hatred, fear and evil. They will probably attempt to strike back at some point as their power and relevance continues to diminish. No one likes being rejected, left behind and forgotten, but it's happening to them and they know it. The truth hurts but it will set us all free.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

If you are inspired by this and would like to help, the first thing you can do is to share every piece of positive news that you come across related to this event. If you would like to do more, please contact me at jamieseedphotography@gmail.com and let's figure out what we can do next.

Jamie Seed Copyright 2016

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