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Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Every once in a while, I get a reminder that perhaps I'm being just a little too dour on the state of the world and that I need to look on the positive side of life.  After my pessimistic reaction to the Park51 debate last week, I needed just such a reminder.  This was it:

UT Peace Party, 9/10/10

Isn't this the cutest act of social justice you've ever seen?  This adorable little goodwill ambassador came with her mama to spread some love and religious tolerance on my campus Appalachia on September 10th, and she came with friends.  A large and surprisingly disparate group of organizations on campus-- from Amnesty International to a local sorority, and all shades in between-- all came together to spread a little love and kindness as a more positive response to the current religious climate surrounding Islam and the ninth anniversary of September 11th.  College students, ministers, professors and their children stood on our pedestrian walkway handing out yellow balloons, candy, and smiles as the student populace walked past.  Certainly, the timing of Sept. 11th and the creepy Florida preacher with his Koran-burning intentions was on everyone's mind as they planned this, but they wanted to do this as a positive gesture in itself, not necessitated by the negative press coming from the news outlets.  They wanted to spread a little love because it was needed, not just out of counter-protest. 

I am also so proud to say that I had absolutely nothing to do with this.  I got a call from my minister friend about a half an hour before my Writing Center shift at the college on Thursday, and he wanted to know if I could bring the signs I had made for the fundamentalist preacher (and the neo-nazi rally) which I did.  I also stuck around to hold a sign for a bit and take a few pics.

I think this is a great sign of a climate change on my campus.  For a long time, people have been dissatisfied with some of the hate speech and intolerance that blows through our midst, but many (and the Christian community especially) haven't felt like they could speak up.  That's starting to change.  Even better, they're not speaking back so much as speaking out.  They have a positive message to share, and they're getting bold enough to speak it without necessarily having to do so defensively.  You have no idea how encouraged that makes me feel.  

So, without further ado, here are some photos of that small gesture of love and empathy that gave me a little faith in humankind even while religious politics gets nasty everywhere else.  Thanks so much!

UT Peace Party, 9/10/10
The balloons were a big hit for some reason.  I saw them tied up all over campus later. 

UT Peace Party, 9/10/10
In case you can't tell, they're all sisters-- and awesomely precocious young ladies. 

UT Peace Party, 9/10/10UT Peace Party, 9/10/10
The event got some really good local media coverage, too. That's my minister friend in the left-hand picture holding the balloons.

UT Peace Party, 9/10/10
A good friend of mine, studying here from Botswana.

UT Peace Party, 9/10/10UT Peace Party, 9/10/10
Two of our organizers...

And these were my absolute favorite shots of the day:
UT Peace Party, 9/10/10

UT Peace Party, 9/10/10

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