post from DownWithTyranny!
on 04 March 2011 09:00:29 PM. © DownWithTyranny!
Hateful and loony as right-wing zealots like NOM's appalling Maggie Gallagher may be, they can still recognize that their side includes people just too crazy for public consumption.
When I was a child, my mother taught me that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. The first time I encountered the gay-bashing members of Westboro Baptist Church was in 1998, when they picketed the funeral of my close friend Matthew Shepard, who was beaten and left to die tied to a fence in rural Wyoming.by Ken
What most shocked me was that, even as I attended the funeral of someone who had been murdered in a hate crime, I hadn't realized how deeply some people hate.
It wasn't until I saw those neon-colored signs with their ugly words against the snowy Wyoming landscape that I understood what my community was up against. . . .
-- Romaine Patterson, the start of a Washington Post op-ed piece today, "Let Westboro Baptist have their hate speech. We'll smother it with peace"
It pays to know smart people. Since I wrote last night
about Justice Sammy "The Hammer" Alito's perhaps-surprising lone-dissenting stand against the First Amendment right of the Westboro Baptist-Scum Church's right to torment funeral mourners with their psychotic homophobia, a legal-eagle online pal has suggested a very different dynamic to the High Court's ruling in Snyder vs. Phelps.
Most of us, I suspect, at least those of us who take the First Amendment seriously, gnashed our teeth and agreed with the eight justices in the minority, that there's pretty much no other constitutional conclusion to be drawn. No matter how hateful the speech of the Irreverend Fred and his stooge-thugs, it has to be considered protected. After all, the purpose of the First Amendment isn't to protect popular
speech. Popular speech doesn't need protecting. Where we test the free-speech guarantees limits is pretty much by definition going to be with awful speech. And so, the way I was thinking about it, the Phelpsians once again get away with their awfulness, now under the protection of the Constitution.
As my online wise man points out, though, we're hearing voice from the Right, including some of the most tireless and unrelenting homophobes, likee the founder of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), Maggie Gallagher, who are quite unhappy with the ruling, and wish Justice Sammy's viewpoint had found wider support on the Court. Of course it's easier for these people, since they're not great believers in free speech themselves, except for
themselves. It takes a moment, though, to realize that slapping down Fred Phelps can be an approved extreme-righ position. (Justice Sammy must be breathing a sigh of relief.)
What my friend argues is that for the organized, merely crazed zealots of homophobia, off-the-chart fruitcakes like the Irreverend Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist-Scum Church loonies are something close to their worst nightmare if the country comes to seem them as the public face of homo-hating. It's practically a gift for those of us who believe in basic equal rights for all citizens. This is just a reminder that everything
in the universe is relative, and yes indeed, it's possible for people as far gone as Maggie G, people who have learned to camouflage their bigotry and hatred in ways that are not only acceptable but often attractive or even compelling to ordinary folks to look at the Phelpsians and see that they're just plain nuts
, and all too plainly so.
There's more to be said on the subject, in particular considering how the implications might be extended to the whole range of insanities now being shoved through the House of Representatives and state legislatures all over the country, but for now I want to -pick up with Romaine Patterson's WaPo
op-ed piece at the point where we left off above.
When the Rev. Fred Phelps and his parishioners came back to Laramie the next year to protest at the trials of the men who murdered Matthew, they were in for a bit of a surprise. Several friends and I led a counter-protest, dressed as angels, silently encircling them, our huge outstretched wings blocking their vicious signs from view.
Having been face to face with the Phelps gang, my heart goes out to all the families, who, in their most vulnerable hour, have had to deal with this small band of cruel ranters.
After Laramie, it all changed. Westboro Baptist Church members realized that the more high-profile their protests, the bigger the response, so they started picketing at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. This past week, the Supreme Court upheld their right to do so. But where they go, angels have appeared as well, to form a living shield.
When Westboro announced that it would come to Tucson to parade around the funeral of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, gunned down in January in the attack against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Legislature hurriedly passed a law setting limits on how close protesters could be to mourners. What filled me with pride, though, was seeing another community take inspiration from our own Angel Action protest more than a decade ago, depicted in the play "The Laramie Project."
As others have across the country, people in Tucson hunted up the PVC pipe and sheets and online pattern to make the costumes, and spread their wings.
To me, the lasting legacy of our counter-protest so many years ago is the enduring power of drowning out noise with silence, of smothering hate with peace.
I understand why the father of a soldier killed in Iraq sued Westboro Baptist after members jeered at his son's funeral. It is natural to want to banish such an abhorrent spectacle so that no one else will have to endure what you did. But I agree with Wednesday's ruling by the Supreme Court, because I support free speech. I know that there were many who stood by when Phelps yelled "God hates fags" at the funerals of gays or those who died of AIDS, but who mobilized in outrage when his vitriol was spewed in the direction of our brave men and women in arms, who died protecting his freedom and ours.
Patterson has a lot more to say, and I hope you'll read the whole piece, but she's making the same basic point that my e-friend did. The whole deal about free speech is that we're supposed to counter the worst speech with better speech.
And what people like that ghastly hate-monger Maggie Gallagher grasp is that the very awfulness of the Westboro gang's speech makes the job a whole lot easier. Naturally I don't say that this was what Justice Sammy had in mind in dishing out a rare rebuke to right-wingers. But sometimes these things just work out.
Read The Full Article: http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2011/03/merely-moderately-crazy-right-wing.ht
ml Add to del.icio.us Digg this Post to Furl Add to reddit Add to myYahoo!