SALINA, Kan. - This city is not the center of the universe. But it is a regional hub. And it's the place where recently an unlikely outcome, well, came out.
That is, the Salina City Commission voted 3-2 on May 14 to add lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people to its non-discrimination list. It and the death of our first, famous, woman astronaut have made our city and state an important universal, not just regional hub.
Sally Ride, astronaut and former spouse of Steve Hawley, the astronaut who claims Salina as his hometown, just came out -- in her obituary.
Ironies echo to the heavens. Sally Ride, the first woman to play a crucial role in our search for greater knowledge of the universe, was herself unknown in a basic personal sense. While she escaped the bounds of earth, our knowledge of her was buried under it. Sally Ride rode a rocket clean out of this world, but could not come out of the closet.
Nationally (let's face it), Kansas has a reputation for being backward. You know, teaching creationism, anti-science, and so on. Thomas Frank's book, What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, sort of stuck us with that label, even though similar things might be said of many Midwestern states.
To top it off, with the wave of state vote initiatives barring gay marriage as unconstitutional a few years ago, Kansas drank the fear monger Kool-Aid and passed the so-called 'marriage amendment.' (Actually, the anti-marriage amendment.)
However, Saline County had the third-highest percentage of No votes. Clearly, a large number of more open, accepting, and fair-minded people live here. This gives us hope.
The Salina City Commission buoys that hope. They should be lauded, applauded, and supported. With their vote, they made life more open and friendly in our fair city. Today Salina's Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgendered Individuals are now much more "free to be." And so are we. Thanks go to many courageous LBGT folks coming "out of the closet" and straight-but-not-narrow people advocating for their LGBT brothers and sisters.
But celebrating is not enough. We must reach out to our other brothers and sisters who find it so frightening they will sit in a 100-plus-degree city park to get signatures aimed at overturning that decision. Brothers and Sisters, what do you fear?
You must be aware that an outside group, naming themselves Kansas' "Family Policy Council," has hired-gun Robert Noland pushing the petition--and you--to bring it to a public vote.
Please note that this well-funded Council is linked to the Family Research Council, designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a "Hate Group", along with others such as the Westboro Baptist Church, the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, the Council of Conservative Citizens, and others who espouse hatred of minority groups.
That doesn't make them Klansmen. But it should give you pause.
We and all creation share a basic nature. Misunderstanding that nature will be the death of us yet -- unless we come together and understand it.
Fearing LGBT freedom diverts attention from real life threats. Florida swamps are draining and crawling with pythons; closer to home, invasive species, heat, and drought threaten crops and other species; forest fires wipe out whole mountainsides; prosperous ag operations rest on heavy subsidies (how long can those last with crops shriveled to oblivion?) and our financial system's foundations seem increasingly shaken.
We cannot return to a past where climate seemed stable, we thought the downtown bank would last at least decades, and our neighbors would likely be the same years into the future.
Until we get past a self-assured faith in hierarchies, we shut out the very voices that might save it. Respect the priests, but listen to the nuns. Respect your banker, but question your investments. Support the arts, but make your own.
All Kansans should know that blocking protections for LGBT folks will not protect you. Primitive cultures once sacrificed humans to insure good crops. We are way past that.
We must seek ways to address larger economic and spiritual issues. One helpful aid on these and many other issues, whether you're a Salinan or not, is at Salina Spirituality Resource Center's website, spiritualityresourcecenter.com. Note the video on the Charter of Compassion.
All Kansans have made some great strides forward, but we each bear responsibility to preserve our lifeboat. If we are no longer just along for the ride, we can make it the ride of our life.