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Sunday, 23 March 2014

Phelps & Westboro may have actually been a good thing

Here's a thought that will make a number of people howl with outrage: Fred Phelps, the unlamented preacher of fury and bile, made the world a better place.

It was probably not his intention. This was a man who thrived on negativity; who blossomed on hatred and prejudice like a noxious weed. He fed on pain and misery, and I can't imagine the horror of growing up under his roof. It is hard to have much sorrow for the dying of a man who clawed and scratched and pecked at the world like a rabid chicken, but you have to pity someone so enamoured with hatred. You had the feeling the man would cut his own throat on a street corner if he thought it would (a) get attention and (b) hurt somebody he disagreed with.

He produced banners and had his cult picket funerals to enrage and provoke, and the end result was a number of people looked at the theories and believes, the twisting of a religion to something utterly obscene, and changed their minds. You see, the saddest thing about Phelps and Westboro group is that their views were once common place. Still are, if you are unlucky enough to stumble over certain comment trails on the internet. Some people cling to hate and outrage like limpets to rocks, and it's impossible to argue with such depths of fear. Because you don't hate something unless you fear it; unless it threatens you on some level.

Phelps and the Westboro group exposed that fear for what it is: mindless, groundless, and an excuse to hurt. It's an unpleasant feeling to look at actions you find repulsive and see your own beliefs reflected in them.

 So a number of people looked at what Westboro did, and responded. They formed honour guards at funerals, raised awareness of the hate crimes committed against members of the LGBT community, and surrounded those that Phelps would have victimised in their most vulnerable times with community, spirit and caring. Their actions were their own, but Fred Phelps and his hate group were the catalyst.

The website of the group appears to be its usual incoherent mess (i.e; business as usual). Let them continue. Let them continue to make the case of bile and vicious judgement, and let the rest of us respond the way we have so far, by pointing and saying: I will not follow your descent into darkness, into scrabbling and biting against the skin of decency and human goodness like a common flea.

As long as we can look at the example set by Phelps and his ilk of what not to do, they will continue to make the world a better place to be in. Long may they continue.