BELLVILLE — The same way it's hard to see a snowflake in a blizzard, it can be difficult to see the big picture when you're embroiled in conflict. 

A person's encounter with someone holding an opposing view, whether it be political, religious, ethnic, racial or otherwise, become more and more charged. And the more we try to stop the conflict, the worse it gets.

Author and reporter Amanda Ripley created a way to cut through the conflict with questions that "complicate the narrative" by challenging stereotypes, diminishing polarization, and digging ourselves out of the intractable conflicts.

We used the "complicating the narrative" framework to cover a "mega MAGA rally" hosted by the Ohio Patriot Network on Oct. 18 at B&B Drain Service in Mansfield.  

On Sunday we brought the same 22 questions to complicate the narrative to a rally dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ and women's community at the Bellville gazebo, in the middle of the season's first snowfall.  

Emily Snell, who co-organized the event alongside Kaitlyn Scruggs, said Sunday's event was organized in response to a rally a few weeks ago that featured anti-gay and anti-women's rights speech. A video clip from one of the speeches was shared widely on Facebook. 

Musical performances and speakers from organizations like the Mansfield Gay Pride Association, All Souls Church, Planned Parenthood, as well as other community members were featured at Sunday's event. Masks and social distancing were encouraged, and a virtual option was also offered. 

Snell said she was angered and saddened when she saw the video clip. Though she graduated from Clear Fork, Snell now lives in Arkansas for the duration of the pandemic, and flew in specifically for Sunday's rally.

"I grew up in the exact mindset those hateful people have; I was raised in a homophobic belief and homophobic religion. I still identify as Christian but I was raised to think LGBTQ is wrong, they don't deserve equal rights, it's a sin," Snell said. "Now I want them to see it's all about love and support. It's showing it's peaceful and loving, and accepting people for who they are." 

The viral video clip also inspired Nicholas, who declined to give his last name for family reasons, to delay watching the Browns game and attend Sunday's rally instead, wearing his best "Black Lives Matter" shirt. 

"The speakers were spouting off a bunch of homophobic stuff, and as someone who is bisexual myself I felt threatened in my own town," he said. "We're all the same human race. It's ridiculous the way people are treating other people." 

Angie Culler, who grew up in Bellville, said it's difficult for her to understand the opposing side. 

"I don't understand why anyone feels they have the right to impinge on someone else's rights," she said. "And to do it in the name of Christ is obscene to me; think about who Christ was and what Christ believed and what He taught, and to use (the Bible) to justify hatred or racism or any kind of infringement on anyone's rights is an obscenity."

Jackie Neumann echoed Culler's confusion. Her inspiration for attending Sunday's rally was her brother, who at 54 years old has been with his partner for almost 28 years. 

"I'm so excited this is in Bellville because my brother had to go through so much discrimination. It was painful to see that" Neumann said. "I used to sub in Clear Fork and it's painful to see kids hurting, and when you see kids that feel like they can't be who they are, it really bothers me." 

Neumann said she would like to ask someone on the opposing side how they came to their beliefs. 

"How did you become the person that doesn't accept somebody? Because you're taught as a child to love, you're taught to be kind - somewhere in-between that and when someone realizes who they are, you have this seething hatred all over and it doesn't make sense to me," she said.

"I was taught to love and taught to be kind, and I'm still the same person so I don't really care what color you are, if you're gay or straight or what your identity is, I just want you to be happy and I want to be a human being that welcomes you in the human race." 

Support Our Journalism

Our solutions stories are inspired and powered by our community, including our generous Newsroom Partners and Source members. Help us tell the whole story of our region by becoming a member today.