Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Rainbow Flag: A small-town solution to Kansas vandalism & a revolutionary bit of good news

By Diane Silver

When you are a lesbian and your most basic rights are constantly under attack, it is easy to miss the importance of tiny events. Building up over time, though, these small incidents -- call them nuggets of good news -- can be more important than a judge's decision. They can signal the real sea changes in our lives.

One such event has just occurred in the controversy over a hotel's effort to fly a rainbow flag in Meade, Kan.

Since they first hoisted the flag, The Lakeway Hotel has been subjected to two incidents of vandalism. The first occurred in early morning of July 31 when someone cut down the first rainbow flag flown by JR and Robin Knight, a heterosexual couple who own the hotel. In the second incident Thursday, a brick with the word "fag" was thrown through a hotel window.

JR says the first incident of vandalism has been resolved, and in a hometown Kansas way that gives me great hope.

The Hutchinson News reports today:

The disappearance (of the first rainbow flag) had remained a mystery, but the father of two local boys brought them to the Lakeway on Friday and they owned up to their involvement.

"They apologized and said they'd replace it," J.R. Knight said. He didn't name the boys, and Meade County Sheriff Michael Cox said only that officials are investigating.

These seems like such a tiny thing -- a father marching his sons over to apologize to a neighbor and make restitution. However, I think this tiny event is actually huge.

This father could have just as easily ignored the whole thing -- after all, the rainbow flag is a symbol of gay rights. He could have said: Who cares about a bunch of queers? He could have even scolded his sons, punished them in some way and told them never to do it again, but kept them away from the Lakeway Hotel and the Knights. The attitude could have been: Boys will be boys after all, and no one should be flying a queer flag in this town anyway.

This unnamed father didn't do any of that. He forced his sons to be respectful to people who openly support gay rights.

This honorable fellow may never vote in favor of a single fair law for lesbians and gays, but he has just given the Knights and every lesbian, gay and bisexual person in Kansas the most important gift of all.

Think of the scene in the movie Brokeback Mountain where Ennis' father takes him to see the body of a fellow who had been beaten to death for being gay. The lesson that fictional father gave that day was that being gay deserved death.

With a population of only 1,600 and located in the ranching country of southwestern Kansas, Meade, superficially, looks like the same kind of country portrayed in the movie.

However, think about what just happened in Meade where a father forced his sons to acknowledge that vandalism in the name of protesting gay rights is not right. This father forced his sons to acknowledge that all Kansans -- even queers -- deserve respect.

That's huge. That's the stuff of revolutions.

[The 2nd paragraph about Brokeback Mountain was revised 8/24/06 to clarify my meaning.]


Anonymous said...

Indeed it is - thanks for sharing the story.

- simplexity

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Diane Silver said...

Good morning and calm down.

Your comment is remaining on this blog, at least for the moment.

I have just a couple of responses right now.

First, your courage in posting anonymous attacks is, well, less than overwhelming. If you truly believe what you say, then post your name.

You don't have to sign up for a Blogger account to do that. Just add a comment with your name in it. I have no idea if JR Knight is a saint, but at least he stands up for what he says. You are attacking someone and hiding your identity. If you believe in what you say, let us know who you are.

You wrote that the coverage is painting "this little quiet small town as the biggest bigot town in the world."

Actually, if you read my blog you'll know that it has repeatedly quoted Kansas Equality Coalition officials, who say that the hatred is only coming from a few people in Meade.

Finally, you write: "Just as it his right to hang the flag, it is also our right to not have it forced down our throats."

How can anyone force the gay rights flag "down our throats?" The flag simply states support for fair laws for the lesbian and gay citizens of Kansas. A simple statement isn't force, unless of course, the idea of fair laws for all citizens of the state horrifies you.

I've spent a lot of time working in the news media, and I have a suggestion for you. If you feel that Meade is being painted unfairly by the media, then give the reporters something that paints a true picture of your town.

Don't fall into the trap of posting anonymously written, personal attacks on blogs. Instead, hold your own rally in Meade in support of the right to fly the rainbow flag. Heck, buy your own flags and fly them. Tell reporters that even though you personally dislike JR Knight, you agree with his right to say what he believes and to fly the kind of flag he wants.

There ARE ways to turn the tide in the media, but only if the good people of Meade -- and we all know they exist -- stand up for the right to free speech and respect for ALL Kansans.

Diane Silver said...

One more interesting thing...

This anger-filled comment (see above) came on the one post on In This Moment that puts the best like on Meade. In fact, what this post says is that this town has good people like this unnamed father who treat others with respect and demand that their children do the same.

I am saddened that the angry comment will make it harder for people from outside of Meade to see the goodness in the fine act described in the original post.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Diane Silver said...

Mr. or Ms Anonymous, allegedly of Meade, just returned to this site and posted another long rant. I have deleted both of this person's posts.

I've done this for the following reasons.

(1) This poster refused to identify him or herself, yet continues to make what amount to almost libelous attacks.

There is a reason why American courts do not allow people to make accusations anonymously. Witnesses have to face the people they attack. An anonymous attack makes it impossible for others to judge the source of the information, or for those attacked to respond.

(2) The 2nd comment directly attacked a child. I don't care what the topic is or who the people involved are, In This Moment does not and will not ever allow people to attack children.

I don't care if you feel like you have the right to attack the 12-year-old daughter of an Adolph Hitler. It won't be allowed here.

orangecat5 said...

I agree that the father in Meade is a decent guy and for that he gets my respect. He could have easily blown it off.
I'm glad you deleted the "anonymous" rantings. If I want to read small minded stupidness, I'll read the LJWorld message board!

By the way, Diane, this is Jules ::waving::

Diane Silver said...

Hi Jules!

Thanks for your comments. I agree, of course! thanks for reading the blog.

Brian said...

As someone who lives near Meade, goes to church near Meade, with several friends from Meade...

I'm very glad the media reported the story of the boys owning up to the vandalism because there are so many sides to Meade, Kansas and this story that are not being told.

Meade, Kansas is not some "Brokeback Mountain" community based on a Hollywood-created stereotype. Please don't ask people to be less judgmental while rushing to judgment yourself.

There IS more to the story. Much more than is being reported. The owners of the Lakeway Hotel & Restaurant have been at odds with certain people in the town long before the flag ever went up. People have been upset at each other, and accused each other over many things out of spite, suspicion, and anger. The flag was just another way to stir things up.

With the flag however, those with national causes have joined in. Unfortunately, as good as your intentions are, it was never about gay rights in Meade. It was about purposefully offending people, and purposefully doing things to make others look bad. Neither side has been innocent or completely fair with each other, and much of the reporting is only partially true.

Business for the Lakeway didn't decrease with the gay rights issue. It had decreased before the flag ever went up because of the animosity between the owner and others in the community.

The way it is being portrayed is great for a movie, but it's not reality. Yes a radio station may have to remove the advertising for the restaurant. No they didn't threaten. In fact, when they discussed the issue with the owners of the restaurant, the owner told the radio station he "understood" their situation. The owner had explained he wanted to turn the place into a haven for the gay community, -perfectly within his rights. But the radio station is a Christian Music station, non-profit, supported by local churches and listeners. How could anyone expect a religious organization to run ads for something they disagreed with on religious grounds? Neither the radio station, nor the owners of Lakeway, were upset at the time. They were just trying to deal with the issue and explain their position to each other face to face. It was completely cordial. But that's not how it came out in the paper.

The issue of homosexual rights, marriage etc... are real issues, but what has been happening in Meade, KS according to the media, is not real. It's a fictional creation of news based on half-truths and assumed stereotypes.

Which is why it brings a smile to my face to see the media surprised that the boys would apologize for taking the flag. Suddenly, maybe Meade, KS isn't like the movies? Imagine that.

Diane Silver said...


Thanks so much (and I do mean that) for posting your comment in a calm manner AND for identifying yourself. According to your link, you are a person who calls himself Pastor Brian who runs a Christian radio program out of Plains, Kan. Yours in the first comment to come out of the Meade area with a name attached to it. Thank you!

Second, I want to apologize for the way I used the name of the movie "Brokeback Mountain." I did not intend to say that Meade was bigoted as the area shown in the movie. Believe it or not, my intent was to say that it was a rural area of ranches and farms. Because I didn't write it correctly the first time, I'm going back and revising the post.

Third, well, I have lots more to say, but I'm going to do that in a new post on the blog. I'm sure you'll find it. Take care and again, thanks for your comment.

Florian said...


I'm writing from Berlin, Germany. I read about Meade on the Advocate homepage and looked for a blog on this and came across this.

My comment goes in the direction of Brian.

Of course a newspaper article does not portray reality in all its facets and aspects. a cautions rader knows this. but anyhow sometimes all aspects are not relevant. I can very well believe and accept, that Mr Knight is not an easy person to deal with. the coverage sounded, as though there had been a lot of conflict within the community before the flag incident. I don't believe for a second, that Mr Knight did not know, what the flag meant. but it matters little to me.

I do not think, refusing a radio add is too bad. I don't know, how the add went, but it seems unlikely that the add featured the flag. refusing an in itself harmless add for a restaurant, mind you not for gay rights, however seems rather silly. or do these people object to restaurants on religious grounds?

you write, that the flag was something to stir up things, to make other people look bad. Be that as it may, people are responsible for their own actions. the reactions to the flag might have been predictable and the act of flying the flag manipulative, but that does not make the reactions to it less hatefull, stupid, ignorant or - in the case of vandalism - less criminal. when people behave hatefull, stupid, ignorant and criminal, they will be thought of likewise. and the fault is no-ones but their own.