Letting Love Reign

15 Jan

Some months ago, I was getting on to I-77 S and this billboard caught my eye:


I was immediately taken with it—the two men, Tim and Ron, are a couple who own a wonderful gift boutique near my house, Paper Skyscraper.  I’ve seen them speak at the Mint Museum about their store and how they pick what they choose to sell—they have the most fascinating mix of household goods, cards, accessories, sculpture, and books, all with their own unique taste and style.  They don’t just have a dish scrubber; they have a dish scrubber shaped like a woman on the handle and topped with wild red hair.  I always get my Christmas cards there, and I love their collection of children’s books and toys for gifts.  You go in there with an intention to buy one thing, you leave with 6 others.  It’s a bad habit.
Anyway, I thought this billboard was completely striking.  And then, no exaggeration, I turn back to look at the car in front of me while waiting to turn on the on-ramp, and the Ford Explorer had the word “faggot” scrawled in the grime of the guy’s rear window.  Huh.  Ok, dude, you’ve got my attention. I’m looking, as if at a tennis match, between the billboard (“Less propositions, more proposals”) and the car in front of me (“faggot”).  Which do you think has the more positive, meaningful message?  I don’t know who the guy was in front of me—I tend to think it’s some Dane Cook-loving frat boy who tosses around the epithet without so much as a second thought, whose friends wrote it on his car at a drunken party the night before.  I doubt he (they?) thought of it as serious hate mongering.  But the casualty of the word, and the way in which it was written for anyone to see (and maybe the driver himself to miss—“ha ha, you don’t even know just how gay you are!), was in such serious contrast to the imagery on the billboard.  I think what was most arresting to me was the look that Ron was giving Tim: it speaks of love, devotion, commitment—all in a look.  It’s really striking photography.  

After some fruitless searching to see if I could find more about the billboard, I was thrilled to finally come across the pictures from a fellow small business owner’s Facebook page.   It turns out this marketing message is from Let Love Reign, a Charlotte-based movement that has now reached nationwide.  Some of the other people involved in the shots are another Paper Skyscraper staff member (Tony, always so helpful when I’m checking out), and a writer for the Charlotte Observer, Tonya Jameson.  Looking at the website, you see something so pure about the images, it’s hard to deny their power.

Growing up in a conservative, military family, and being fairly conservative myself (although more socially liberal than they) has made the issue of gay marriage a challenging one for me (as I suspect it is for many).  I have a gay cousin who has 4 children with her partner, and a good set of friends that I respect and admire who met on Match and now live happily with their dogs in Colorado.  I have gay friends from high school that I still keep in touch with, some of whom have had healthy long-term relationships WAY longer than I have ever had.  In fact, many of the couples I know are in more stable, lengthy relationships than their straight counterparts (which I think says something more about the state of dating today for straight folks…trust me, it ain’t no picnic.)  And yet, changing the face of marriage, an institution that’s been around for so many years, is not a decision to be easily dismissed.  And yet again, the divorce rate has increased exponentially in the last 50 years (for reasons too numerous to name), that it makes complete sense that gay people think—why do we not deserve the rights that you all take so lightly?  Both sides of the issue think they’re absolutely right, and that rightness can lead to bullying.  When Prop 8 was in the news 2 years ago, I read a variety of blogs and articles to figure out how I felt about the situation, and the stridency of each camp just turned me off.  If I don’t agree with you 100%, then I’m either a homophobe or an a-hole who hates the institution of marriage and wants to see it die.  Neither is correct, but you just lost me.  ”Let Love Reign” has a point of view, obviously, but the tone and approach are completely different.  I know which one is more effective.

Cliche or not, the best way to change someone’s mind is with love and sometimes that takes time.  But it’s the only way to effect lasting change.  “Let Love Reign” is a powerful testament to that fact, and I give all who are involved with it a warm round of applause.  Charlotte’s done good.

(Picture links to original CL article)


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