“Please, I’m urging my beloved community, let’s move forward!”
–Brandie Preusz Thorne
GUEST BLOG: Brandie Preusz Thorne
Like everyone else in my hometown of Vincennes, Indiana, and half the world it seems, I’ve watched our local and national controversy unfold. While I’ve witnessed intelligent and civil debate on the matter, it seems as of late, mostly hateful remarks are beginning to detract from what really matters.
This is my thought: If one holds a different opinion I completely understand and accept our differences. I’m not asking anyone to agree with me. I’m just sharing what I consider to be a rational perspective in the heat and height of this current local social media firestorm.
First and foremost I’d like to say: Anyone who threatens a person—especially a New Years Eve Ball committee student—needs to step back and check himself or herself. Hateful, derogatory responses get our community nowhere. It saddens me that many who disagreed with the ultimately inclusive decision to allow LGBT couples to attend the New Years Eve Ball have criticized our town and our high school. I love Vincennes and I love my alma mater Lincoln High School. One’s disagreement with a decision is not an open invitation to generalize or paint everyone in the community with a broad brush, especially in such a negative manner.
I know, personally, members of the New Years Eve Ball committee; I’m friends with them. They’re good people—neighbors and local leaders. I also know many of the committee students. They’re articulate, mature, and kindhearted human beings. My boys idolize a few of them and I can see why. I’m concerned that our community’s divisiveness has negatively affected those most vulnerable—our lovable local teens.
I was upset with the committee’s original decision and many others felt the same. My immediate response was anger and sadness; I reacted based on those emotions. However, I am a rational adult. I have many friends on the committee from each side of the vote. The more I read and thought about the divisive situation, I ended up here, at this conclusion: It’s a shame it took national attention to bring awareness to our community that so many local LGBT teens suffer needlessly at the hands of ignorant bullies. And they do, daily! This group, though—this committee—would never allow our community’s teens to feel threatened or unloved.
Regardless of how the awareness transpired, Mr. Redmond’s goal of opening the eyes of our community to LGBT discrimination has been accomplished. It has restored my faith that our community—with support from Lincoln High School alums and Vincennes natives near and far—is truly an open and affirming home to all of its citizens. Our hometown’s LGBT citizens and teens know that they have people willing to fight for them, people from all over the world. But most importantly, they must know that their friends and neighbors living right here in Vincennes are fighting for them too.
I wish Vincennes and Lincoln High School wouldn’t have been subjected to such hateful words from social media commentators and character assassins on both sides of the controversy. They just wanted to stir the pot. Our community is better than those voices. Those of us who take pride in our hometown and remain friends with those involved are the ones who must rally together and clean up the damage. I have faith. We’re a resilient bunch here in Vincennes. And, I am confident we will rally and move forward and be an even better Vincennes for the world to see.
The vote was changed—every invitee can openly attend with the date of his or her choice. The parents who sponsor the New Years Eve Ball and who’ve been placed on Front Street for the world to see are still willing to spend their money and time to create the celebratory evening. I think it’s time we, the community, stop the back and forth and stop knocking down Vincennes and Lincoln High School. Together we live in a wonderful community and I don’t want to see it degraded anymore—on social media or in personal conversations. The only direction to go from this point is up. I’m certainly ready to start climbing. Won’t you please join me?
Brandie Preusz Thorne is a writing instructor at Vincennes University and photographer. She is a Vincennes native, life-long resident, and a mother of four. Brandie, her husband BJ, and their children love their southern Indiana hometown.