Sometimes, when I hear the outrage over the WBC protesting at funerals of soldiers, it makes me a little sick.
It's not that I think the WBC is in any way a decent organization - I think they're proprietors of hatred - and it's not that it doesn't completely sicken me that they protest at military funerals. It does. They're probably the biggest douchebags on the planet for what they do. I can't imagine, as a parent, how ridiculously upset I would be at someone protesting my child's funeral. I can imagine launching myself at the nearest WBC member and trying, in grief fueled rage to take them down.
I begrudgingly give them that they have the Constitutionally protected right to be such asshats, but, really, I wish they would just stop.
The Westboro Baptist Church has been picketing funerals since something like 1995. It's hard to find an exact start date, because, quite frankly, prior to them picketing military funerals, very few people gave a damn.
What? Why wouldn't people care that an extremist group picketed funerals and said horrible things and disturbed the mourners?
Because they started out picketing funerals of gay people. Or people who had died of AIDS. And we, as a country, turned a big old blind eye to it, for the most part.
Even in 1998, when they protested the funeral of murdered 21 year old Matthew Shepard (whose gruesome story can be found here if you're not aware of it) and drew national attention, there wasn't the huge attention paid to them that there is now. Hells Angels certainly didn't go to the funeral to counter protest, although some of Shepard's friends did. The WBC even had plans to build a monument to Shepard entering hell. And put it in a park. Nice, right?
And there were several other funerals they picketed, of dead gay men and women, many who had been murdered, that went pretty much below the radar. You know, until roughly 2006, when they protested a military funeral and all hell broke loose. The Respect for Fallen Heroes Act was signed that year, counter protests sprouted up in droves, people suddenly gave a shit.
People should have given a shit before, too.
Phelps got almost as much media coverage after the Shepard protest - where the fuck were the caring people of America then? Why weren't we stepping in then to make sure that bereaved family members weren't suffering from the picketing these asshats were doing? Because these people weren't soldiers, they weren't worthy of respect?
Look, I hold in high esteem fallen soldiers. I recognize what they do for this country, and I have a lot of respect for the job. And the Westboro Baptist Church should be drowned out at these funerals. There should be legislation keeping them a few hundred feet back, in respect for the mourners.
But that should apply to *all* funerals. Not just military ones.
A funeral isn't for the dead. The dead are just that. They don't care what their funeral is like. It's for the people left behind. For them to lay the person they loved to rest, to have some closure, to grieve. And that should be respected. Across the board. Military families don't grieve more than the families of anyone else who dies and leaves loved ones behind. Pain isn't less intense for a family even if the circumstances of the death were less tragic. Death is still death, and it still brings heartbreak to the living.
So, yes, counter protest the WBC. Sign legislation protecting the mourners. Give support to the parents and family and friends. Let them know that the WBC is a small, small minority of people gladdened by their loss, but that most Americans are sane, and rational, and can empathize with their pain. But do it across the board, not just for military families. Do it for everyone that this awful group wants to protest.