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ABC Affiliate WTVC in Tennessee reported on June 22 that a local firestorm had been ignited by Congressional candidate Rick Tyler’s campaign billboard. The sign’s message is clear. There was no political attempt to cloak the racist message in poli-speak, or give it a diplo-zhoosh to make it palatable. No, this was straight up, no bones about it racism. The billboard and the candidate’s website did a bleached blond variation of the ‘Make America Great Again” slogan. Equating white and great. The candidate’s website now features the image at the top of this page. The irony would be delicious if it weren’t so toxic.

The aspect of the story that caught my attention wasn’t the billboard but rather the quote in the middle of the article. Mr. Tyler runs a restaurant in Ocoee Tennessee and one of his patrons pointed out an important truth. Viewer Don Tate is quoted in the article as saying “….that is a poor excuse of a human to put a sign up like that. But that’s the wonderful thing about freedom of speech at least you know what’s really in their heart.”

And there it is.

Yesterday was the last day of school and the Middle School held its end-of-the-year assembly and Step Up Ceremony for the Eighth Graders. They were dressed in suits and fancy dresses. The girls wore as high a heel as they dared and several of them almost tripped getting up to the stage. But they all made it beaming, excited to be moving to High School next year, excited for the summer ahead, some of them smiling through tears for the friends who are leaving. Their parents filled the back of the auditorium, proud, amazed that their children were so suddenly young men and women. After they got their class of 2021 T-shirts, I spoke about trust.

Trust is so small a thing you can lose it without realizing it is gone. It is so fragile that you can spend years building it and in one slip, in a single moment, it can shatter into a thousand pieces which can never go together again. Without trust the strongest team is an aimless crowd on the field and will be defeated by the first team with a plan and determination. Trust is earned when what we say matches what we do. Trust is earned when we show up when we say we will. Trust is earned with every helping hand that is extended, with every kind word spoken, with the shoulder to lean on, with the arms that hold in comfort. Without trust no dreams can come true, without trust we are separate and alone. Only with trust can we dare to imagine, to reach, to create.

I told them they would need to decide whom to deem trustworthy. Who was truly worthy of their trust. Who had earned their trust. For that you need a window into the heart of of those who ask, or demand, or expect our trust.

I guess it is important that we have a climate in which the windows are open and not the faux painted scenes of unicorns and puffy clouds and dreams. I would rather see the hard reality of who we face even if that reality is terrible and harsh.

Writer, walker, poet, educator. Commercial fisherman, builder, donut maker, organic grower. Boston, U. City, Maine, South Africa, Madrid.

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