Some thoughts on Thursday’s H.O.G. Rally block party
The rumble and roar of Harley-Davidson engines will fill the air throughout downtown Maryville on Thursday, and amid the revelry and live music, I’m sure a certain amount of Blount County residents will lock their doors and hide beneath the covers. Some may very well cross themselves and take up positions of prayer, asking the Lord to deliver our quaint little community from the hedonistic ways of all manner of sinners filling our city streets.
I say that not to mock people of faith who frown upon the gathering and those who will attend tonight’s street party along Broadway Avenue and enjoy some alcoholic libations while doing so. I appreciate their concern for the moral fiber of this community. What I don’t appreciate, however, is the judgment cast upon those who ride motorcycles, drink beer, sport tattoos and dress a little different than the rest of us.
A certain local pastor wrote a letter to the editor recently, challenging his fellow men of the cloth to use Thursday's event “as a harvest field for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ,” so that the masses might “be saved and get set free from their sins and addictions.” I found that letter troubling — not for its tone, which was gentle and loving, but for its assumption that those attending this week’s Tennessee State H.O.G. Rally are unaware of the salvation made available to them through Jesus.
Here’s the thing with stereotypes: They’re unfair. Whether it’s me stereotyping all pastors as judgmental self-righteous individuals who automatically assume those that don’t believe as they do are going to hell, or members of the clergy stereotyping tattoo-adorned beer-drinking motorcycle riders as unwashed heathens who have never perused the pages of a Bible in their lives, stereotypes are detrimental to our communication as members of a shared society. They erect walls between us and put stumbling blocks in the way of dialog. They tear away at the very thing we all want to build together — a hometown built on unity, love and a shared commitment to making this county a better place to live.
Will there be hell-raising bikers straight out of “Sons of Anarchy” on our city streets tonight? A few, perhaps — just as there will be devout men and women who consider themselves faithful Christians, non-believing atheists, and all manner of religious and non-religious folk in between. And do they mean to do our community harm? I think not.
Believe me — I used to live and work in Myrtle Beach, where Harley Week was followed immediately by Black Bike Week. Given Myrtle Beach’s reputation as a party town, I can assure you that the hedonism, bare flesh, alcoholic excess and general rowdiness that takes place during those two weeks will make what goes on in Maryville on Thursday seem like a church picnic. (Besides, Harley riders aren’t exactly keen on starting trouble that may end up involving damage to their motorcycles — not when those bikes cost more than a lot of new cars.)
No, Thursday is about fun. It’s about welcoming guests to our community and showing them some of our famous Blount County hospitality. It’s about demonstrating to those guests — and to ourselves — that we are tolerant, open and generous individuals. It’s about living and letting live. There is a time and a place for proselytizing, and a downtown block party where visitors and hometown folks alike just want to have fun isn’t it.
So welcome to Blount County, Tennessee State H.O.G. Rally participants. Enjoy your stay, and please, enjoy everything we have to offer you. Use your manners like your mamas taught you, and if you get some funny looks from some folks who might seem a little nervous, pay them no mind. Maybe they’ll leave you alone if you leave them alone.
Steve Wildsmith is the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (email@example.com) or at 981-1144.