We attended a “love trumps hate” rally/march here in Traverse City last Friday night. This is the same event where an off-duty Traverse City Police Officer attempted to agitate the crowd when he arrived in his pick-up truck that was adorned with the Confederate flag. Needless to say, those of us in attendance were shocked and saddened by his brazen actions. Thankfully, both city officials and the police department addressed this situation swiftly and with great understanding of the harm that such actions can cause to our fellow human beings and our community.Overt and subtle acts of racism, elitism, sexism, and bigotry have been all-too common of occurrences since we moved to Northwest Lower Michigan approximately 13 months ago. What occurred Friday night was only the most egregious example. Other examples have occurred in conversations, jokes, public meetings, many social media postings/comments, and through individuals displaying forms hatred and bigotry on their property, clothing, and/or vehicles. Needless to say, after having lived in a university community where diversity and inclusiveness were largely embraced, the culture shock has been both eye-opening and disturbing.Whenever I’ve had the opportunity, I have voiced my clear opposition and disdain for such acts, as have others individually. But now, given the not so subtle nod to such actions during the 2016 election campaign, it is time for collective societal action to squelch hatred and bigotry in all its forms. We cannot let such shameful acts occur without calling them out for what they are. Don’t just unfriend people – such vileness must be addressed and not avoided, whether through education, one-on-one discussion, media, public forums, community engagement, civic response, rallies, marches, or other peaceful means.We love the Traverse City region and many of the people we have met here. That being said, such blatant examples of bigotry and hatred have given pause to my unfettered praise for the community and region as often portrayed in this blog. While many locals say, “this is not what we are about,” personal observations have indicated there is a lot more that needs to be done to address such behavior, especially in those outlying areas well beyond the city limits.Hopefully, what happened Friday night will be a wake-up call for those who have ignored and/or dismissed such troubling actions before, because they can and will harm the region’s image and prosperity. Years of positive news can be wiped out in a single news cycle. Only time will tell if such a concerted effort is successful. For our region’s sake, I certainly hope it is, because the national and global court of public opinion is definitely watching.