In parts of this country people of color must contend for the free exercise of their Constitutional rights while struggling to gain a voice in the public square.
There are many reasons for this, the chief one being prejudice, which one becomes acquainted with growing up on an Indian Reservation.
Still, it's disappointing to witness occurring.
For about 10 seconds, the war over Constitutionally established "Freedom of Speech" expressed itself through contrasting sounds along U.S. 412 in Siloam Springs.
An air horn from an east-bound semi truck blared briefly drowning out a Gospel message presented in Spanish over a portable loudspeaker by couples Juan Manuel Morales and Cristina Garay, Edwin and Damaris Aguilar, plus Ruben and Maria Martinez, from Iglecia Nueva Vida or New Life Church as it translates into English, located at 20491 Bruce Rutherford Drive in Siloam Springs.
The clash of competing ideologies near the corner of U.S. 412 and Progress Avenue on Saturday, July 24, didn't last long, yet the spirit behind the prolonged blaring air horn made itself distinctly recognizable.
It's a showdown retired police officer turned author Kent Wyatt witnessed playing out during his 30 years in law enforcement with first-hand knowledge in various roles from dispatcher to chief of police. He's seen intimidation leveraged in order to suppress those making a statement.
"There is a whole mindset out there that believes it's the way to do things," Wyatt said during an interview later that afternoon at a book signing at Burlap & Lace involving several authors who are members of the Siloam Springs Writer's Guild.
"Basically it's bullying. It's just what you saw in the classroom as a little kid and now you see them out there trying to do the same thing – trying to force people not to be able to have an opinion about things and scaring people in ways that make them not want to live their lives like they have the right to," said Wyatt, who published Christian thrillers "Seeing Beyond" and "Ears to Hear" and is now working on another book.
In Billings, Montana, my adopted parents, Margery and the late Ben Pease, Jr., taught by example to take a stand for other minorities experiencing racism. When someone threw a rock, breaking the window of a Jewish family displaying a menorah, they rallied the community with a "Not in Our Town" march and soon hundreds of homes including Native Americans sported menorahs.
Another prejudice manifests when people encounter a language barrier.
On "the Rez," bilingual conversations were common, but many people got offended when the natives talked "Crow," saying things like "that's so rude."
Not all of the Iglecia Nueva Vida group converse in English, but they regularly take their message to the streets celebrating freedom in its purest form. They alternate their outreach efforts and also travel to Springdale and Rogers as part of their mission.
"Yes, we are aware of having Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech," said Damaris, who pointed out Luke 9:26 in her Spanish King James Bible.
"For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels."
"We can speak the word of God and we can reach more souls with the word of God because what God gave us, we want to share it," said Garay.
Their outreach activities draw mixed responses. Occasionally, passenger vehicles honked encouragement and people sometimes stop to ask for prayer. The group lost count of the number of people who've given their lives to Jesus through their efforts.
Damaris, who was born in California, said they simply accept that, acknowledging that sounds such as public speaking as well as a blaring air horn enjoy Constitutional protection.
"Some people they agree, some people disagree, some are indifferent, it doesn't matter, we still do it," Damaris said. "You never know who's driving each car."
MARK HUMPHREY GREW UP ON AN INDIAN RESERVATION IN SOUTH CENTRAL MONTANA. HE IS A MEMBER OF A FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED TRIBE AND WORKS AS A WRITER FOR THE WASHINGTON COUNTY ENTERPRISE-LEADER. THE OPINIONS ARE THE AUTHOR'S OWN.