Small is the number of people who see with their eyes and think with their minds.” ~ Albert Einstein

A Member of the Patriot Group Riders in Front of WBC Protestors

“Bigotry dwarfs the soul by shutting out the truth.” ~ Edwin Hubbel Chapin

So Kate Gosselin is having temper tantrums on “Dancing With the Stars.” Kim Kardashian is tweeting pictures of herself in a bikini. Madonna wants her daughter to wear more conservative clothing.  

WBC Protestors: Lunatics Laughing

Meanwhile, back in the real world, a 15-year-old New Jersey girl sold her 7-year-old stepsister to a group of men for sex. We’re seeing new allegations that then-Cardinal Ratzinger failed to defrock an American priest who allegedly molested 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin. And an appellate court ruled that Albert Snyder has to pay the legal fees for Westboro Baptist Church to the tune of over $16,000.  

I’m sorry. What? Westboro Baptist Church, that hate group that protests at fallen soldiers’ funerals? That group of lunatics who rejoiced in the deaths resulting from 9/11? That Westboro Baptist Church?  

Let me see if I have this correct:  

  • Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was killed in Iraq, and his body was sent home for burial.
  • Members of Phelps’s group waved signs saying that “God Hates Fags” and “God Hates the USA” at Matthew Snyder’s funeral in 2006 because “military deaths are God’s punishment for America’s tolerance of homosexuality.”
  • According to a website created in Snyder’s honor, his relatives filed the civil lawsuit against the Westboro Baptist Church to “bring an end to the reign of terror and abuse that they inflicted” upon grieving families of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Albert Snyder sued Westboro and was awarded $11 million (later reduced to $5 million) in damages by a federal jury in Baltimore because the group “intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the family.” This award was overturned on appeal. The case is scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
  •  Now, Snyder’s father, Albert has been ordered to pay $16,510 to Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas for legal costs.

Those are the most basic facts. What you have to infer, of course, is the magnitude of the most recent court ruling. Consider, Phelps and his band of haters make it their mission to protest at military funerals. They wave hate-filled placards at the mourners: “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” Really?  They sing songs of hate at the top of their voices all in the name of their god, who they say supports their actions.  

Now let me pause here. I am no Biblical scholar, but I have read many parts of the Bible. I do know that the god in the old testament is a more wrathful being than the loving god of the new testament. There is conflict there, and anyone who wants to find verses to support his or her claims can likely do so with enough searching. Still, I find it truly abhorrent that these nut cases are using god as their rallying cry for hate-inspired protests. However, the WBC contends that “God’s hatred is one of His holy attributes,” which in their small minds completely justifies their actions.   

“Too small is our world to allow discrimination, bigotry and intolerance to thrive in any corner of it, let alone in the United States of America.” ~ Eliot Engel

Shirley Phelps-RoperOkay. We’re back to that whole First Amendment thing, free speech for all no matter how nasty, racist, conservative, liberal, whatever. I get it. I really do. I support your right to protest. Hell, I even acknowledge that the Klan has the right to protest. But protest at a funeral? What happened to common decency?  

Have we become such a myopic society of us versus them that we no longer acknowledge even the barest niceties, you know, the right to have a funeral in peace? I mean, and this is a bit off subject but still on the subject of hate-filled protests, when we have been reduced to a society in which people see nothing wrong with spitting on members of Congress (and no, that wasn’t made up. I watched the video showing the spray of spit), what kind of society have we become?  

Of course members of Congress aren’t sanctified, nor are they above anyone else. Having said that, I don’t believe that it’s all right to spit on anyone. That’s the way that my parents raised me. Were these people raised in barns near donkeys?  

But back to my main point: Losing a family member to war, however that person died, is unbearably hard. Burying a child is beyond painful. Imagine, if you will, for one moment what it must have felt like for Mr. Snyder and his family and friends to have to be escorted into the service entrance of the church so that they didn’t have to see the protest signs. Imagine what it must feel like to kiss the coffin of your son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, while outside litanies of “God Hates Fags” are being screamed across the street.  

No one should have to imagine that.  

“Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

WBC Protestors: Stupidity Speaks for Itself

A little background on WBC for those of you who may not know a lot about this fringe group. Westboro Baptist Church is a small, homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group that stages protests all around the country. The group pickets any institutions or individuals who they believe are against god’s law, and they believe that their protests are a form of preaching to a country that is doomed.  

Since they are incorporated as a church, WBC is non-profit. It should be pointed out that WBC has no official affiliation with mainstream Baptist organizations and considers itself an “old school” or “primitive” Baptist church, i.e., belief in man’s total depravity and limited atonement for the elected.  

WBC targets include “schools the group deems to be accepting of homosexuality; Catholic, Lutheran, and other Christian denominations that WBC feels are heretical; and funerals for people murdered or killed in accidents like plane crashes and for American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.” WBC also protests at “dozens of Jewish institutions around the country, from Israeli consulates to synagogues to Jewish community centers, distributing anti-Semitic fliers to announce planned protests at these sites.”  

The only time that WBC has been convinced not to protest is when a local radio station in Pennsylvania offered the group airtime in exchange for not protesting at the funeral of the Amish schoolchildren who were gunned down in 2006 at the West Nickels Mine School.  

“Nothing dies so hard, or rallies so often, as intolerance.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Patriot Guard Riders Line the Street of Funeral Procession

Now I would be remiss in this post if I did not take a few lines to acknowledge the Patriot Group Riders as they have been instrumental in shielding grieving families from Phelps and his hate-mongers. I pulled the following from a letter of appreciation to the PGR from a Sergeant after learning of what the PGR does:  

“One thing we didn’t anticipate was the disrespect and hatred shown by the Phelps church group . . . protesting at our fallen brothers’ funerals, waving the banners and signs that they wave so ignorantly and so proud.  The first time I read about that in the ‘Stars and Stripes,’  I had to read it again, because I couldn’t imagine anyone being so hateful and disrespectful.  I just about cried after reading the article . . . Then, a few days later, there was an article about this group of bikers who were now putting themselves as a barrier between the protesters and the grieving families of our fallen soldiers.  I couldn’t believe that when I read it, either . . . the feeling we all felt that someone was actually doing something to counter the protesters was the best feeling I can’t even describe.  I was filled with pride to know that fellow Americans were giving up their time, honoring our fallen, regardless of whether they knew them or not, and providing a barrier from the protesters for the families grieving.”   

According to their website, the Patriot Group Riders have two objectives in their mission when attending funeral services of fallen American service men and women:  

  1. Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.
  2. Shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors.

I have seen news footage of these awesome men and women and how they use their motorcycles and the American Flag to shield families from the likes of WBC. I am including a YouTube clip that I hope you take a few moments to watch. I know that watching the clip really helped to quell some of the intense rage that I was feeling immediately after reading about the injustice served up to Mr. Snyder by the courts.   

(If you are interested in making a donation to Mr. Snyder to offset the fine, please visit matthewsnyder.org. Since the announcement about the ruling, Snyder and his family have received thousands of e-mails and letters of support, as well as financial pledges to help pay the legal fees associated with filing a Supreme Court brief, as well as the outrageous fine.) 

  

I am also including a more tongue-in-cheek protest of WBC by Michael Moore . . . “Fred (knows) a lot about dog vomit.”  

  

 

“Be The Difference You Want To See In The World” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

peace-activist-poster

 

“All We Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance”

peace-quote-john-lennonOh, those were good times. John Lennon. Yoko Ono, declaring to the world in nine words the simplest of mantras.

If only it could be so simple again. If only people could set aside all of their agendas and just give it a chance. What is it you ask? Why peace of course, peace and maybe just a little more: equality possibly?

Equalityin the workplace, equality in the tax rolls, the right to own a home without paying exorbitant interest rates, the right to go to college using a GI Bill, or a student loan, the ability to retire comfortably without having to worry about half of your retirement funds disappearing because of fiscal mismanagement by unknown suits on Wall Street, access to good health care without worrying about how you will pay for it.  All of these rights just because you are an American, no matter where you live, or how much you make, or what you last name is, or who your parents are. It could be that simple. If only . . .peace-quote-lincoln

If only the color of a man’s skin really and truly did not matter any more in social or political settings.. If only all that mattered were his ideas and his plans for making this nation better for all Americans. If only he could be judged solely for his intelligence, his political savvy, his keen insights. Over 50 percent of Americans said in November that the color of his skin did not matter. Perhaps it is finally true.

If only there were the possibility that those who are already decrying actions before the act itself has the chance to be accomplished, would pause long enough to see if it works. Just tarry a moment to discern if the covenant that this man has made with the nation might have a chance of coming to fruition if given enough support.

If only so many things had not gone wrong once upon a time. If only we had not lost our most preeminent visionaries half a century ago: First, the man who brazenly declaredpeace-quote-hope that we “ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” And people walked away ready to volunteer, ready to commit to their country.  And then a few years later, another man, bolstered by the younger man, declared that he “had a dream,” and countless people followed him to Washington, D.C.

If only he had had the chance to see his dreams through. And then one more man, a younger brother, tried to pick up the torch and carry it for both men, but he, too was shot down. If only . . . 

And now, fifty years later, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Peace sign, we also celebrate the dream, and we laud the speeches, and a man of colpeace-quote-inherit-earthor stands before us and pledges to reflect on their dreams, to remember the dreams of his grandparents, his father. And he pledges to contemplate the generations to come, considering his own young daughters, and it is because of them that we know that it is not a matter of if only, but a matter of when.

So this time, when we sing “give peace a chance,” perhaps more people will hearken, more people will acknowledge, more people will heed the call, and maybe this time, perhaps peace will actually have the chance it needs.

Inaugural Poem 

Praise Song for the Day

A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration

by Elizabeth Alexander

Each day we go about our business,

walking past each other, catching each other’s

eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. 

All about us is noise. All about us is

noise and bramble, thorn and din, each

one of our ancestors on our tongues. 

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning

a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,

repairing the things in need of repair. 

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,

with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,

with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice. 

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky.

A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin. 

We encounter each other in words, words

spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,

words to consider, reconsider. 

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark

the will of some one and then others, who said

I need to see what’s on the other side. 

I know there’s something better down the road.

We need to find a place where we are safe.

We walk into that which we cannot yet see. 

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.

Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,

who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, 

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built

brick by brick the glittering edifices

they would then keep clean and work inside of. 

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.

Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,

the figuring-it- out at kitchen tables. 

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,

others by first do no harm or take no more

than you need. What if the mightiest word is love? 

Love beyond marital, filial, national,

love that casts a widening pool of light,

love with no need to pre-empt grievance. 

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,

any thing can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

 

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Copyright (c) 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul,
Minnesota. A chapbook edition of Praise Song for the Day will be
published on February 6, 2009.

four-peace-signs     

 

 

      PEACE—Fifty years ago the Peace symbol was designed by Gerald Holtom, a British designer and artist. 

     There will be more later. Peace.