My letter to evangelical leader Franklin Graham in advance of his visit to Key West on Thursday, January 16.
Dear Mr. Graham:
I understand you will be coming to the Southermost City in the U.S. on Thursday, January 16 to host your “Decision America” event. Before you arrive, I thought it might be helpful to give you a little background about the people who call this island city home.
We live on a tiny, two-by-four mile island closer to Cuba than the mainland of the U.S.
Since the first European settlers came in 1822, the island has been populated by a rainbow of diverse individuals. We learned a long time ago that living in such an isolated, compact location, we would be better off if we accepted and celebrated our diversity instead of focusing on our differences. In fact, the motto of our city is “All People are Equal Members of Our One Human Family.”
This philosophy is deeply ingrained in our culture and allows all residents to feel valued and loved. And yes, we have a lot of fun too.
If you were able to extend your stay in Key West for a couple of days, you would likely encounter some of the following activities that demonstrate this philosophy:
• A drag queen hosting a bingo charity event to benefit the local women’s domestic abuse shelter.
• Adults at the high school mentoring low-income students as part of the Take Stock in Children program.
• Volunteers helping recent immigrants learn English as part of the literacy program.
• Multiple churches cooking meals for home-bound residents and after-school programs.
• Karaoke singers at one of the local gay bars competing in a 12-week American Idol-type competition to raise money for the SPCA animal shelter.
• Fifty or so bike riders training for the 165 mile SMART Ride to benefit HIV/AIDS service charities in South Florida.
• A group of retired women dressed in their wedding finery on their way to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the local cinema.
• A benefit for a local service industry worker who is having medical challenges.
• Volunteers taking a group of our ReMARCable Citizens with developmental disabilities to a classical concert at a local church.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.
We value and take care of our own regardless of income, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, political persuasion, etc. Which is why I’m wondering what “decision” you are going to ask the attendees to make at your event.
I’m guessing it is not a decision to embrace all of the diversity I have outlined above, so there will be a large group of us who will not be attending your rally.
Instead, we will peacefully gather at the Truman Waterfront Park (near the Amphitheatre) to have our own celebration. It will be hard to miss us as many of us love to pull out our colorful costumes, flags, and other baubles from our closet for celebratory events.
Oh yes, there will probably be lots of dogs (we love our animals).
Safe travels to you and your team,
P.S. If your group goes to dinner after your event and encounters a “gender neutral” bathroom, please don’t have a hissy fit. Many of our historic buildings were plumbed for one bathroom. We consider ourselves lucky to have even one instead of the outdoor privies from a while ago.