Okay, so I had a sort of a brush with the Phelpians yesterday. You know, the whackos from the cult that calls itself the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas? Run by that creepy ass Fred Phelps…www.wbc.com…with the webpage titled “God Hates Fags.”
Right, the ones who protest the funerals of dead soldiers with signs saying things like “We’re glad you’re soldiers are dead,” and the ever popular “God is killing your soldiers because American tolerates fags.”
Wow, if what America does to gays is tolerance, I’d hate to see their definition of hate and oppression.
Okay, let’s understand, I didn’t actually brush the Phelpians yesterday, but I was in town trying to head them off at the pass. I volunteered my time, in uniform, to block traffic for the funeral procession and to watch and make that, once they left, they didn’t slip back in to disrupt the funeral procession.
See, we had a local guy die in a motorcycle wreck recently. He was up in Wisconsin without a helmet and had an accident. The guy was a lawyer and, from everything I heard, a nice guy. I think I maybe said hi to him once or twice over in the courthouse. Didn’t know him, didn’t know his family.
Also didn’t know he was a Patriot Rider.
Ringing a bell? The motorcycle guys who go to soldiers’ funerals to shield the grieving families from the Phelpians?
This guy was a Patriot Rider and so something like 200 other Patriot Riders showed up for his funeral.
As did 6 members of the “Fred Phelps there but for the grace of God and undegenerate DNA go I” club. They were coming to town, they announced, to protest the dead lawyer’s funeral. Because, they said, he was a Patriot Rider and therefore someone who condoned homosexuality.
Follow me, if you possibly can. He rode with a group that tried to give grieving families some peace during funerals of fallen soldiers, soldiers who, according to Fred and his Whelps, were murdered by God because America, as the bastion and headquarters of Godlessness, doesn’t round up its GLBT community, ride them in train boxcars, as did the Nazis, with Jews into a holding pen and shoot them as though they were cattle stricken with hoof-and-mouth disease.
I don’t give a crap what your political viewpoint is. I don’t care if you think W. hung the fucking moon or ought to be hanged by the moon, you don’t protest funerals. And you damn sure don’t protest the funeral of someone who wasn’t even in the very military you keep deriding. And you damn damn damn sure don’t protest the funeral of someone who gave his/her life for their country, regardless of the political realities behind that giving.
I’m all for protests and giving full throat to the First Amendment, all for it. My DNA bleeds First Amendment. But there is a time and place for everything and even a time and place that can be edgy and startling, but a funeral ain’t it. With the freedom of the First Amendment comes, I think, the responsibility of the First Amendment.
Flag burning, for instance. I have no problem with that. You wanna fry up the flag, have at it. But I also understand that if you’re going to exercise your right to do that, you have to understand that it makes quite a few people crazy and they then have a right to protest your protestation.
With freedom comes responsibility.
LuAnn, my wife, wanted to organize a counter protest. And she would have done it brilliantly, gathering up all her Princeton lefty cronies and all the gays and lesbians in town (and yeah, for those of you reading this who live in Princeton, there are quite a few gays and lesbians…suck it up and deal with it) and marching right the hell into the midst of the loony fringe and kicking their asses…verbally and spiritually…not violently…I don’t think.
But LuAnn decided that a funeral is NOT the place to protest.
Besides, the funeral was attended by 200 bikers…one of whom actually had a baseball bat strapped to his handlebars. Hilarious, that. There was no way the Phelpians were going to get any sort of rhythm in Princeton.
At first, according to Officer Friendly, they were quite polite. Yes sir and no sir and where do we stand sir (there is a 200 foot stay away protest law in Illinois) and “We only want to let people see our signs, nothing else.”
But then, when the bikers got there and the cops got there and the family got there, they started singing. Patriotic songs with all the words changed to reflect that God does, indeed, hate all fags and faggots and rump rangers and butt pirates.
And who came to the rescue? The Princeton Fire Department. They drove two giant firetrucks right up between the Phelpians and the church. And when the singing got louder, they revved those giant firetruck engines.
A brilliant stroke on all fronts. No one inside could hear or see the Phelpians and the Phelpians themselves were ecstatic because they had caused such a commotion that cops AND firemen had to come deal with them. Mission accomplished.
But the sad part is this: of the six, three were children. Standing alongside the adults, waving signs, screaming that all faggots were going to hell and God hates anyone who even knows a gay person and who knows what all else.
Officer Friendly told me it was the most depressing thing he’d ever seen. “How can anyone have that much hate inside them?”
I had no answer. I’ve heard them on TV but I’ve never seen them live. I’ve never had to hear the rawness of it.
Who did have at least some sort of an answer for him?
Irony of ironies, the local LESBIAN pastor. She was out walking and stumbled across the funeral and the protest. She asked Ben what was what, he told her, and she knew instantly he was upset. She calmed him down, basically told him not to sweat them, they’d be gone pretty quickly and that they weren’t even remotely Christian, regardless of what they called themselves.
But I don’t think she had anything to say about the children. What can you say? They will be just as warped, just as twisted and broken, as the adults shepherding them around the country to various protests. At less than 10 years old, those kids are probably lost forever.
And that’s the saddest part of the entire affair. Not the horror of protesting a funeral, not the horror of shoving a family’s collective face further into the pain and ache of losing a part of themselves, but that those children have never had any part of themselves.