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Mayor refuses to let city be dragged down by hate

When Lindsey Knapp held her first Halloween Drag Brunch fundraiser in June, there wasn’t much opposition.

She recalled that “a couple of churchfolk” showed up and stood outside Hugger Mugger Brewing in Sanford handing out religious literature – literature which, I imagine, condemned the participants and guests to hell or to eternally watching a Jim Belushi movie marathon - “but we didn’t have this kind of resistance.”

“This kind of resistance” was the appearance, when she hosted another drag brunch recently, of masked members of the Proud Boys standing outside “hurling insults” and people phoning in death threats.

Ire was aroused because Knapp, owner of the Sanford Yoga and Community Center, was hosting the event to raise money for her pet causes: providing legal, spiritual and physical resources for survivors of sexual assault and for an LGBTQ resource center.

When I asked Knapp, a U.S. Army veteran and lawyer, if she’d be hosting the event next year, she said “You better believe it.”


We’re so accustomed to seeing people demonizing anything with which they disagree that the story of a group of masked men trying to stop drag queens – and kings – from doing their thing didn’t even seem unusual.

What was unusual, blessedly so, was the response of Sanford’s mayor, Rebecca W. Salmon.

Sanford, Mayor Salmon said in an official statement, “will not be intimidated or torn apart by outside forces. It is clear from the national news and being in our own downtown today that extremism is dangerous, and it is a growing problem… We cannot dehumanize people we don’t agree with. We cannot and should not imagine a country where we all think alike. And we should never wish for a country where the government acts as the morality police. Illegal acts will be handled by the legal system – but differences of opinion and ways of thinking are what it means to live in a free society.”

Great day in the morning! That is not mayoral: that’s presidential.

The people up in arms over the drag brunch are making a mountain out of a padded bra - or did I miss in school the part of the Constitution that stated “Men dressing up like women anywhere is a threat to liberty everywhere”?

Speaking of school, still one of the most enjoyable memories among my pubescent pals and me was the annual “Womanless Wedding” at Leak Street School in Rockingham during the 1960s.

The school’s male faculty and staff would conduct a wedding ceremony in the auditorium with nary a woman onstage or in sight. When I say “a rollicking good time was had by all,” I mean a rollicking good time was had by all.

There’d be, among others, a blushing bride, lovely – more or less – bridesmaids and a pouting, wailing mother-in-law.

I was around 10 but still remember the screams when Mr. Gilchrist came onstage in his dress. I also, for some reason, remember Mr. Broadnax looking strangely fetching in high heels. (Hey, I was 10.)

Nobody fretted about “grooming,” "pedophilia" or any of the other catchphrases now used to bludgeon people whose politics differ from yours.

Our unsophisticated selves merely thought it was fun. In trying to dissect it decades later – never a good thing when it comes to humor – it’s likely that the humor derived from seeing those stern, serious authority figures hamming it up onstage to bring joy into the lives of people whose lives were often bereft of it.

Seeing them letting their hair down – or putting their wigs on – humanized them for us and possibly made Mr. Watkins, the Rev Greene, Mr. Wright et al – all giants who’d dedicated their lives to educating us - less intimidating when you got called to the office.

That, also, was never a good thing.

In the song The Way We Were, Barbra Streisand asks “Can it be that it was all so simple then?”

Yes. Yes, it was.

1 Comment

Never lost on me that the people who yell the loudest, insult or threaten the hardest are also the biggest cowards hiding behind masks (that they like to say are an assault on their freedom at the strangest times) and their keyboards. Perhaps mommy didn’t love them enough.





Meet Barry Saunders

For over 20 years, Barry was a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He also wrote for other publications, such as the Atlanta Constitution and the Richmond County Daily Journal. Often described as powerfully honest and illustratively funny, Barry's writing is both loved and hated by readers- sometimes simultaneously.  


Want more? Get your own copy of one of Barry's published books featuring reader favorites (and not so favorites) from his years writing columns for The News & Observer. Titled "Do Unto Others...And then Run" and "...And The Horse You Rode In On Saunders!", they're full of guaranteed entertainment. 


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