Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Here comes the neighborhood

Yesterday, I saw this article about the latest rad protest against everybody's favorite universally-despised hate mongers, the modern-day Nazis known as the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). 
A gentleman named Aaron Jackson found a house for sale across the street from the WBC headquarters in Topeka, Kansas, bought it and is painting it the colors of the rainbow flag. Jackson is a founding member of Planting Peace and the house will be known as "Equality House"
"We want this house to be a message that where there's hate, there's also love. But we also want to raise awareness and capital, and we want to put all that money into creating and sustaining anti-bullying programs, along with supporting anti-bullying programs that already exist," he said. "Beyond the symbolic message of the home, [the house] will be utilized by volunteers to live here, and these volunteers will work on promoting equality anywhere in the world and managing these anti-bullying initiatives that we plan on creating."

That all sounds fine. The only thing that keeps me from pumping my fist and yelling, "HELL YEAH!" is that I think the WBC is kind of overstated as an actual menace. Don't get me wrong; there's no question that they're opportunistic parasites who promote an unspeakably ugly agenda. Their antics have pushed my buttons and raised my ire more than a few times over the years, too. I question how much of an actual threat they pose, though. Their tactics and message aren't going to appeal to anybody who isn't already twisted in that direction. They're extremists on the outer edge of the fringe and will never enjoy anything resembling mainstream credibility. If you dig just a little deeper than the inflammatory news reports of their plans to show up at this tragic event or that, it becomes obvious that they're far more interested in getting attention than they are with gaining converts or sending anybody to hell. It's even more pathetic than attention seeking behavior; it's a money hustle. When you really look at it, it's all pretty transparent. 
I could be wrong about that but I don't think I am. Do a search on YouTube for "Westboro Baptist Church" and you'll find several counter protests, many of which are sincere and inspiring. But as you peruse, you'll start finding some where those who have a legitimate reason to be upset about the WBC are replaced by a douche-y, frat boy, yokels-with-pitchforks looking for kicks element, where the mindset isn't "this is inappropriate and a counter-statement must be made for the sake of what's right", it's "hey, let's pound some PBRs and go down to the cemetery and fuck with the freaks!". I'll bet Shirley Phelps eyes turn into dollar signs like a Tex Avery cartoon character when she sees those cement heads show up. A punch in the face equals money in the bank.
I wish Mr. Jackson nothing but success. Far be it from me to tell people what should or shouldn't upset them and how they should or shouldn't react. Heaven knows that nobody could ever be faulted for the infuriating antics of the WBC getting in their head and I'm definitely not saying that hate mongering should go unchallenged. But I really do believe that without the attention they crave, and need to keep their lights on, that they'd shrivel up and die. They're utterly lacking in substance beyond their made-for-reality-tv train wreck appeal, which has already carried them further than it should have. If anything, Jackson's approach is clever and likely to be far more effective than trying to pick a fight with or throw a rock at a member of the Phelps family, even though a rock upside the head is exactly what those people deserve. Personally, I've seen the WBC's act and I'm convinced that's all it is and it's all they've got. I'm far more afraid of organizations that aren't as flamboyant as the WBC in pressing their agendas of hate (hint: they tend to throw the word "family" around a lot). Those are the people who have the ability to exi$t in the main$tream and manipulate it to their benefit. That's who I'll be keeping my eyes on.
Subtlety, as personified by the WBC.

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