Today, the Aryan Nations are planning a public rally to be held in, of all places, the Bethany Beach Bandstand.
I am so disgusted by this, I barely know what to say, except that I feel something must be said.
The town officials say that the group had the right to get access to the Bandstand because of freedom of speech.
I understand that the same freedom of speech that allows me to express my personal, religious, and moral beliefs protects others, allowing them this right. I know it is what our country is built on, and that this has to apply to everyone, no matter how sickening or twisted their beliefs may be. Freedom of speech allows freedom of beliefs, and that founding principle of freedom is what makes our country such an amazing place.
I just can't believe, however, that a group so blatantly racist and discriminatory can be granted permission to broadcast their message of hatred in a public, town-sanctioned, family-friendly venue such as the Bandstand.
I grew up five miles from Bethany. I work there, still, at a lovely restaurant, the last Saturday of every month through the school year, and more often in the summer time. Waitressing puts a little extra cash in my pocket, and even though I live a good forty minutes from Bethany now, I make the trip once a month, even in the off-season, not just for the cash, but for the nostalgia of my hometown. The bustling, touristy, summer days under a shining July sun, the sparkling waves, the salty smell of the ocean--they all bring me directly back to my childhood. The smell of DB's Fries, best french fries in Bethany Beach, thank you very much--that was my very first job, as a fry cook at DB's in the late 90's, when I was just fourteen. The brightly colored shops, the clunking sounds of quarters being deposited into meters, the parents yelling after the children, the scuffling scrape of beach chairs being dragged across the sidewalk and off to the boardwalk, the teens rolling by on skateboards and the leashed dogs being proudly shown off by their owners... all of these make up a million priceless memoriese for me, as I gradually transitioned from child to teen to young adult to where I am now, slowly preparing to exit my twenties.
My whole life, Bethany Beach has been a part of who I am. The Summer Bethany, which I have always known, have always visited, even if I've lived elsewhere. I have always returned to the summers that have shaped my experience of my favorite season. The autumns there, where the tourists grow fewer, dwindling down to retirees and those from surrounding states who take a quick weekend getaway. The fall sun still beams down over a cooler, quieter Atlantic. The winters, where the town is all but deserted, yet you can still go to the beach and watch the wind whip over the waves. Spring time, when the stroller pushing mothers resume the streets, the restaurants begin to open again, and life pumps back into the town.
I have always loved Bethany. I have always been proud of where I come.
Today, I am not proud to claim Bethany.
I grew up believing that people should not be judged by the color of our skin. It is a view I have defended many times, as I entered into a relationship with a man whom I love deeply, who happens to be African-American. Thankfully, we live in a time when our relationship is possible. But racism is still very much alive today, and many of us choose not to admit this. Some of those who remain in the prisons of their prejudiced views fear voicing them in this age of tolerance.
The sad thing is, their prejudices which they are afraid to air are most often born from fear. Fear of differences, fear of change.
I say to those people: My daughter, a biracial, beautiful five-year-old gem, would change your mind, should you spend an afternoon watching her play. She is a fierce ball of energy-- play a game of tag, hide-or-seek, or catch, and see who gets tired first. Give her a topic, and she can ask you a question that you won't be able to answer. She is a laughing, hyper, squealing, gorgeous little girl, who can already write her name, help me pack a picnic, and "read" her favorite book (Five Little Ghosts--but she prounounces it "Five Little Ghost-es). She ran one and a half miles with me last week. She takes tap and ballet lessons. She wants to be a cheerleader, a ballerina, a farmer, and a geologist. She can recite multiple Bible stories, and the beginning of the 23rd Psalm.
She knows that God loves us. All of us.
She is kind, compassionate, and generous. To everyone she meets. Without question.
How I wish we could all see the world through the eyes of my daughter.
I pray for those misguided people who claim the revolting message that the Aryan Nations cling to. I pray that they realize the destructive error of their ways. I pray no one attends their rally, so that no one's ears may be poisoned by their message of hatred.
Again, freedom of speech, religion, and beliefs are beautiful rights. People have died to protect those rights, and I am not ungrateful. I realize that some might be offended by my religious views, if I decided to rent out the bandstand and preach about Christ. Others might be offended should a different religious group take the stage, sharing their views. I believe that the right to air views publicly, regardless of what those views are, and whether or not I agree with them, should remain a right.
Except in the case where the message is one of blatant racism, prejudice, and hatred. Toward any group of people. For any reason, disguised as any message. In a family-friendly venue, this should not be a right.
If my daughter and I planned to go the Boardwalk today, as we do often in the summer and September, we should be able to go to that public place without fear for her safety, or fear of the evil message, directed against her and many others, by those disillusioned people.
I sincerely hope this group never returns to Bethany. I plead with the town officials that if at all possible, they revisit their operational guidelines to see if something cannot be done to prevent this from happening in the future.
"This is my commandment: That you love one another, even as I have loved you." --John 15:12.
Please, let us keep injustice out of Bethany.