Editor's Note: The following are my thoughts and reflections on the recent spate of despicable violence in America. I didn't talk about the specifics of those acts because I learned long ago that they can't be explained. My attempts to create one coherent narrative may well have failed, but hopefully someone gets something from it. It's mostly me working out my own stuff on "paper".
Sometimes it takes a major event to shake loose the truest emotional reactions of the human psyche.
Our day-to-day lives rarely allow us —or perhaps we don’t allow ourselves— to reflect on our emotions unless something jarring occurs.
In those instances, we’re forced to confront the fears and anxieties that lie at the very core of even the most hardened amongst us.
The terrible killings of two firefighters near Rochester, NY coming on the heels of the unthinkable murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT have brought back to the surface all the pain experienced by Hokies like myself in April of 2007 and beyond.
We all deal with pain and grief in our own ways, and the families that directly lose someone in these tragedies should be allowed to do so on their own terms as well.
However, that wouldn’t be the case if the Westboro Baptist Church had their way.
They’ve protested funerals in the past, and hollowly threatened to protest many more including those of the Newtown victims.
In August of 2012, President Obama signed into law the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012.
Among other things, the legislation forced protests such as these to move at least 300 feet from the funeral site of a member of the country’s armed service members.
It seems necessary to take further steps as the protests now extend to innocent civilians and even children.
It's been snowing like mad here today, and I've been ruminating on several thoughts this afternoon and evening. I rarely feel more of the gonzo flair than when snow is coming down and I'm stuck inside furiously hammering out rhythms of text.
At one point, I was reminded of a conversation that friend of the blog and theoretical contributor Andy and I had the other day.
We were sitting together Monday morning as I read some of the reports from Webster — a suburb of Rochester where he lives and works.
Andy later informed me that the Westboro crazies planned to take their act on the road once again for the funerals of the public servants who died trying to do their jobs.
He wanted to go out and meet their protests with one of his own. I was cordially invited.
After struggling to string together my thoughts on these matters today, I finally reasoned that sneaking one of my Dad’s cigars would be the best way to ease my brain to attempt to put things together.
Earlier in the weekend, we had spoken of getting a cigar and engaging in a casual airing of grievances, but the tobacco shop had been closed.
I bundled up and shoveled a single path down the driveway, curving around the corner just beyond where the porch light reached.
I stood smoking in the shadows listening to the still night air as the snow continued falling around me.
I reflected on the aforementioned violent events and my relation to them, and I thought about what Andy had suggested regarding protesting the crazies.
I considered what I would say in such a confrontation, and while I fear it would be viewed purely as a threat, I think it’s the only fair question that could be posed to such unreasonable people.
“What if someone killed you Mr. Phelps? What if some gun-toting fiend showed up at one of your protests and popped off a few rounds hmmmmm? Would that be God’s will?”
Invariably, he would deflect the question and dive into some hateful rant on gays in the military or recklessly declare murdered children being part of God’s plan. You can never make headway with these people and I’ve often thought that they are best left ignored.
It was then that I realized, they can’t be ignored.
I respect the right our Constitution grants us to speak freely without fear for persecution from the government.
However, I think it’s clear that some speech can be considered so incendiary and hateful that it does the public no good to hear it.
If you’re of similar mind, I encourage you to sign this Whitehouse.gov petition asking President Obama to declare the Westboro Baptist Church a hate group.
They’ve already been banned from entering the United Kingdom, and I think some of their language is close enough to be considered advocacy of violence toward various religions, ethnic groups and homosexuals — an important part of the FBI’s formal definition of a hate group.
At the very least, the President can take action to make their tasteless funeral protests more difficult.
Here’s hoping he goes a step further.