I do my best to remain calm in the face of stupidity. Most idiots are unworthy of attention. They usually embarrass themselves more than they harm me. Stupidity alone rarely warrants a reaction. Add hatefulness to the mix, though, and I find it difficult to maintain serenity.
Westboro Baptist Church ranks right up there with…well, I can’t think of anything comparably despicable right now. Satan on angel dust, maybe? So what do we do about a group of people so vile and reprehensible that one shudders to even visualize them?
In case you have been missing the news, pastor Fred Phelps and his congregation have come to the conclusion that God is punishing America for its tolerance of homosexuality. Or something like that. The logic is a little hard to follow. Thus they shout and hold up signs denouncing gays and, well, other stuff. You know, bad stuff. Oh, and you are going to Hell.
I’ll tell you what we do. First, we recognize that they have every right to their speech. That was done last week in a Court decision that blessedly maintained the group’s First Amendment rights. Then we figure out how to counter their inexcusable hatred peacefully but effectively. Enter the Patriot Guard Riders.
The Patriot Guard Riders come, when invited, to the funerals of fallen soldiers. Were one of my son’s funerals, heaven forfend, ever interrupted by the likes of Phelps and his gang of sub-idiots, I would have to exercise more restraint than I ever had for anything or anyone else. I have walked away from incidents where my anger was about to get the best of me, but I have never been tested like that. Thank goodness I could call on the Riders.
This wonderful group does not beat anyone up, confront the protesters, or otherwise do much of anything. Except shield that fallen soldier. They circle the funeral with hand-held flags and drown out protest noise with music. Like the Muslims who shield Christian services, and the Christians who shield mosques, the Riders recognize that a show of decency is a thousand times more powerful than a bomb or a verbal response to a hateful imbecile.
Our soldiers are asked to do the unthinkable. Their sacrifice is holy. We may not always agree with the choices our country makes in deploying them, but they go where we ask them to go and do what we ask them to do. When they die serving, they deserve the best in honor and respect we can muster. Perhaps in some mysterious way the honored dead know we would lie over them on the battlefield too. When the Riders in the flesh and we in spirit watch over them as they depart from us, maybe they leave this world understanding that no one, no one, can take their honor from them.