Members of the Westboro Baptist Church – y’know, those “God hates fags” folks – were outside Palo Alto’s Gunn High School this morning, according to my Bay Area News Group colleague, Lisa M. Krieger:
The traveling members of Westboro Baptist Church stood on Arastradero Road to flay the most unlikely victims: school children already traumatized by the five recent suicides of Gunn-associated students.
“You’ll be in front of the train next! God laughs at your calamity!” shouted Margie Phelps, wearing an American flag as a skirt.
The daughter of Westboro Church founder Fred Phelps, she said that the Gunn students died because they failed to obey God, and now live in hell.
The protesters, who are loudly anti-Semitic, then went to Stanford University, where several hundred students gathered in front of the school’s Taube Hillel House, holding signs, singing and chanting, despite the fact that 8 a.m. isn’t an hour most college students are used to seeing.
It almost felt more like a party than a protest, as the Stanford band played and the Stanford Tree danced across the lawn, made muddy by thousands of feet. At one point, a bagpipe player performed “Amazing Grace.” The small Westboro group stayed at one corner, and some students posed for pictures with them, holding signs like one that read “Gay for Fred Phelps.”
This is exactly what I’d hoped for when I heard on the radio this morning (h/t to KFOG) about the Westboro people’s visit. Nobody should go argue with them, or worse yet, hurl invective (or objects) at them – to do so only indulges their martyr status, confirming their twisted worldview that they’re persecuted for their views. They have a right to speak, and to be ignored.
But hey, go see ‘em because they’re dinosaurs, doomed to extinction. Go marvel at people who’ve taken a faith based on love and twisted it into an industry of hate in which they crisscross the nation, whoring themselves for publicity by shouting inanities at children, fallen troops’ families and others in hope of raising enough donations to support themselves. And most of all, go have a laugh at people so clownish in their tactics that they’ve become a punchline to a vast majority; to most, their arrival is like having some perverse circus come to town.
I actually find their naked hatred quite comforting; if these stooges are the face of bigotry, what hope could bigotry ultimately have?
(And no, journalistic objectivity doesn’t extend to granting moral equivalence to bigots.)