They can speak, but we don’t have to listen

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Nine years ago this month, this paper ran a front page story on a local lesbian couple who went to Multnomah County to get their marriage license in the too-brief window when that county was the only one in the state sanctioning same-sex couples.

In the wake of the paper hitting stands, we received numerous visits to our office and more cancelations from subscribers who questioned our judgement in placing it on the front page or covering the story at all. We took those hits because we’ve always operated under the mantra: if it happens in Keizer, it should be in the Keizertimes.

It was with no small amount of discussion that we chose to put coverage of a “white pride” demonstration on Saturday, March 23, on the same page as we featured that happy couple.

Regardless of how the people gathered that day colored their intentions, the history of white pride movements in this country is far too dark, disturbing and disingenuous for their actions to be perceived as anything but disruptive. It also does not help their case to contend that they are not trying exclude to anyone and then pass out Free America Rally (FAR) literature that describes America as “an outpost of Western Civilization, the product not of geography but, rather, thousands of years of genetic and cultural continuity. America has always been defined by its European-derived population. We are America.”

A representative of the group told our reporter that Keizer was chosen because someone involved with the movement knew of the available space at Keizer Station and because it was centrally located for those traveling from other cities and towns. No one in the group identified themselves as hailing from our city.

We want to be absolutely clear that the Keizertimes and its staff does not agree with the group’s propaganda nor do we see the need for such a rally in Keizer, but we will defend the individuals’ rights to their views in the same manner we stepped up for a gay couple nine years ago. The stories are newsworthy whether we agreed with them or not.

Our staff makes our livings on the freedoms of speech and press. We hold both dear and understand that the results can be upsetting, or even offensive, to some readers. Moreover, it can seem like a hollow platitude when we hear others tout the need to combat divisive speech with more that is positive or uplifting, but it’s true.

On the other hand, some of our homegrown youth are supplying us with an opportunity to respond differently this time. On Saturday, April 6, a group of determined and hopeful McNary High School students are hosting a B-boy battle, a dance competition where students from around the Pacific Northwest will duke it out on the Celtic hardwood. For the $7 admission, you get a night of high-octane entertainment and support the school’s AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program.

It seems to us that, as Keizerites, we have a choice. Keizer can be the place where groups like FAR can find it comfortable to set down stakes for an afternoon and promote divisiveness, or we can turn out in force and support our diverse local talent and future leaders in their bid for peace, love and unity. It might give the FAR group, and others like it, pause when deciding where to host their next rally.

Our staff will be in the McNary gym, we hope you will be, too.

—EH

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