As I’m sure you all have heard by now, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Phelps and his Minions regarding freedom of speech. And while I don’t ultimately disagree with their ruling, it frustrates me that there isn’t a way to punish these monstrous, vile, sub-human pieces of filth (Edited to clarify: I don’t actually advocate punishing them, but I wish I could frustrate them as they do me). But we have no right to legislate against idiocy. I’m paraphrasing a paraphrase of Thomas Jefferson through Mark Crislip that the only remedy for nonsense is ridicule, and I whole-heartedly agree. I want to get to a point where they’re beyond ridicule.
I hear and read all the time that if only “the media” would let go of it, if we all just ignore them, they’ll go away. I think we all know that and agree deep down, but I don’t think shouting “just ignore them” is going to change a damn thing. It’s like gawking at a traffic accident. While we’re in the back of the traffic jam, we curse those in front who gawk, but when we get up there, we can’t help but do it ourselves. Same thing with WBC. “Ignore the wreck and just keep going” aint ever gonna happen.
So, the question then is, What Next?
Below, about a year ago, I highlighted a roaring success of a counter-protest launched against the Westboro goons. The fact that they did fundraising for local gays and lesbians was AWESOME, and that they seized the opportunity to turn a hateful event into a positive and uplifting one with positive or funny signs, people giving out hugs, etc. was EVEN AWESOMER.
While I agree with those aspects (of positive messages and raising money), I think we need to do more. Standing around and holding signs? Kinda cool. Holding up bigger objects in front of them to block them from view? Eh, I guess kinda better. C’mon, I think we could do WAY BETTER THAN THAT – do more with this passion and this energy, more with the anger and frustration that we may have regarding this ruling, the restlessness and helplessness that some of us may feel.
So, here’s my proposal:
The only way to ever get the Phelpses to stop is to go after what they’re going after – to ensure that their goals are countered at every stop, so that it no longer is worth their effort, no longer worth their time, no longer worth their money, and no longer an effective means to spread their childish, hateful message. (Again edited to clarify: I am not proposing that we stop them from exercising their right to free speech. What I am proposing though is that we show through our action that the content of their speech is crazy on its face, because right next to the people saying gays are the cause of all the problems in the world, all the gays and atheists and christians and whatever are coming out and working together to actually make it a better place.)
Their whole schtick, in a nutshell, is that the death of soldiers, national tragedies, and other random disasters is the pouring of their god’s wrath upon America for being more accepting of homosexuals (and I think we still have a long way to go in that regard, but that’s a topic for another post). So, their goal is to have people be less accepting, more hating, more afraid of homosexuals, right?
So then our goal should be to turn each of their “protests” into events that directly benefit homosexuals: their communities, their educational opportunities, their career advancement, their reputation in the eyes of ignorant haters. Instead of just standing around with posters, and in addition to doing fundraising to benefit to local LGBTQ community group, local counter-protesters should do public – and publicizable – acts of charity and good works. We should all get together and do a street clean-up. Set up a mobile soup kitchen down the road from the wackos with the dayglo signs. Bake sales and sexy sexy car washes with proceeds benefiting local groups. Let’s get creative, people!
Don’t get me wrong, I love the funny and poignant and love-filled signs, but it just strikes me as not enough. It’s not enough just to mimic them, to copy their method. We’re reacting with the same action when we need to meet their action with an equal and opposite reaction.
As recent events have shown, social media are powerful mechanisms for effecting change. The Dub-Bub-Chubs announce where they’ll be and when, and so I encourage anyone and everyone who reads this to spread the word, organize, get out there, and turn it into a positive event. Positive for the ones they target, positive for the community, positive for the human race. And again, to emphasize, I laud those who have guarded mourning families with their wings, their flags, their bodies, their signs. And certainly the existing mechanisms for countering the “church” should continue. I just don’t think it’s enough. I want to see a future where wherever they go, there’s something better going on to report on, where their only mention is brief and cursory – as “those wackaloons again”- and then move on to the real story of how we raised 20K for scholarships to high school gays. How we cleaned up the park and beaches. How we raised enough money to renovate a youth center. How we made sandwiches and soup and gave it out to the homeless. How we made lemonade, literally and figuratively.
So – University unity groups, church groups, atheist groups, any loners out there who’ve always wanted to help counter the Phelpses’ message, let’s get out there! Find out when they’re coming to your area, organize a positive event based on your community needs, and let’s all be the ones to take advantage of them for a change!