Yesterday before I work I went to the Westboro Baptist Church counter-protest in front of the courthouse in my city. I was proud to see a lot of people I knew and a local entertainment troupe in town decided to show up and out-silly the WBC crowd. They were successful. A man on stilts carried a banner that said "you must be this high to get into heaven". A woman dressed as Charlie Chaplin played the part well and carried a sign that said "God hates gags". My favorite sign was "Gwar hates everybody". I think they portrayed the WBC message for being as foolish and arbitrary as it is.
But more than assholes, they are delusional. They are pushing a message that doesn't make any sense. I'm not sure what they are trying to achieve but from what I can tell the only thing they are getting is lots of bad press. Maybe it's a recruitment tool, but if so they are only recruiting people whose hate exceeds their reasoning skills, or people who lack basic reasoning skills. It seems the premise of the WBC crowd is: Because there are gay people in the US, God kills our soldiers on the battlefield and they are super happy about it.
You know, I set the curve in my college logic class and I'm very familiar with the teachings of Christianity. I can find neither causation or any correlation between those two things, the existance of gay people and soldier deaths. Do these people really believe it is God's hand that is killing our soldiers? In general armies that invade countries suffer casualties. Would the WBC suggest the corollary, that if there were no gay people in the US that our soldiers could walk about the middle east with an invisible mantle of holy armor that would prevent all deaths? What is their solution or path to achieve a country or world where gay people don't exist? Do they support science that could identify a pre-disposition towards same-sex attraction? I would guess not. And even then, what would they do with that knowledge? Are they supporting the erradication of all gayness? What if once when I was 12 I touched a dudes penis? Should I be banished or killed as well? What if that one time I thought Tom Cruise was pretty hot? Have I committed a sin in my heart? How gay is gay enough that God hates you enough to strike down unrelated people according to their beliefs?
I have a desire to understand people, understand their motivations, their goals and what they are trying to achieve in life. Today I chose to not try. I ignored the urge to try to engage the WBC protesters in conversation and instead stood there holding my sign and making idle chit-chat with other counter-protesters. I chose a simple message to carry, "I am an individual, respect me as one". It's a message I support in general, it wasn't necessarily specific to this protest. I think I'll save it for future events just in case. It's more universally applicable than the last protest sign I carried which simply said "F*@k the police state".
I hope they win their court case. I hope the court recognizes their individual right to free speech, just as I hope they would recognize mine if I was delivering an unpopular message. I think turning out people in protest to respond to their protest is exactly the right thing to do in this situation. Fight hateful free speech with my own free speech and let the people decide.
I did find it interesting that there were a half dozen police officers about and 3 Homeland Security trucks on site. Is this the standard in our country today? If you know people are going to be exercising free speech you need Homeland Security on site just in case? I'm not sure what purpose they could possibly serve in a free and open society at a rally or protest like that. I fondly remember the days when only other countries had special police forces that kept tabs on rabble rousers...
If you care to look at some more pictures from today, here are some from a super cute photographer that got some good ones.