I'd always been taught it's not productive to hate- but like 99.9 % of America, I find Fred Phelps and his group of in-bred morons at the Westboro Baptist Church loathsome. Right off the top of my head, I can't think of a more repulsive group of people.
The recent Supreme Court decision protecting their First Amendment right to picket funerals is troubling, but democracy and freedom are messy and difficult, and often involve protecting the rights of people we'd prefer to beat the crap out of.
Isn't that what's really going on in the hearts and minds of most everyone? Don't most of us just wish that gaggle of dimwits in Kansas would follow the lead of Jim Jones and mix up a big batch of tainted grape kool-aid and drink themselves into the hereafter?
We're civilized, of course, and so we settle for expressing our anger at the Supremes, our disgust at the odious actions of the Phelps family, but more than that, we feel pain for those who have suffered the losses of loved ones, only to have their sacrifices mocked by the stupidity and ignorance of a group fueled by hatred.
When the Westboro thugs only picketed the funerals of AIDS victims, or the gay victims of hate crimes, they didn't get nearly the press they've received by targeting members of the military, or more recently, Elizabeth Edwards and even Christina Taylor-Green; the youngest victim of the Tucson massacre. ( Arizona quickly passed a law which prevented them from doing that.)
The Westboro Bapstist Church has gotten what it wants by gaining a huge amount of national publicity. No small accomplishment for a group which is made up of mostly family members, and random mis-fits, but they've also accomplished something more important. They've united a great number of Americans who have come together to counter-protest. Unlikely allies; bikers, veterans, hacktivists, community groups, and supporters of gay rights. United. Standing together, against a common enemy. In a way- the group at Westboro Baptist Church embodies everything worth standing up to... they're hostile, ignorant, oppressive, dishonest, and extremely cruel.
The Supreme Court decision, while very difficult to stomach, says to the world that as a people, we're bigger than they are. We're stronger; we can unite and speak in a clearer voice. We can overcome petty differences, join hands and create a human chain that cannot be broken by their abhorrent acts. Each and every time we come together, and drown out their hate speech with our counter protests, each time we present physical blocks to keep their ugly signage from being seen by mourners, each time we set aside cultural differences and beliefs to stand side by side in support against them, they lose. They've given us a gift. A strangely wrapped gift, sure- one we'd prefer not to have received, but a gift nonetheless.
That's why they'll never succeed. (That and the fact that everyone knows Fred Phelps is hot for gay boys...otherwise, he wouldn't be so wickedly obsessed with what's happening in everyone else's underwear.)