Apr 152011

Good morning everyone and Happy Friday once again! Ryan started his first week here at the day job, so now all three of us work for the same company. He’s enjoying the work okay, and he has been sleeping hard at night, so he’s definitely getting in some strength-building. He won’t get his first check for a couple weeks, but he’s cool with that. It’s not like he has bills to pay or a family to feed, unlike the troops who were worrying sick last Friday. The crisis from last week has been averted, so I can indeed call it a happy Friday today. Then again, I do know a number of folks who are rather perturbed the notion of not paying our troops was even brought into question, so it’s not like there’s a real win anywhere.

It’s really sad this was even brought up, because it shows just how obtuse the government is when it comes to how badly military families depend on that check. Many spouses cannot get a worthwhile job due to moving around all the time, and those checks do not leave a whole lot of extra money for savings. Anyone who lives near, or has ever visited, a base or post knows that predatory lending companies and pawn shops litter the outskirts due to so many folks being on such tight budgets. It’s so easy to say people can just live on their savings when they have plenty of it.

This week, there is another important piece of news I wanted to elaborate upon. Republican Maine Senator Olympia Snowe has drawn up the SERVE Act which would keep Ole Boy Phelps and his posse at bay during military funerals. It’s backed by more than a dozen others, and not surprisingly, many citizens and military folks are hoping for its passage as well. Should it become law as is, the SERVE Act would undoubtedly set precedent as to how other protests are conducted and yes, regulated. That can be for anything: Anti-war or pro-choice movements, union strikes, immigration issues or the entertaining/annoying guys dressed up like handicapped chickens in front of KFCs.

While many people want Phelps gone, or at least want him far enough away so as not to upset mourners and respect the dead, there are some folks who would rather tolerate his nonsense than to see any type of protesting legislation come to pass. Some folks want to retain their First Amendment rights by any means. I get that, and I even respect that in some small degree, but I most certainly do not agree with that line of thinking. Personally, I’m glad this is coming to fruition, because as I’ve said a thousand times, people who are egged on and have no fear of consequences will incite violence. Furthermore, I am not a believer in untethered rights, because lines need to be drawn somewhere.

There has to be rules. As my husband stated, what would happen if Westboro protested across the street from a police station, after a police officer was slain in the line of duty, holding up signs stating “God Hates Cops”? I, for one, do not for one second believe that would be a peaceful protest. In fact, my point has already been proven in the past, and it will only get worse. Yes, they have a right to protest, as do all of us, but there is a right way and certainly a wrong way to do it.

A good friend of mine questioned too, should the SERVE Act become law, would that mean Westboro would move on to other funerals to protest – perhaps Pagan funerals? It only covers military funerals as of now. My guess is most likely, because I will give these guys the benefit they are rather crafty with legal matters. After all, they squirmed their way through the Supreme Court recently, which is why the SERVE Act was drawn up.

The way I see it, I’m okay with getting a foot in the door, because at this point, people are so fed up with Phelps the SERVE Act will only be expanded. Besides, it’s not like military funerals are the only ones they go after (even if they get scared off or bribed before arriving). Remember the miners? Or how about that little girl killed in Arizona? And of course, let us never forget the death that put these asshats in the news in the first place – Matthew Shepard.

So what’s your take on the matter? Be sure to share your thoughts, and I’ll be back next Friday with more news and opinion. Take care!

  5 Responses to “Blocking protests?”

  1. My understanding is that in some jurisdictions Westboro has definitely threatened to protest at police officers’ funerals as well; I don’t know to what extent they’ve carried through.

    What do you mean by “untethered rights”? Tethered to what?

    Aren’t our First Amendment rights tethered to the Constitution — ?

    I don’t see how this bill would be effective; I can’t imagine that jail time and fines would stop Westboro.

    But that’s getting into practicalities, rather than into the what underpins such a law. In terms of underpinnings, it might well start down a slippery (and illegal) slope, and I’m really curious to see the ACLU’s take on it.

    Westboro pisses me off. I’m queer, I have a dear friend who grew up in Laramie. I also have family members in law enforcement and the military.

    I’ve done case work with military families and military service members with the American Red Cross; I’ve spent time on a military base. Times are ridiculously hard for military families right now, and that hardship, unfortunately, is not shared by other Americans.

    In fact, far too few of the rest of Americans understand anything at all about what military service members and military families are going through right now, even without the Phelpses.

    Hang in there, and thank you.

    • Hi Stasa,

      First off, I’m sorry I’m just now replying to ya. I don’t get notifications in my email, so I have to remind myself to check back. :/

      When I said untethered, I was meaning that people tie the First Amendment so firmly to their beliefs they let common sense blow in the wind. Yes, yes, say whatever you want, even if it’s unpopular or downright cruel, but how does that really benefit anyone? If anything, letting people shoot their mouths off for whatever reason happens to tickle their fancy is simply bad form. I’m a realist, which has half of me as an optimist but the other half extremely cynical. While it’s true there is no such thing as bad press, because the bad press gets you even more noticed and your message across, I don’t see it as doing society any favors.

      Me, I like the grass roots approach. If you keep hammering out your promotion/beliefs/agendas/opinions long enough, you’ll eventually get a following. Sometimes, sure, sprinkle it with a bit of sensationalism here n’ there, but that can be as simple as using the occasional four-lettered word that gets bleeped out. “OMG she said THAT?” I’m guilty as the next guy for forgetting the rules of professionalism (aka tact), and I credit that to being raised in a very “blue/tellin’ it like it is/brutally honest family. But I take responsibility for it, even if it means I lose an Interwebz argument. Whatevz. haha I don’t have the presumption everybody will like me.

      What Phelps does is devoid of any of any professional rules and fails to even make any kind of sense. Every Christian I’ve ever spoken to or had read their comments vehemently state they do not want to be associated with the likes of them. Westboro are bullies, kicking people when they’re down, and the only people who associate with them are family members too scared, or too brainwashed, to go against the grain. It’s no different than the “nice kids” who join in on picking on the fat kid at the playground, because at least they won’t have the bully/ies picking on them for wearing glasses/dressing poorly/being above or below average.

      Were Phelps to merely preach from the pulpit about the sins of homosexuality, only sprinkled between all the good things God provides, he’d have a whole lot more backers. Do I wish that were the case? Of course not, but I would at least not want legislation passed to shut these people up. People can be haters all they want, and I tolerate people who think that way at a base level, as long as I don’t have to hear it or see it.

      I’m sure we all have people in our extended circles of whom we tolerate, even though we completely disagree with their logic – be it the boss at work, the smelly guy on the bus or the crazy church people down the street. As long as my paychecks keep coming, I’ll put up with being scrutinized over what I deem to be a nonpoint. As long as there’s an empty seat on the other end, the smelly guy can ride. And as long as no one wakes me up at 6:30 on a Sunday morning to ask if I found Jesus, they can hand out all the pamphlets they want.

      What Westboro is doing is taking advantage of a wide open law, and I believe it needs to be narrowed. They get away with it, because they are, for better or worse, really good with paperwork. I give them that, and I’d be a fool otherwise. It’s sad some people, full grown adults no less, need to be told there’s a right and wrong way to do things, but here we are.

      • Lori, I completely understand your logic and the basis for your arguments, but I’m afraid I can’t agree with them at all.

        I, too, despise all of Phelps propaganda/grandstanding/”protesting”, and wish he’d keep his views to himself, or at least his own congregation. But the problem here lies not with our government for “allowing” him to espouse his hate speech, but rather the media and reactionaries who legitimize his arguments by acknowledging him in the first place.

        Let me comment on the government side of things first. I admit I applauded when the Supreme Court allowed that idiot to continue his work. The situation that caused the court case to be filed was not the result of someone at the funeral seeing or hearing them at the time of the funeral, although the father admitted he saw signs on the other side of the graveyard wall but couldn’t make them out. Rather what he saw on the signs on the local news later that night. WBC was forced to a distance from the actual service, and it would seem that their right to assemble was not infringed (they obviously succeeded in assembling) and they were far enough away that they didn’t obviously infringe on the funeral goers, since the issue was taken after the fact upon viewing the news report.

        Limiting what someone can say is a very, very slippery slope, and I, for one, am glad the Supreme Court decided not to take that first step. Sure, no one really likes what Phelps et al have to say, but the moment we have a precident of what can and cannot be said in a public place is the moment those in power have a means to gag anything they don’t like on the grounds of finding it offensive. Who’s to say that if this precident was created, that the Supreme Court decided that Phelps was so offensive he had to be silenced on his protests simply because they were so offensive, what’s to stop the Religious Right from slapping that same label on a Pagan or Gay Pride Day? The answer, one or two lawsuits and a lot of money, which we all know the RR is rolling in, so it would only be a matter of time.

        I think what truely needs to be done with this jerk is to ignore him. I don’t mean the old “just ignore him and he’ll go away,” cliche we tell our kids about some brat in school. I’m talking true tribal, communal, nation-wide shunning in every sense that conveys. If every funeral goer, every cop, and every news reporter simply acted like what WBC does did not exist, things would take care of themselves. I realize that popular opinion being against him does little to deter that psychotic despot, but to be completely ignored would mean he would either have to continue his “work” knowing full well he wouldn’t get his “message” out on the nightly/national news, or take a different track. From his point of view, every time he shows up on the news or people gather to counter-protest, he’s getting that “message” out, and he hopes that it might reach someone. If we give him zero cause to think that it’s working, he’ll either prove his insanity (“repeating an action and expecting a different result”), or try something else.

        You invalidate your own argument – “People can be haters all they want, and I tolerate people who think that way at a base level, as long as I don’t have to hear it or see it.” How is this ANY different from DADT, which you have repeatedly called for abolishing on this blog? The answer is this time it offends YOU, and so you agree with legislating against it. This government cannot affort to legislate political or religious correctness beyond the necessary mesures required for a stable society (i.e. murder and stealing are still bad despite being relious tenants, etc.).

        Phelps is not a problem of our government, he’s a problem of our society. Thusly it falls on society, in a manner society finds acceptable (i.e., don’t kill/bomb/beat senseless with their own signs/egg them), to deal with them. I propose society ostracise them by shunning them in the old tribal manner. We do it rather well with pop and sports stars who fall from grace, so why not with religous nutjobs? Either way, it most certainly does not fall to the government to tell adults how to speak.

        Freedom of Speech isn’t a law, it’s a Constitutional Right, and that makes all the difference.

        • Carl,

          Well, here’s what’s happening now, because shunning ain’t gonna happen anytime soon, and quite frankly, I see it as a pipe dream. (Call my cynical):

          “A couple of days before, one of them (Westboro protestors) ran his mouth at a Brandon gas station and got his arse waxed. Police were called and the beaten man could not give much of a description of who beat him. When they canvassed the station and spoke to the large crowd that had gathered around, no one seemed to remember anything about what had happened.

          Rankin County handled this thing perfectly. There were many things that were put into place that most will never know about and at great expense to the county.

          Most of the morons never made it out of their hotel parking lot. It seems that certain Rankin county pickup trucks were parked directly behind any car that had Kansas plates in the hotel parking lot and the drivers mysteriously disappeared until after the funeral was over. Police were called but their wrecker service was running behind and it was going to be a few hours before they could tow the trucks so the Kansas plated cars could get out.

          A few made it to the funeral but were ushered away to be questioned about a crime they might have possibly been involved in. Turns out, after a few hours of questioning, that they were not involved and they were allowed to go on about their business.”

          (See: http://thehayride.com/2011/04/westboro-baptist-church-goes-to-mississippi-and-loses/ )

          While I laughed my ass off thinking about these guys’ cars getting blocked in and no tow truck “available”, a small part of me was kind of creeped out about the guy getting his ass beat and no one fessing up about it. People are even referring to the incident as “Southern Justice”, which uhhhmmmm… errrmmmm… yeah.

          • The physical violence is deplorable, but honestly, it’s to be expected. You don’t go into a man’s house and insult his friend (or fellow community member) to that degree and not expect some blowback. I’m not saying he deserved it, but no one who reads that article is going to be shocked. Again, I don’t condone it.

            As for the trucks, that is a perfectly good alternative to shunning. Good for them.

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