Responding to Vandalized Rainbow Benches, UCC Launches #onthebench Selfie Contest!

Jazzy Girl on the Rainbow Bench!

Jazzy Girl on the Rainbow Bench!

This morning, Christopher Cornell of the United Church of Christ at the head of Central Square in Downtown Keene announced a really cool selfie contest in response to  continued vandalization of their rainbow benches in Elsie Priest Park, just behind the UCC on Church St.

At least one unknown vandal in her sixties has been caught in the act of painting the rainbow bench in red.  She ran to her red compact car and took off.  The bench was subsequently painted rainbow by more volunteers, then attacked by the vandal(s) again, and so on.  The church has plenty of paint and volunteers.  Love will win over hate.

UCC administrator Mark C. Harris explained in a post to the church blog that the benches were painted rainbow this summer by volunteers and that they represent that, “We want everyone to feel welcome to use the park. This is in good keeping with our belief that all of God’s children are beloved, no matter who they are, or where they are on life’s journey. All are welcome, no matter their gender, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, sexual orientation, difference in abilities, religion or absence thereof.”

Renee Kate and Jazzy on the Rainbow Bench!

Renee Kate and Jazzy Showing Love > Hate

Today the benches are rainbow and people who side with love have been invited by the UCC to visit them and take a selfie, and post it on social media tagged with #onthebench.  there are prizes, and the contest for the best selfie ends Saturday September 5th, at 10pm, which coincides with the end of the Keene Music Festival.

Speculation abounds as to the motivation of the vandal(s) – it’s easy to jump to a conclusion and say it’s someone with an anti-gay sentiment, but longtime readers of this blog will also recall the controversy back in 2009 when local entrepreneur Dorrie O’Meara launched her Mexican restaurant Pedraza’s.  Some people around town were upset because O’Meara painted her building yellow!  Certain grumpy people in this area seem to hate colors besides brick red and gray.

Ian Freeman and Jazzy at the Rainbow Bench

Take this, vandals!

Cornell said in an interview for Free Keene that he thinks the first time the the vandal(s) struck, the benches were fully painted red, but that since then the vandal(s) have only painted over the yellow part.  He’s losing track of the amount of times the benches have been vandalized, but thinks it may have been at least six times, all since the beginning of August.

Smart move on the UCC’s part to make this into a hopefully-viral phenomenon.  The vandals, whatever the hate they carry in their hearts, probably weren’t expecting these benches to turn into a movement!

The Shire Free Church is joining in solidarity with the UCC and all those who support love over hate, so I went out with Renee Kate and Jazzy the Studio Dog for a photo shoot this afternoon.  Remember to tag your bench selfies with #onthebench on your social media posts.

Stay tuned to Free Keene for the latest on this controversy. Last year it was chalk causing controversy, this year it’s rainbows!

Hate Won’t Hurt Heroin

The War on Drugs is a failure.

The War on Drugs is a failure.

There’s a new page on facebook called “Save NH – Keene Hates Heroin“. Surely the group’s creators have the best of intentions, but hate only hurts the hater. It won’t hurt heroin. Only love will solve the heroin problem. These folks should reconsider their beliefs.

Ending the war on drugs is a good first step to removing a major barrier (fear of arrest) to addicts getting help. Let’s start by treating addicts with compassion. Hatred is not helping.

Church of the Invisible Hand founder and Shire Free Church minister Rich Paul wrote an excellent blog post on the matter while he was behind bars. He was jailed for a year for selling cannabis flowers – the cops and FBI even let a heroin dealer go free so they could bust Rich.

Rich’s blog is titled, “Reducing the Incidence and Impact of Heroin Abuse” – don’t miss it.

-Posted today to the Shire Free Church facebook page.

Don’t Stay in School


My little sisters are in 7th grade. They’re good students. They work hard, they lead group projects, and they spend hours each night on homework. Tonight, I sent them an email encouraging to drop out.

Darryl W Perry Released from Jail


Darryl, Outside the Keene Spiritual Retreat

Darryl W Perry walked into the Cheshire County House of Corrections this Friday. He walked out today, Monday. However, according to Mr Perry, he was not corrected.

Darryl was sentenced $163 in fines for the offenses of “Residency” and “Operating a Vehicle That is Not Registered”. What that means in plain English is that Darryl has a valid driver’s license in Arizona, but the State of New Hampshire alleges that Darryl is a resident of New Hampshire and must change his license over to New Hampshire.

New Hampshire law specifies that an inhabitant is not necessarily a resident, and Darryl asserts that he is not a resident. Therefore, he is not required to apply for a new license. Even if he wanted to, Darryl points out that he lacks the documents the State needs to prove residency. Even if he were able to acquire the forms and signatures necessary, he still wouldn’t be granted a new license because he has a warrant out of South Carolina (also for victimless crimes).

Darryl kept his spirits high throughout the experience. He had a celebratory lunch before going in and plans to have a celebratory supper now that he is out. Darryl produces a daily podcast and content at


Back to the Frontlines of Liberty


I took a break from my life of tireless activism in the Free State to visit my former home of Arizona. I was soon reminded of why I left, why I went Galt.

People the world over remain preoccupied with survival. With finances. With hobbies and fulfillment. And, most importantly, with the eternal quest for meaning. An unlucky few of us see the world as it is, in a state of slavery and oppression. Yet, we are powerless to change that unfortunate human condition. And so we are forced to live out our constant quest for fulfillment, only with the added weight of knowing the world to be fallen.

That was me most of my young professional life, only I lacked the realism to give up on the world. When all my aspirations for success in love and labor fell away, all I had left were dreams of a better tomorrow. Instead of attempting one last futile grasp at what I had lost, I made a desperate search for the frontlines of liberty, to spend what was left of my life in service to a mad dream.

How did that desperate stand pan out? The best way to judge that is to see what happened when I tried to step back into my old life.

The short version is that I couldn’t go back. Too much had changed, and it saddened me to see old friends and colleagues in the same jaded scramble for a better version of nothing special. Never before was the distinction between existing and living so clear, and I was grateful to be a member of the second category.

The truth is, some elements of New Hampshire are an idea boom town. People with radical ways of thinking and even more radical passion are moving from across the world to the one place humanity can make a stand for a bright future. While the rest of the world remains preoccupied with making its jail cells more comfortable, in the Free State people are clawing an escape tunnel out of the very granite. What I experienced by visiting my former home was hope withdrawal.

And as I write this I’m returning to my new home, and will barely have set foot on New Hampshire soil before I rejoin my activist brethren in the struggle against oppression.

Back to the frontlines.

JVqrminiJoël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.

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