I used to live in Billings, Montana. I lived there a couple of times actually. Now Billings is no liberal mecca. It is a bright red city in a red state. But they did something pretty darn impressive once upon a time. In the early 90s a bunch of skin heads decided to hassle the few Jewish people we had there. Not only Jews. They didn't like Native Americans or Blacks either.
They hassled them violently. They threw a rock through a window of a Jewish boy who had his menorah up for Hanukkah. They desecrated a Jewish cemetery. They passed out KKK flyers. They painted homes of Native Americans with swastikas. People were scared.
But, then, some folks had an idea. They said, "Enough of this crap. We aren't going to be pushed around by right-wing, hate-filled, bullies." They said Not In Our Town. The newspaper, the police, and the mayor got involved.
People put up menorahs in their windows all over Billings. If you didn't have a menorah handy, The Billings Gazette published a photo of one for you to tape to your window. Ten thousand people put them up in their windows.
Religious groups from every denomination sponsored marches and candlelight vigils. The local labor council passed a resolution against racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia.
The violence stopped. Yes. Really. It didn't take a big effort in Billings. A few people were sick and tired and started a movement. Not In Our Town is a national movement now.
Well, Knoxville. It sounds like it is about time for you to get on board. Officials in Knoxville are saying that the people there are peace-loving and tolerant. They are saying they are not like Shotgun Jimmy. They don't hold his hateful views. Then show it.
Pass a resolution against homophobia. Billings, Montana did that for crying out loud. Put up rainbow flags all over town. Put UU symbols on your vehicles whether you are a UU or not. Mr. Mayor, go visit the PFLAG Knoxville chapter and show your support. And after that, lead a gay pride parade. You owe it to the people of your city. Be a leader.
No more, Knoxville. No more, Tri-Cities. No more, Tennessee. Not in our town.