Like many, Steve and I rode out the storm and the election with phone and tablet in hand and in constant contact with Facebook and Twitter. Talk about change! Social media has vastly altered the way we communicate with one another—and it happened in such a short time, too!
Over the last few years, my high school has had several reunions. They’re always in the summertime when we’re busy here in Rehoboth Beach, so I haven’t had a chance to make it to any of them, but Facebook has made it easy to keep up with my fellow graduates—even ones I don’t really remember very well. Sandy brought out the best in them, and I received a number of concerned comments from all over the country as that giant storm engulfed the east coast. Not surprisingly, the election comments provided a much different glimpse into the lives and philosophies of some of those “friends.”
Amid all the celebratory chat in my news feed the morning after the election, one post caught my eye: “Encouraging words,” it read, and there was a link to an article on the conservative American Family News Network (AFNN) website. Not surprisingly, the author vowed to continue to fight against the “depraved behavior” and “dangerous lifestyle” of homosexuals and child murderers.
My first impulse was simply to “unfriend,” but I hesitated. We all know that change comes when we connect with individuals, one on one, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend. I haven’t responded yet, maybe I never will, but I like the idea that I might still find an opportunity to have some meaningful dialogue on our differences.
From Maine to Washington, this election saw great progress for LGBT people, and both the Democratic Party and the President made it clear that our equal rights are important. We do, however, still live in a nation divided into red states and blue states, and the language used against us can be horrifying. On my visit to the AFNN website, I was even more shocked by the comments added to the articles than I was by the articles themselves, but just to call them ignorant, racist, or homophobic does not solve the problem. Somehow we have to find ways of building bridges.
CAMP Rehoboth was conceived as an organization that would create a more positive Rehoboth—an organization that would change attitudes and build bridges throughout the community. We’ve done that, and we continue to do that, but I wonder sometimes if here in Rehoboth Beach we have become too insular, too comfortable in our own little paradise. How do we challenge ourselves to create a more positive world, to reach beyond what is comfortable and safe?
Many of us remember when the Blue Moon opened on Baltimore Avenue 30 years ago. Suddenly gay life was no longer hidden in dark bars; suddenly it spilled out in all its glory onto the sidewalks of downtown Rehoboth. It was a kind of collective coming out party, and coming out is always liberating. I believe it gives us strength, but at the same time it makes us more visible. As the LGBT movement moves to the center, as it becomes more acceptable to a majority of the population, we also become more visible to everyone around us—and that makes our opponents even more vocal. The funny thing about “opening doors” and “building bridges” is that it allows traffic to flow in both directions. Perhaps that’s why I don’t want to simply “unfriend” those who have a different perspective from my own.
Finding common ground is not always an easy thing to do, nor is it in any way limited to LGBT matters. From the environment to AIDS, poverty, war, and global economic conditions, common ground is going to be crucial to the way our world leaders work together to find solutions. In this country, the most daunting task of all seems to be “building bridges” between the Republicans and Democrats in Congress!
Last week a friend brought two women who were visiting Rehoboth by CAMP Rehoboth to meet me and to hear a little about what we do. I was glad of oblige; talking about CAMP Rehoboth is easy for me to do. After a while one of the women interrupted me to ask,” Have you recorded all this?” I started to talk about Letters from CAMP Rehoboth and our website. She interrupted me again. “No,” she said, “have you recorded how you did this, how you would teach others to build something like it?”
“No,” I said, “I guess we haven’t.”
Her question got me to thinking that there all kinds of bridges we can build. Every time we share knowledge with one another we build bridges. Every time we share our lives openly and honestly with one another we build bridges. Every time we really try to understand why others think and believe the way they do, we build bridges.
The CAMP Rehoboth Community Center vision calls us to be “the heart of the community.” The only way to do that is to always seek common ground—even with those who might be perceived as enemies.
As we head into this holiday season, my hope is that each one of us will find a way of living in the heart, and of making new connections with the world around us.
We are deeply thankful for all who have worked to support CAMP Rehoboth throughout 2012. Your support is crucial to our success, and I encourage you to become a member of CAMP Rehoboth if you are not, or to renew or upgrade your existing membership. As always, we ask you to consider making an end-of-the-year gift to support our work.
Happy Thanksgiving, happy holidays, and happy New Year!
Murray Archibald, Founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach.