First off, I’m not defending the man at all. He was a monster.
That’s kind of the point though…He really was a monster.
If you are reading this, I will assume you know why he was a monster and we can skip that part.
I have taken a little bit of flack for the optimism present in my books. People have said I must go through life with rose-colored glasses and things of that nature. For the record, my sunglasses are Stihl Blackwidows, they keep the sawdust out of my eyes and can handle some serious damage.
My logic has always been that when the chips are down, most people will stand up for one another, even if they are strangers. Even if they live different lifestyles. Most people are good. Plain and simple. Yes, some jackwagons exist, but the majority of humans are good people, maybe a little misguided in some ventures (why do we keep cultivating caraway seeds?!?!) but generally good.
This is what Fred Phelps proved. When his little “church” thing would protest a funeral or a pride parade, every different shade of American would show up to form a human shield. We’ve all seen the pictures. Big bikers with long awesome beards standing shoulder to shoulder with gay men and women, sometimes holding signs of their own, but generally just forming a wall to shield the grieving from the assault that was Fred Phelps disciples.
Those images, the ones of the people lined up, the ones of the funny signs other folks made to mock the ridiculousness of the claims of the Westboro loonies, they are seared into my brain. They show the heart of humanity, albeit with just a touch of scum that was scraped off our boots.
By wearing his intolerance on his sleeve, this man created far more national conversations than most organizations dream of, only it wasn’t the direction he was hoping for. I can imagine people all over the country, maybe being “on the fence” about their own homosexual beliefs, agreeing that the shit Phelps was pulling was simply wrong. It was “Extreme bigotry” and no one wanted to be compared to that. Maybe some folks saw that hatred and took a look inside themselves at their own objections to same sex relationships. That’s it, that’s the start. I suspect that what that man did was pull a great many people off the fence and onto the side of defending gay rights–probably because of the monster making insane signs and shutting down small town funerals.
This is what Fred gave us. Yes, he caused hurt and suffering to many grieving families and that is atrocious, but he also lifted us up, he gave us an obvious villian to focus on. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the military, all you needed was the ability to read.
Often times things like bigotry and racism are hidden or quietly shied away from in conversation. Phelps made so many people angry, so many people fed up, he made us yell as a group. He made us stand up for our brothers and sisters no matter what, because people don’t deserve to be treated like that. Now we just need to start standing up for some of the less obvious forms of bigotry, but at least we’re on the right track. We have a monster to thank for uniting us, but instead of actually thanking him I’ll donate some money to the No H8te campaign or the It Gets Better Project. If you have a little bit of extra cash, maybe you could do the same. The monster may be dead, but that doesn’t mean the fight is over.