On March 19, Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church passed away in the night. Who will picket the funeral of the man who picketed so many? Let’s hope, no one.
First because there may be no funeral to picket, and second because — well, we’re better than that.
I know the urge to celebrate his passing is strong. Instead, let’s celebrate all the good he accomplished in his life — completely inadvertently.
It’s a fitting conclusion to the life of someone who, in the course of committing himself so loudly and grotesquely to hate, wound up proving again and again how much love there was in people. He would show up at a funeral with his family and their hideous signs, and others would rally.
A lot of people who set out to do good and advance the cause of love don’t accomplish this much. Thank you to Mr. Phelps, in a strange, strange way, for proving us right. Hate is well-publicized, but small. Love was bigger. He showed up with his signs, and people responded with a Wall of Love. He kept achieving the opposite of what he set out to do. He faxed tons and tons of complaints about — they passed a law against fax harassment. He showed up at funerals with his Hateful Signs, and people gathered to shield the mourners. He tested our commitment to free speech, even extreme and ugly speech, and — yup, it is still strong.
So don’t dance on the grave. Don’t cheer. It’s an understandable urge. Instead:
-Stop picketing funerals at all, ever, full stop. It is a terrible way of getting attention.
-Play with a kid. Do not hand that kid a hateful sign. Again, this should go without saying.
-Send someone a thank-you note.
-Call your grandmother.
-Take a nap.
-Make a big colorful sign that says something polite. Take it to a place that is not a funeral.
-Love your neighbor.
-Stand up for someone who is being shouted down.
-Treat people like people.
-Make a sandwich.
-Feel the urge to say something hateful. Don’t succumb. Know you’re better than that. You are.
If his life kept proving anything, it was that.
The Westboro church protested the LORDE concert… (after Fred’s death)
This is what the crowd did…Beat hate with love!