Wednesday, January 23, 2008

You Bring The Rocks, I'll Bring The Snacks

So who wants to go do bad things to the Fred Phelps brigade if they actually come out to picket the Heath Ledger funeral?

That fucking guy, I swear to God. I can't believe he's still breathing. But it reminds me of a blog post I've been intending to write since before I even had a blog. Unfortunately, since Phelps hasn't had the courtesy to just die already (not that he's done a courteous thing in his whole miserable life, so I shouldn't be surprised), I haven't had the chance to offer my obituary. And by now, it would hardly be worth it anyway. Phelps has so diluted any kind of mystique he might have once had as the boogeyman of homophobic vitriol that he's barely worth the effort. Between protesting soldiers' funerals and the weirdo incestuous cult, he's become easier to dismiss than even his contemporary hateful religious freaks like Robertson and Falwell. What's the point of even believing in hell if you're going to cast Matthew Shepard and George W. Bush there?

But here's the thing: There are maybe four news events in my lifetime where I remember exactly where I was as they unfolded, down to the spot in the room I was sitting in. I remember being home from kindergarten in the living room while my mom folded clothes as we watched the space shuttle Challenger explode. I remember holing up in my dorm room for hours the afternoon of the Columbine massacre. I remember stepping out the shower as the second jet hit the World Trade Center and standing in my towel for a good hour and a half before I could leave the room long enough to put on clothes. I'm willing to bet a whole mess of people remember where they were for those three.

Number four on my list is the funeral of Matthew Shepard. This was my freshman year of college, and while I was living on campus, I was home a lot. I'd been hearing about Shepard's beating and how he'd been on life support and how he ultimately died, but if you know me and my spotty news-following habits, you won't be too shocked that I wasn't staking out cable news for updates. Which is indeed weird considering what a high-profile gay-bashing it was. I mean, I wasn't out at the time, but it's not like these things weren't important to me. But whether I was too busy to follow the news or "too busy" to follow the news, whatever the case, I was home from school on a weekday and saw that CNN had the funeral on TV. I remember it as clear as anything I've ever seen. It's snowing in the middle of October in Wyoming, I remember that part. And I remember the goddamn Westboro Baptist Church led by the Reverend Fred Phelps protesting, holding up the usual "God Hates Fags" and "Matthew Shepard Burns In Hell" signs, and they're yelling -- screaming -- into the cars as the funeral procession passes. And they're screaming at the people walking into the church. Screaming into the faces of people in mourning. I had to find something to lean against so I wouldn't fall down -- it's hard to put into words how much that knocked the wind out of me at eighteen. It's was scary, it was sick-making, but it was also galvanizing. Nothing I'd yet experienced in my life had made me more proud to be a gay man, so I guess I can thank the good Reverend for that.

I wonder, sometimes, how many people have had their eyes opened by Phelps and finally saw bigotry and hatred for the ghoulish and ugly thing it is. I wonder how many converts he's made to the idea that our shared humanity is too valuable to be wasted on such flailing and impotent anger. Not enough, I suppose, but I bet there have been some, which I guess means Fred Phelps isn'tso worthless after all. God may hate fags, but let no one say he doesn't have a plan for even His lowliest creatures.


Carrie Ann said...

Here's a story of one of my happiest days: I was googling a good friend of mine, to find scores from his basketball season in Australia. I found the scores, but not before I found a PDF of a missive from Fred Phelps damning my friend to hell! Turns out that while he was playing basketball at Duke, he and a few other players were spotted around campus wearing T-shirts the GLBT group handed out that read, "Gay? Fine by me!" The story made a few papers, and the good reverend Phelps was on the case! Anyway, I sent the PDF to my friend and told him to frame it.

Meg said...

In my personal ideology, there exists a separate hell for those who commit acts of hate in God's name (including all aliases). Sometimes, I would even consider burning with these assholes -- for all eternity -- if I were granted the ability to watch their suffering, first. This is one of those times.

Judi said...

Pretty much nothing makes me more upset than churchgoers who use the name of God to push their own hateful agendas. Who pickets a funeral??? ANY funeral! That's not God, there. When I see that I feel like I have to apologize on behalf of Christians and going, "That's not how it is!!!"


Bobby Drake said...

Very powerful and moving post. Some of your best writing.

I'm a gay evangelical Christian (and Republican too and no it's not oxymornic), it shakes me deep inside that Fred Phelps carries out his malcious protests in the name of Jesus Christ. Fred Phelps is a man (and I use the word lossley) who sacred more people from Christianity than he attracts. Fred Phelps and his WBC holligans where protesting at Trinity Church in Boston which is about 300 yards away from my church. My pastors did something that I found odd at first. On that day not only did they ask us to pray for our friends at Trinity but they asked us to pray for the protesters. I did so and to be honest I felt better after I did. Fred Phelps still sikens me to my core, but I just see him as a miserable lost soul now.

Deirdre said...

Really well-said, Joe. Thanks for sharing.

Rural Juror said...

I'm organizing a big ole party at Fred Phelps' funeral so . . . come along

jessica said...

Awesome post, Joe. Thanks for sharing something so personal and heartfelt. Such moments of self-clarity really solidify who we are and where our priorities lie. I know I'll never forget mine and I draw strength from them to this day.

StickyKeys said...

Fred Phelps is a maniac. It's ridiculous the actual number of people who have tried to sprout the "Heath died because he was in Brokeback!" card. It's completely idiotic and completely nonsensical.

I know it was certainly one of Heath's most high profile roles but it certainly didn't define him cinematically.

I agree about special Hell for those who take the Lord's name in vein. It's amazing how the one rule we're required to live by is the golden one and everyday it's broken by people trying to get into Heaven.