Oh, Arkansas

Thanks to Daniel for pointing me to this excellent blog entry discussing Initiative 1 by a gay couple in Florida Ohio who has adopted four children. You should give it a read.

Arkansas. Where to start?

Having lived in Arkansas since 1991, I have sadly come to understand how “mentally backward” most of the population is here. To start with: there are HUGE Pentecostal, Southern Baptist and Church of Christ populations here. Many—if not most—towns have more churches than their population can even support. So, we know the “sheeple” don’t think for themselves and take their cues from the people leading their congregation (and obviously not from what is in the Bible).

Add to this religious “fervor” all the rednecks, hillbillies and other “white trash” that one thinks of when one thinks of the South and you have a good idea about the ideals of the population in general. Did you know there are still “sundown towns” here, many of which “host” various white supremacist groups. Even though the Husbear and I “blend in” with our tattoos and mean-ish looks, many of these towns are places even we won’t stop in if it can be avoided.

Obviously not all of Arkansas is like this. There are some small pockets where people are “normal”. Most of these pockets are the result of an influx of people from big cities in large states. More than likely, these small pockets here are also the cities that have what few gay bars and clubs there are in Arkansas.

I haven’t talked about many “political” topics on my blog, mostly because I am not very political by nature. I just tend to go with the flow of things. However, the hate formerly directed at people of other color is now being directed at people who are gay. (I say “formerly” but in reality it still exists—as was very evident by the verbal comments many people have expressed in the open with the results of this last presidential election.) While it may be a slight exaggeration that everyone is this way, it holds true for many.

The Husbear and I have three children, all from his previous marriage. While the kids are now technically adults, thanks to Initiative 1, I would never be able to adopt them if something happened to their mother and/or him to make them part of “our” family. Although technically we cannot be a “family” either since the Husbear and I cannot marry here due to legislation enacted during the 2004 election cycle that defined marriage in Arkansas.

I’m not sure where I was going with all of this other than to give readers an understanding of what life is like in Arkansas, and maybe why I expect this from from those living in this state. I am not saying it’s right. But it is the middle of the country, where all change is slow to happen.

It is hard to imagine that in the 21st century laws forbidding “rights” to a group of people would even be thought of—let alone passed—by the general population. But as the Husbear says: “it’s a matter of time.” For example, his grandfather didn’t believe in interracial marriage. That generation died off. The next generation, his father, “tolerated” interracial marriage. That generation is dying off. And like most of his generation, the Husbear doesn’t care who of one color marries who of another color because they know it doesn’t matter.

Change takes time. You can “force” change, but hate will be built up on the inside until it festers and a tragic backlash occurs. Time, and leading by example, are the counters to this build-up. It’s the only thing that has ever worked for me. Granted, I don’t know what those people I’m “friends” with actually say about me when I’m not around or how they truly feel about gay people. But they are at least civil when I am in their presence. Sometimes that’s all I can ask for.

Until next time...
Erik

13 thoughts on “Oh, Arkansas

  1. I think anybody who’s truly your friend but doesn’t feel positive about gay people secretly knows that they’re wrong and that you’re an example of why they shouldn’t feel that way. You’re one of the nicest folks I’ve had the pleasure of tangentially knowing. That stands for something.

  2. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of sundown towns. The fact that they still unofficially exist in Arkansas is quite disturbing. That’s even worse than South Carolina.

    Does this mean there isn’t a gay bar in the town where you live? There isn’t one in my town here in SC. The closest one I know of is in Greenville, SC, about an hour north of here. I’ve never been, but then I don’t go to bars much anyway.

    I’m impatient. I agree, it will happen. But it’s taking so long! The progress is so slow!

  3. Changes do indeed take time buddy which is very unfortunate. I come from Northern Ireland where the terrorist group the IRA were blowing people up with bombs and murdering people for years. This was all purely territorial and Catholic against protestant. Peace came to N.Ireland about 4 years ago and now even though the place is small, it is thriving because these groups have put down there arms and decided to sort their differences out by peaceful means. I didn’t think it would ever happen in my life time but it has. I thought as gay man I would never ever be able to marry in this country either and now I have. People have waited so long, even though its happened it is still hard to believe. The small town where I came from was similar to what you describe in some ways. When I first met Eiain he was going to move from England to live with me in N.Ireland but I didn’t want him too as he would be a target as soon as someone would hear his accent. That is how bad it was back then. Thankfully now, times are much more peaceful and happier. It only goT to this stage as more and more people started to talk to each other and started not to be afraid of each others differences. I do think with the next generation there will be lots of positive changes for us all and hopefully for the better in your country and in mine *hugs to you and your family* ‘Sorry for the long comment’ 🙂

  4. My work mate Mai has an expression that fits what you are talking about, and in particular what your Husbear pointed out, and that is “In the fullness of time!”.

  5. I have always been a strong believer small towns breed small minds. The gay community has come a long way since the 70’s. I doubt we will see the changes we want now in our lifetime, but change will come.

  6. Erik, I too have never been a very political person. I don’t even watch the news on a regular basis. But something about this election and the discrimination that we are now shouldered with has me fighting mad.

  7. Thanks for the link Erik. Just one small correction…we live in Ohio, not Florida. We adopted the kids when we lived in North Carolina though. It’s shocking to hear how out of touch parts of Arkansas (and I’m sure plenty of other places) remain. When we still lived in NC, we were in an extremely rural county and I was actually somewhat fearful of moving there when the husband first accepted that job. However, it turned out to be the best 4.5 years of our lives! People were open, warm and accepting of us. I have no doubt that there was hate and bigotry present as well but it was never projected at us. There are areas of The South that are fully in step with the 21st century, areas that might surprise some, but unfortunately there are still the places where hate rules. We can only hope they are a dying breed.

  8. Have you spent much time with “kids” today? Being gay is such a non-issue with them I can’t help but imagine that when that generation comes of age and takes full power in this country they will marvel at how backward their parents’ and grandparents’ generations were on the issue of GBLT equality. So I’m with sortedlives on this one. The changes may not come in our lifetimes, but they will come.

  9. I grew up in a small town in Michigan. The fear of the outside world was particularly strong. Parents encouraged their children to marry immediately after high school as a way to ensure they stayed within the community. Education was looked down upon. Thankfully, the advent of cable/satelite television and the internet has opened these places and made the outside world less scary.

  10. I’m incredibly grateful to live here in Massachusetts and I worry about my brothers and sisters in the Fly-Over states. If you need a refuge from the willful ignorance that occasionally rears it’s ugly face, feel free to visit! I know you boys like the rural aspects of where you live, and there are plenty of wonderful areas in Western Massachusetts that I think you two would find quite welcoming.

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