Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Handling the Hate

Shirley Phelps-Roper leads a terrible existence, filled with anger and rage. Her absolute, unadulterated hatred consumes her. Indeed, it has become the very fabric of her existence.

This is a woman who does not have any love for anyone in her heart, and she demonstrates this every single day with her words and her message:

God Hates (fill in the blank).

As children, we are taught that in order to make someone stop calling you names or making fun of you, simply ignore them and they’ll go away.

Sometimes, though, it didn’t work.

Sometimes it became even worse.

Sometimes, it became violent.

Now I’m not suggesting that if we ignore the Phelps family of bigots that they’ll become violent, but they certainly won’t go away. Turning our backs upon them is, in fact, the worst thing that we could do. In fact, with the exception of a couple of rare instances, for the most part we HAVE been ignoring them...and look what has happened!

Not content with their overt hatred of homosexuals, and after a few lawsuits in their favor (it helps when you have lawyers in the family who are concerned with no other form of law than seeing just how many loopholes exist in the Bill of Rights), they started carrying their hatred to military funerals. Emboldened, they took it one more step.

Now, they’re targeting Jews.

Today, they’re using signs and hate-filled words. Tomorrow, who knows? After all, isn’t one of the amendments in the Bill of Rights concerning the freedom to possess firearms? And does anyone really know what goes on inside that walled and gated compound near Topeka?

So, do we engage them? Or simply ignore? If we engage, we're “infringing their right to freedom of speech, freedom to peaceably assemble”, etcetera, ad nauseum.

If we ignore…

No, we need to engage, but not in a way that infringes their rights. Rather, we engage in a manner that ensures that they are able to exercise their freedoms…

…while exercising those same freedoms ourselves. 

We need to engage them in the same manner as we have in the past – such as large, pink signs (or angel wings as in the case of their picketing Matthew Shepard’s funeral) that create a wall around them. 

Block them from sight. See to it that they’re not seen, only heard. Let the public weigh on on their message of hatred without the visual element.
Is this simply putting a bandage on it? Is it simply hiding our shame – the shame of the Bill of Rights being legally raped by bigots?
No. This is telling them that we are not afraid. This is telling them that their message is falling on deaf ears. This is telling them that hatred is not the way.

This is telling them that we are above their petty insults.

By peaceful counter-demonstrations such as these, we show them how America truly feels. But what’s more, we show them what love is. What community is. What equality is. And that our message – a message of peace, of tolerance, of joy over that diversity that MADE our country is going to leave them behind, because we are embracing the future – a future where everyone can be who they are, without fear of being hated because they’re somehow “different”.

Then, they’ll be ignored.

Then, they’ll fade into invisibility and obscurity.

Then, they’ll be given the exact treatment that they deserve – a public that regards them as dead.

As dead as Shirley Phelps-Roper’s heart already is.

Then, their message of hatred will fade.

Then, maybe we can, indeed, become the land that we Americans believe ourselves to be.

A land that promises…