I must thank Cooper. When I look at this I feel such immense gratitude, and further words fail me.
This is a difficult post for me to write. I have many religious friends. I respect their rights to believe whatever they want as long as it harms nobody. But when Westboro “Baptist” Church came to a town, and the counter-protesters were greeted with more disdain than the protesters–I kept my real reaction under wraps. I can’t anymore.
First, in a large city like NY or in another political climate, I would have ignored them. Here where most people wore red to vote, I felt it important to show that Westboro is an anomaly. I’m not sure the congregants at this church realized how sick Westboro is. I think they thought the counter-demonstrators were the ones to be scared of and that made me sad.
I don’t believe in either heaven or hell. I don’t believe in the big sleep where one day the Messiah will wake all Jews up. I don’t believe my lack of beliefs condemns me. And if it does, at least I have acted upon my principles during my one lifetime on earth or anywhere probably. I would so like to believe in something bigger than us. I can’t and don’t consider that a character flaw.
I understand why people in big cities ignored Westboro though I don’t think they will anymore. Westboro is a sick sick sick group of fanatics who condemn every person, every church, every school that don’t believe in what they believe. Which is 99.99% of us.
I got over it when a group of people counter-demonstrated members of Westboro who were picketing a nearby church last spring and the church had the police escort us far far away. Though many in the police told us they supported us–being Vets and all. Cars drove by honking their horns in support. We were right to express our disdain. There were Jews who lost family members in the Holocaust. “By the time they came for me, there was nobody left to speak…” There were people who just wanted to show their disdain against a false church.
I was told by members of the church that turning the other cheek is better, and how many people they baptized that day. I wimped out and said “that’s great.” (It’s in a post and comments somewhere.)
I should have asked them if they know history. If they understand that this incredible yet flawed country was based on the principle of religion freedom. I could give history lesson going back to the Pilgrims, a little William Penn and then onto more modern history.
I could explain that my family came here as they weren’t allowed to have a profession, own land or do many things we take for granted. (Though I’m not sure about the land ownership anymore.) My mother cried the day we bought our house. She so wished her mother was alive to have witnessed that. We were finally fully American. All we needed was to switch from Miracle Whip to Hellman’s and to begin eating white bread.
Living in America is both a privilege and a responsibility. We are still the nation most people want to immigrate to. We have tremendous natural resources (I will leave taking care of them for other people to discuss.) We have tremendous wealth. Yes it is centered on the top one percent and that has to stop but we do have opportunities most people never have. I can list everything that’s bad about this country but in my heart of heart I’m glad to be American.
We have the Constitution. Lately a lot has been said about “liberals wanting to change it.” Where? I do think that public figures have a responsibility, a great responsibility to not make inflammatory remarks. From the first time I saw Sarah Palin’s now infamous MAPP I was sick. She incites on purpose and then stands back and says nothing. Some people here think Palin’s a role model. My role models don’t have “targets.”
My role models try to do the right thing and unfortunately that means being silent. We can’t be silent anymore. People who aspire to political office should be held to a higher standard than the rest of us. They should voluntarily sign pledges saying that they understand “crying fire” has consequences. They should understand that’s not meant literally, but that many people don’t understand nuances. If people understood nuances would we have to use LOL all the time and colons with parentheses to show a smiley face or other things?
I hope we begin national dialogues. I hope Sarah Palin understands that her MAPP wasn’t an innocuous fun exercise but something people could take literally.
And when Westboro comes to town we should come out enmasse to show that their power lies in bringing people together, against them. Nothing else. I stopped being over Westboro when they attempted to picket Elizabeth Edwards funeral and now when they plan to picket the funerals of people killed in Mesa. Yes they have First Amendment rights. So do I.
*The church I’m talking about has beach baptisms in the summer. They have them near where I sit but I can’t say anything as it’s within their First Amendment rights. It’s not within any rights for them to bring a car and park on it the beach but….So why do they think they can hamper my First Amendment right to peacefully protest by having police take us far from the church?