As a write this, I’m a little angry.
Actually, I’m really angry.
And even though my neighbor is laughing at my outrage and my husband is telling me not to embarrass him, I feel the need to share my anger.
Every day, I take my dog for a walk through the park by my house. The PUBLIC (as in partly paid for by taxpayer dollars) park by my house. Sometimes, we even go there twice a day and enjoy a leisurely stroll.
When I arrived at the park, there was caution tape haphazardly strewn up around a large section of the park. It had obviously been put there by amateurs, and I stepped over it.
I continued up a hill as a shrill voice called after me.
“Ma’am, you can’t walk here.”
I ignored the voice, partly because I just don’t like being called ma’am.
The voice got closer.
“Ma’am, you can’t walk here.”
I turned around.
A security risk? Really? I gave her a look that said as much, but my words were “This is a public park. I walk here every day.”
“We rented it.” she said.
“I have a hard time believing that,” I said. “You can rent a shelter, but you can’t rent a section of the park.”
The woman, who wasn’t in the best of shape and had obviously exerted herself chasing after me, tried to puff out her chest and exude her importance in her orange day-glow vest, “We did. ” she said. “And you can’t be here.”
I didn’t want to get in a fight. I just wanted to walk up the hill, but I turned around muttering under my breath.
Apparently, I’m loud even when I mutter under my breath.
Three young people, who had also been chased off, smiled at me and pumped their fists. “Power to the people,” one of the young men said. We walked together along the outside the park fence, and when we approached the “open” section of the park, we said goodbye.
But I wasn’t done.
As I watched more “security guards” (i.e. parents in orange vests) walking the perimeter of the taped-off section of the park, three more young people, one of whom was carrying a basketball, walked down the hill from the PUBLIC basketball court.
“Were you chased out too?” I asked.
“Yes ma’am,” said one of the young men said, and I didn’t mind that he called me ma’am because he said it with respect.
“Don’t worry.” I said. “I’m going to complain on behalf of all of us.”
They nodded and walked off with their shoulders slumped while the Cub Scouts (all 15 or so of them) cheered behind them.
I walked the perimeter taking pictures with my phone.
One of the parents in an orange vest, this time a man, asked if he could help me.
“I’m just taking pictures,” I said. Then I clarified, “but not of the few boys you are protecting. I’m not a security risk. I’m just taking pictures of how you aren’t letting me use a public park.”
There was no answer.
Maybe I AM blowing this out of proportion, and I DO understand the need to protect young children.
But I have issues with how this whole situation was handled.
Every day, there are dozens of children playing on the playground that was blocked off, and no one has ever before prevented me from walking my dog there. If the parents were that concerned about security, there are plenty of other more private and secure locations where they could have held their event. Even if the group had rented the park, and not just a shelter, they could have actually put up polite signs rather than tape that signaled anyone who crossed it was a criminal.
Most of all, there just weren’t enough boys attending the event to outweigh the members of the public who were prevented from using the PUBLIC facilities.
And all of that means I’m angry. I am angry not only about the arrogance with which I was confronted but also about the self-righteousness with which I was told I was a security threat.
And because of that, this is one battle I am willing to pick.
Last year, a fourth grade teacher at my daughter’s intermediate school was arrested for soliciting a 13 year-old girl (or so he thought) online.
Also last year, a teacher at my son’s middle school was arrested for child abuse and identity theft. Two weeks ago, she pleaded guilty to the identify theft, but she is still awaiting trial on 11 counts of child abuse.
Other than the fact that both were teachers in Berkeley County Schools and neither is gay, I don’t think the two have much in common. Yet, they were both engaged in immoral activity because their behavior was harmful. They used their power to hurt, control or take advantage of others, which I think most people would agree is anything but moral. The definition isn’t that fuzzy, at least I’ve never thought it was.
Unfortunately, some people are trying to redefine the meaning in order to fit their own narrow and bigoted views.
This week, the Boy Scouts postponed a decision to “sort of” lift its ban on anyone who is openly gay. I say “sort of” because the potential policy change would simply allow local organizations make their own decisions.
I was reading about the situation in the New York Times. While the content of the article bothered me, I was even more disturbed by the accompanying photo, which showed scouts and their parents holding signs that proclaimed “Keep Scouts Moral and Straight.”There was so much wrong with that photo, and I felt sorry for the young boys who are obviously being taught that discrimination is appropriate.
My kids are taught that discrimination is immoral:
Moral people don’t exclude but instead include.
Moral people don’t make broad judgments but instead ensure that every individual is given respect.
And moral people don’t define others by who they choose to love but rather by how they treat others.
Just as important, national organizations that demonstrate moral leadership don’t waffle on potentially controversial issues and, instead of taking a stand, cower by relinquishing their decision-making authority to locals.
Even more importantly, they don’t bow to bigots who make unsubstantiated and untrue generalizations about any group of people. Yet, the decision to delay a decision on the ban on gays came after rallies like the one at the Boy Scout headquarters in Irvine, Texas where protesters claimed that prohibiting gay membership equates to protecting their children.
After the incidents last year at my children’s schools, no one rallied with signs asking the school system to protect my children.
But maybe that’s because there’s no organized effort to rally against straight people who commit immoral acts. But maybe there should be. After all, I’m pretty sure statistics would show that’s where the real “danger’ lies.