February 21, 2006

A Heartwarming Story

I take shots at Pat Robertson. I do it because Pat Robertson has an appreciable following, which makes him dangerous.

But there's little need to take cheap shots at Fred Phelps; he's so obviously a lunatic and has so few followers that it's not worth the effort. What is worth the effort is combatting Fred Phelps and his idiocy when he brings his "God Hates Fags" circus to a military funeral and to explain to anyone who will listen why he thinks God is showing his vindictiveness on America for tolerating homosexuals (who were, the last time I checked, still a pretty unpopular and disfavored minority who do not have the same civil and legal rights as heterosexuals and who only two years ago got assurance that having sex with their lovers would not land them in jail).

Look, Fred Phelps has every right to hold and preach whatever bizarro theories he wants. But freedom of speech is not the same thing as requiring others to listen to you. To say Phelps is breaking no law is not the same thing as approving of what he says and does. And he has no right to not be drowned out by others who have something to say themselves, mainly, that respect for the dead and patriotism are better than bigotry.

Seeing bikers travel for hundreds of miles to accompany a grieving family about to bury a son or daughter killed in the war, sporting military and patriotic patches, waving hundreds of flags, and most of all, drowning out Fred Phelps' inexcusably tacky and bigoted rants, is a remarkable thing. It is a good argument that Americans are fundamentally good people. At least, the Patriot Guard Riders are fundamentally good people. They don't show up unless invited by the families, and they don't engage in acts of violence with the Phelpsies. They chant "U-S-A!" and sing "God Bless America." And the phenomenon is spreading to everywhere that soldiers' funerals are being protested.

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