Inspection- Fred Phelps: Unintended Hero?
”Your mission, Mr. Phelps: and you did decide to accept it, is to be so over the top that left and right will act in revulsion at the antics of you and your group. To turn society from one where a politician can win by running against gay marriage to one where those who preach such are increasingly isolated, look like the fanatics they are.”
I understand that calling him a “hero” is disgusting. But does the villain ever take on heroic attributes? Well the 60s and the 70s were rife with anti-heroes in the movies, but that’s not quite what I mean. So let’s go where all folks go when talking villains and evil.
The world before Adolph was decisively more anti-semitic. Father Coughlin, lynching, an American Nazi party that marched in parades. My own family had some of it, with my father and grandmother listening to Father Coughlin’s every words. As a kid I had a good Jewish friend who came home to play with me and when we got mad at each other I started spouting words I learned from my father.
My mother lectured me and when the Markowitz family moved next door she sent me over there to learn their traditions. And Jeff Mittleman, and I, were still friends despite my behavior, last time we talked. I moved away as a teen and saw him once in Oswego where he and my best friend went to college.
Sometimes I think it takes someone like Hitler, or Phelps and his nasty flock, to show folks the true face of what they’re supporting. I mean if God really is so anti-gay, and tosses punishments at us for being too tolerant, then Fred and his flock have it right, right? Our soldiers are dying because we’re too tolerant, hurricanes, floods, all and more are God punishing us, right? Then protesting and carrying signs of hate would be considered acts of love, or lessons equal to Jesus and the tables.
But, despite self serving rhetoric, most of us don’t believe that. Indeed we think it all more than a little nuts, vile and quite dangerous.
No. Phelps is no hero. And the frightening thing is how far we have to go before agents to push such hate for political purposes will back off, are seen for the vile examples of humanity they are, before change: needed change, finally happens.
Ironically Fred was kicked out for showing the slightest change of heart not too long ago. So the good work of the Westboro Baptist isn’t over. Maybe soon they’ll have all sane, humane, rationally human beings disgusted with the purveyors of hate and fear.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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