Inspection- Your Mission, Mr. Fred Phelps…


What’s that old phrase? ”

“What’s good for those who have been legally goosed, is good for the gander?”

But, for some reason, there are few to nil questions amongst the usual swill offered by the mainstream media regarding one very important Constitutional question and the Phelps case…

“Due process.”

Why don’t we hear about that? Nothing to do with Lindsay Lohan, maybe? Too profitable, and too easy, to yammer on and on about less important, but more sexy, sidebars to the Westboro case… rather than what should be the main question on everyone’s mind? Maybe too complex a concept for them to understand? News has become entertainment and, as I well know, those who pick what we are allowed to see or hear aren’t always the brightest bulbs. Hey, how much thoughtful coverage can you expect out of networks that spend a significant amount of their non-news time finding slots for intellectual abominations like Tosh, Jackass, “Pro”-wrestling and the ever infantile, occasionally violence inciting, rhetoric of Mr. Beck?

Yet they certainly had no problem attempting to talk about it during a far less clear, but more famous, case: the 2000 election.

Talking about what?

Again: “due process…”

“Substantive due process refers to a requirement that laws and regulations be related to a legitimate government interest (e.g., crime prevention) and not contain provisions that result in the unfair or arbitrary treatment of an individual.”

-Britannica

If they can corral protesters like animals during convention time…

…limit “free” speech to some cage many blocks, to many miles, away…

If they can do mass sweeps, detaining the innocent along with those exercising their right to free speech…

Why can’t the police and other law enforcement officials do anything about Fred Phelps and his Satanic; posing as Christian, brood? Instead they turn their back and twiddle their thumbs.

“”I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing!”

-John Banner (Sgt. Schultz)

Now, it’s important for me to mention, I’m not sure I’m all that in favor of either of “corralling,” or “sweeps,” that’s for damn sure… though it certainly is tempting. The family that dares to call themselves a church: Westboro Baptist, exists on no list of popularity I possess. You probably don’t realize how much I loath these demons.

But if corralling or arresting Fred’s progeny means validating what has become common practice with election protesters, I’d rather neither the mass sweep or the corralling occur. If the due process part of the Gore decision means anything, other than fascistic Supremes deciding for us who will rule and who will not, then these questions must be asked: hence the necessity of this case. And the next question here is, “How much of this supposed ‘speech’ do we allow?” If those protesters at either convention: 2004 or 2008, had been a massive army of Phelps family clones, instead of the usual political activists ridiculing either party, how many would have been favor of rounding them up and imprisoning them behind concentration camp-like fences, or bars? Raise your hands!

As much as it hurts to type these words, I will not, I cannot, raise my hand.

The Phelps case is important to free speech because you, or me… or the government… should rarely, if ever, be in the business of deciding which form of speech is obnoxious enough to outlaw. Much has been made of the “shouting fire in a crowded theater,” or the far less Constitutionally clear “right” of others not to be offended, type arguments. How far do we carry either of those? During the Terri Schiavo case one protester stood with the others carrying a sign that suggested they were all idiots. Should he have been put in jail for that? Certainly it was considered “offensive” by the more brainless, or at least conniving, future teabaggers. Certainly could be considered “shouting fire in a crowd of idiots.”

I don’t know the answer here.

Quite the conundrum.

I know having them stand close to a funeral where those deep in grief can see their offensive signs offends me. Congrats. It’s very hard to find anything that offends me. I demand my “Constitutional” right not to be offended! Eh, no I don’t. And what “right?”

I admit: if I were a parent who has to have them out claiming I was a demon myself…

…who raised a child who grew up to die in the blast of a Taliban booby trap…

…who was told her grown up child deserved a blast that meant a closed casket was necessary because America is a bit more tolerant than the Taliban when it came to homosexuality…

If I were that soldier’s father, or his mother, perhaps I’d change my mind, though I suspect not.

The closest I’ve ever gotten to one of these sick affairs was a service held at the National Guard a few miles down the road from where I live. I drove past during the festivities. I saluted the protesters and their sick signs with a “polite” single finger. Luckily I didn’t wind up in jail, I suppose, because that’s what the norm is now. If you express yourself in a mild manner compared to, oh, the Phelps folks, during… oh let’s say a political convention, due process means far less than if your some cult trying to enrage everyone by carrying signs laced with pure hate.

But, legally and politically, we must be careful navigating these seas. For “there be monsters.” Monsters just as eager to eat us as they are the less sane and more offensive amongst us, especially since “offensive” really is in the eyes, and minds, of the offended.

“Your mission, Mr. Phelps: you have to accept it, is to make sure due process is paid attention to.”

I’d wish you good luck, except it might be misinterpreted as me having some belief other than you and your squirming nest of demons are anything but pure septic tank sludge. And honestly? Wouldn’t mean anything anyway, as long as the likes of Scalia, Roberts, Thomas and Alito rule the roost; and the rest will either go along, or do the best they can to get along. And as long as they have, apparently, no qualms about making one time rulings that are not meant as a “precedent,” like Gore v. Bush, “offensive” might translate into any form of free speech they disagree with. How can one even have due process when the unfab 4 act as if “due process” only means “to hell with the Constitution… this is what our ideology demands, what those who appointed us, and those who back, would want.”

“Literalists” my ass.

This is what we get when we politicize the court. No matter how much it might work in your favor, eventually it can turn and bite you in the political and social garbanzos. This isn’t really a left or right decision. We all know there are those on both sides that would love to deny due process to the other. That’s the way it’s always been. And if freedom of speech means you really can shout fire in a crowded theater, that’s just as bad as if their ruling means other folks, less offensive than Westboros, might wind up behind bars, or behind cage like fences, in the future. The law is always a potential double edged sword.

And as long as we have this politicized court, good luck to all who dream of a ruling that will provide a precedent supporting true “due process.”

We’re going to need it.

-30-

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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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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