By Jenn Watt
June 28, 2016
ChrisTOPHER O’Mara wasn’t sure whether he wanted to tell everyone about the vandalism to his Haliburton pet boutique, Prettypaws. Returning to work Tuesday evening after having dinner with his parents, O’Mara found that someone had taken the brazen step of painting a homophobic slur on his business’s window.
It happened on Highland Street between 4 and 7 p.m. on a beautiful sunny day.
As O’Mara and his mother scrubbed the paint off the window of his successful downtown shop, he thought about whether to tell people what had happened. They discussed the pros and cons.
Certainly, no one would fault him if he didn’t.
But O’Mara saw the connection between silence and homophobia. He saw that without talking about problems, we can’t move past them. He didn’t have to tell anyone, but he decided the best way for this community to examine its beliefs was to shine a bright light.
He took to Facebook and a few hours after posting a photo of the offensive, hateful slur, love poured in. A day following his post, love had overflowed his Facebook feed. People called. People visited.
Media wrote stories and interviewed him on the air and those accounts were shared.
We were all talking.
By the end of the week, O’Mara’s window was more beautiful than ever, sporting bright red hearts taped to the glass. Downtown businesses showed their support either verbally or through signage.
The BIA has printed up rainbow Safe Zone stickers to give out to participating members.
(Coincidentally, June is also Pride Month, celebrating diversity, love and acceptance of the spectrum of human sexuality and gender identity.)
Certainly, this reaction was not what the person(s) who wielded the spray-paint can that Tuesday evening expected. In a few moments, the vandal created a message of hate that would ironically set off a powerful showing of love.
What O’Mara wants us to focus on – and what is most important – is the brilliant response from the Haliburton community: empathy, solidarity, support, love. Let’s give this small, ugly act a big, beautiful response.