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The Groove - Kindness, respect and free speech
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Homophobia, bigotry and an innuendo of a threat toward the local LGBTQ community appeared on a truck in the Walmart parking lot last week with a sign reading, “Queers & Transgenders make good shark bait.”

This column may anger some people in completely different ways depending on if they are pro-homosexual or anti-homosexual rights. Free speech is not what’s being debated here. This man has the same right as any other U.S. citizen to speak his mind, even if it’s hateful, as those who support the rights of the LGBTQ community and believe in marrying who you love, regardless of gender.

The issue I have is the spewing of hatred into our community. Regardless of what an individual believes, we should love and respect one another, as in the saying “treat others how you wish to be treated.” In the Bible’s book of Matthew, Jesus says the second greatest commandment is “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

We don’t have to agree with another person’s lifestyle or choices. However, we should be kind to one another regardless of our differences. The same religion and book so many people quote regarding homosexuality being wrong, puts a stronger emphasis on being good to and caring for one another.

I’m thankful for and completely support the right of free speech as an American citizen, but I don’t understand why this important right is used to bash others or cause hurt. The wording “would make good shark bait” is bothersome because it indicates wishing harm on certain people simply because they have different beliefs regarding what’s right for their own lives.

We live in a society where there’s much hatred and negativity, including homophobia, racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry. Our differences make us unique and beautiful individuals. It’s easy to spread hate or judgment when someone disagrees with a person’s beliefs, but it’s equally as easy to spread love and positivity to make the world a better place for us all.

The book of Matthew also says “to turn the other cheek.” If something is offensive to you, you don’t have to seek revenge or attack someone whose lifestyle you don’t agree with.

After seeing the photo, I privately messaged the woman who’d taken it. I asked her feelings regarding the subject matter behind this sign. This woman’s reaction, whom is one of the individuals he is referring to, was much more understanding than mine would have been if the sign had stated, “All females would make good shark bait.”

She says, “I'm a Christian woman and do not represent myself, my profession or homosexual people by being negative or hateful. Clearly there is enough hate in the world already. I wish him peace in his soul; I truly do.”

Let’s worry less about what divides us, focus more on what unites us and spread the much-needed love and kindness we need in today’s world.

Standard reporter Atlanta Northcutt can be reached at 473-2191.