I have a very, VERY, VERY low tolerance for stupidity. When people act dumb on a regular basis, despite what's said to "fix" the situation, it puts me in a mood that is often hard to break swiftly. My answer is to swiftly walk away from the situation before I say or do something I'll regret.
However, it's hard to walk away from an entire country, especially when you live in it. And today is the first time I've regretted some of our freedoms here in the States. The right in question is that of free speech. It took a mighty blow today when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), giving them the right to protest military funerals, holding signs that often read, "G-d hates fags!" and "Thank G-d for 9/11!"
This all started when Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was laid to rest after he was killed in Iraq. Matthew's father, Albert, sued Fred Phelps Sr., leader of this supposed church, for emotional damages. All this father wanted to do was bury his child in peace. Instead, members of this cult - for they are nothing but a hateful cult - protested, holding up signs similar to what I've mentioned. (Mind you, I'm the one taking out the O in G-d, as I still have some of my Jewish heritage inside me.) Can you imagine trying to lay a loved one to rest and finding people you don't personally know, and don't know you personally, standing around the graveyard with signs that essentially say, "We couldn't be happier that your loved one is dead." (And as my buddy Zeb pointed out, there seems to be an added, "...and you deserve it...," implied in their messages.)
Snyder sued and won over 10 million dollars. That judgment was reduced to just over 2 million. Now it's nothing, because apparently these "people" are allowed to express themselves. The supreme court claimed that what this group is saying addresses a national dialogue, and to take away their right to say their piece is supposedly wrong.
I've noticed that a lot of news media are pointing to WBC and citing their blathering as anti-war rhetoric. The problem there is that the news media is wrong. The WBC doesn't care about war, unless it's the lack of war against homosexuality. Their web site's name, which I won't name here, says it all about their attitudes. They just don't like gays. Heck, they HATE gays. And because they hate gays, and that gays are even allowed to exist, they believe that the United States is being duly punished by G-d. Hence, in their warped minds, dead soldiers and 9/11 are good things. It's all G-d's wrath to teach us a lesson.
To an extent, there is a national dialogue going on about gay rights and the like. Unfortunately, we remain too sensitive to our selfish beliefs that we cannot accept them and grant then the rights of "normal folk." (Homosexuals aren't just bad...they're yucky, too!) But these heated debates often engage those who are directly involved. They don't drag people into it who haven't said or done anything one way or another. The WBC goes to military funerals because of the press coverage such events receive and make a great deal of noise over their twisted beliefs. They get their faces on the news and are allowed to say their messages of hate all too loudly.
It's amusing when it kind of backfires. You see, I saw a YouTube clip involving one of these nutcases talking to someone on the FOX News Network. Fox is in its own class of lunacy, spouting their own messages of hate and fear-mongering. So when a news anchor on FOX calls you a nut, you have to be pretty out there...and that's exactly what happened. How off the wall does one have to be for THAT to happen?
Here's the irony. Had a punch been thrown, or even a stray rock tossed in the general direction of the funeral procession, (and no one attending the funeral could even see the protesters when Matthew was laid to rest), that would have been assault, or attempted assault, and their signs would have turned it into a hate crime. Free speech would have gone right out the window, and the courts would have taken this far more seriously.
Alas, there wasn't even the threat of physical violence. Despite the fact that no one is actually debating the asshats, just calling them such, they get to say whatever it is that they want to whomever they want. There was once a funny quote I came across. I don't remember who said it, but it was, "Two monologues do not make a dialogue." There is no national dialogue with these people. And even if sentiments are similar, I don't think anyone else is out there stating it the way they are.
The worst of it is that they have their kids involved. One of the most heartbreaking images I saw while reading up on this ruling today was a pair of small girls wearing shirts that read, "G-d hates fags." And in an interview, one girl had no idea what her protest sign said, although it had those exact same words. One can only hope that they will grow up one day and realize exactly how wrong their parents were.
I feel just a bit better for having been allowed to rant. And because it's been upheld in the Supreme Court, I would like to add as a final note that G-d hates bigots.
Be well, all, and DFTBA!