The worst part about being an atheist might be knowing that some people will, in fact, not have hell to look forward to.
The most despised man in America is getting his day in court.
You have absolutely no idea how hard it is for me to write this, so please bear that in mind as you read this and respond, but…
I hope he wins.
My hands were almost shaking and it made me feel ill to type that just now.
Because I hate Fred Phelps. I hate him and his entire band of inbred mutants at the WBO with a venomous passion that I can taste in my balls. There is almost no way in which this disgusting little boil on the ass of humanity doesn’t inspire a nigh murderous rage in me. I’m sure by now, that I don’t need to burnish my credibility in terms of gay rights issues. To put it plainly: I fully support every single aspect of the “radical gay agenda” that has ever actually been presented to me. (Most of the RW nightmarish fantasies about the homosexual community are just that: Fantasy.) To me, there is nothing at all radical about wanting to be treated just like every other human being; nor about asking that society stay the hell out of their way as you pursue happiness on their own terms, especially as nothing but tolerance is asked of anyone else as they do so. On transgender issues, I’ll admit that I have been less certain about my position in the past, but the more I’ve read and the more I’ve come to understand, the more I’ve come to realize that they don’t ask any more than the gay community or any other persecuted group of people does: They simply want to be allowed to be who they are, and live their lives without being punished for being who they are by a society that they ask nothing of but tolerance. I fully understand that now, and am shamed for ever having doubted that. And, if it were even possible, the more I’ve come to hate Fred Phelps.
It is also self-evident that his brand of Religion - aside from being no more that a near transparent veil for his raw, naked hatred of his fellow man - embodies every one of the all of the worst aspects of Religion in general. Because he doesn’t just hate homosexuals (and anyone else he feels he can brand as a “sodomite”) but has every bit as much hatred for those who don’t SHARE his hatred for them. “Sodomite enablers,” as he calls them, are every bit as bad as the Sodomites. Worse, apparently, because the Military funerals these pieces of white trash picket are no for gay soldiers! He pickets the Military simply because, as I’ve stated previously, America stands for tolerance, not bigotry; for religious freedom, not Christian theocracy; for equality, not discrimination; and for freedom and liberty, not the Government climbing into your bedroom.
And he can’t stand that!
He can’t stand any disagreement with his radical doctrine of hatred. He is not merely intolerant, but intolerant of tolerance. Intolerant of that almost uniquely, all-American value: dissent. Basically he is intolerant of anyone who is not Fred Phelps.
Quite frankly, I can think of no more despicable American than this man. There are arguably more dangerous Americans in the public forum: Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck come to mind, not to mention Rupert Murdoch and the entire brand of merry GOP Propagandists on his payroll. But there is no more despicable American that Phelps. None. Jack Chick is so distant a second that Phelps appears to occupy the entire “bottom ten” (or twenty) all on his own. To find another HUMAN BEING more despicable, you have to leave the country, and find some member of the Taliban, or Al-Shabaab, or Al-Qaeda... IOW: the Middle-Eastern, Muslim version of Fred Phelps and the WBC. And those guys are only “worse” because, as far as I am aware, no one from the WBC has ever actually killed someone.
So… why the fuck am I ROOTING for this ass-pit?
Well, I’m not really… I’m rooting for freedom.
It may seem trite, but how many times have you said, or heard a free speech advocate say, something like, “I believe in free speech. I’ll even defend the rights of the Ku Klux Klan to march, protest, etc...” (Or some such thing.) The POINT being that we are willing to defend the right to speak, even for those with whom we disagree. Or, as Voltaire put it:
“I disagree with what you say but I will defend to death your right to say it."
And we use groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazi’s, etc… as examples because:
1) They’re groups that pretty much EVERYONE disagrees with. So we reveal very little about our own personal politics and thus risk very little in using them.
2) They’re groups that don’t have much of a presence anymore, politically, and don’t pose much of a threat to our sense of well being. They’re kind of a cartoony caricature; a phantom example that we can use without any fear that our statement will ever REALLY be put to the test. They’re insignificant CLICHES that no one really takes all that seriously.
So we risk even less (nothing really) in using them as examples. And one could also argue that since most of us (in America, and in its media) are white and are likely having these discussions with other whites and these are groups that mainly hate minorities, there is a racial element as well that even further reduces our risk of using these examples. Two white people talking about the Klan? That’s hardly a test of their 1st Amendment principles, since neither is likely to ever be targeted by the Klan, even where it not basically a joke. They will never have to experience the Klan in their lives.
But Fred Phelps has managed to go beyond that safe, cartoon villain mold and become not only a significant public figure, but one that’s venomously despised by, everyone: Liberals, for his general message of hate; Conservatives for his Unpatriotic, Anti-Military rhetoric and tactics. (That… and there’s little that pisses of a Christian Conservative more than a serious allegation of being either a “fag” or a “fag enabler.”) So he hates - and pisses off - Gays and Straits, regardless of race, religion, political orientation, etc… There is no one in this country who is not a relevant target of his venom because this man, quite literally, hates America.
You may recall that George W. Bush – no great defender of free speech, IMHO – actually passed a law banning protests within a certain distance of military funerals. He may as well have called it the “Fred Phelps is an Asshole Law.” Most of my liberal and moderate friends applauded it at the time, concluding it would never effect more than the activities of Fred Phelps himself. Then I asked them: What it, many years from now, what if George W. Bush if granted a State Funeral by some future Republican President? This law could be used to prevent them from quietly standing along the route, holding a perfectly respectful sign expressing your personal regret that our nation went to war in Iraq, for example. Because that could also, very reasonably, be interpreted as “protesting at a funeral.” One can argue that it’s not a “Military Funeral,” but why exactly would an official State Funeral for the former Commander in Chief of the U.S Military, be excluded? I certainly don’t think it would. This DID get them to see the law in a different light, but I am afraid that with most of them, their hatred of Phelps continued to cloud their judgment on this most basic of freedoms.
If the protesters were protesting against the war - as opposed to against our national status as 'fag-enablers?' While many of them would still agree that this kind of protest takes things way too far, the ISSUE at hand would have been more relevant to them, and I’m pretty sure this might have changed some of their judgments about the law. But you’ll be hard pressed to find many people willing to defend Phelps that aren’t being paid to do so and in a purely legal capacity. So Phelps gave Bush an apparently reasonable way to close off a potential venue of Anti-War protests. So no one batted an eye, mainly because most Liberals are generally more decent than that by nature and wouldn’t consider picketing a funeral, as a family buries their child, anyway. But it was still a curtailing of our freedoms. A curtailing of dissent, even as that message came in the most offensive, possible form.
Certainly no man has ever wanted to express a more hateful message. Certainly no man has ever found a more despicable way of expressing that inherently hateful message. In short, no man has even gone farther to TEST THE LIMITS of his freedom of speech.
But that is exactly what makes this the perfect, if not the only really valid test of our principles. If we say that we support freedom, but not freedom for those who would abuse it, or use it irresponsibly? Then we don’t support freedom.
Pure and simple.
If we start getting into the business of deciding where people can speak, and what messages might be “too harmful…”
Then we don’t believe in free speech.
The fact that this diseased little toad have made every effort to break every single boundary of human decency makes him the perfect test case; maybe the ONLY real test case. Because if we say that “decency” can used as a limit on our speech? Then we don’t have free speech. If speech must “respect the feelings of others?” The we don’t have free speech. If certain kind of speech can be limited in certain places by our Government, or if Civil Penalties can be levied because to the (perfectly legitimate) mental duress that someone’s speech has caused?
Then we don’t have free speech.
Because concepts like “Offensive” “Decency” and “Respect” have been used, without a scrap of extremism or logical reaching whatsoever, to limit all manner of freedoms since the dawn of mankind. And American history, especially within the last Century, is replete with examples of this. As soon as you want to authorize judgment of the message, or it’s method of delivery, you allow the government to limit speech. Period. There’s simply no way around (or off) that slippery slope.
We needn’t be tolerant of intolerance in our personal lives, but we MUST stop short of allowing – and in some case encouraging – the Government to take away our freedom. Because right of someone to live their lives as a homosexual or a transgendered person is the same right that Phelps has to live his life as an asshole. And the way to protect freedom is to do just that: PROTECT FREEDOM.
I really am sick over this. I really am. And win or lose, I will likely shed a tear about it either way. Either for there being one more nail in the coffin of our personal liberty, or for the necessary victory of such a vile, hateful, thoroughly despicable little man in order to protect that liberty. But that’s what it means to have principles. You must hold true to them, even when it pains you to do so. And my support of free speech absolutely goes that far, even as it makes my sick to say it.
And for putting me in the position of have to defend something so vile that it almost makes me nauseous to do so; and for possibly having to do so to against my friends; people with whom I am otherwise allied with, socially, politically, and philosophically and for whom I hold is such high regard and with the utmost respect? In the words of John Hammond, “I really hate that man.”
All the same…
I hope he wins.
And I sincerely ask for your forgiveness for this.
(I'm going to go wash my hands now and try not to vomit.)