The members of the Westboro Baptist Church have been having a hard time lately.
You probably already know that these folks are the followers of the ultra-religious Fred Phelps, who preaches that every bad thing that happens to an American anywhere, any time, happens because we support gays and lesbians. So they show up at the funerals for soldiers killed in Afghanistan with charming signs like "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God For Dead Soldiers." You'd think, if god was so vehemently opposed to homosexuality, he'd smite the homosexuals directly instead of smiting soldiers and hoping we'd get the message. Maybe god has bad aim, or something.
A suit against Phelps made it all the way to the Supreme Court last year, trying to block him from picketing -- and Phelps won. The decision was made on the basis of the right to free speech. This infuriated almost everyone. Even though most of us grudgingly recognize that the right to free speech has to include free speech we disagree with, I suspect that a lot of us would have been secretly thrilled if the Supreme Court had passed down a decision mandating that Every Time Fred Phelps Pickets At A Funeral, A Homosexual Gets To Punch Him In The Mouth.
Of course, where there's a will there's a way. People have been getting increasingly fed up with the antics of these hate-filled lunatics, and have been finding ways to stop them from harassing mourning families at the funerals of their loved ones. In one case, in Mississippi, Phelps and his people showed up in a small town to picket at a funeral, and got up in the morning to find all of their cars mysteriously blocked into parking places by other cars. The police were called, and promised to find the owners or get tow trucks. But you know how hard it is to get anything done quickly. The owners of the cars showed up, apologizing profusely, and moved their cars... after the funeral was over.
So now, Phelps decided to move his sideshow to a venue even more in the public eye -- Arlington National Cemetery. On Memorial Day.
The guy's got balls, you gotta admit. It takes a peculiar kind of guts to show up at an event attended by large numbers of tough, muscular, heavily armed military men and women with a sign saying "I'm Praying For Soldiers to Die." But that's what he did. And his protest generated a counter-protest by...
... wait for it...
... the KKK.
I'm not nearly creative enough to make this up. Members of the Knights of the Southern Cross, a Virginia-based branch of the KKK, showed up to give Phelps and his crew what-for. Which they did.
"It's the soldier that fought and died and gave them that right to free speech," said Dennis LaBonte, the "Imperial Wizard" of the Knights of the Southern Cross. Which made a lot of us shout "Right on!" and then immediately wince because we just agreed with a KKK member. And then LaBonte made it even worse, because he couldn't resist taking the opportunity to trumpet his own brand of craziness. He told reporters that he believes that the white race is "slowly being degraded."
Abigail Phelps, Fred Phelps' daughter, responded that the KKK "had no moral authority." "People like them say it's white power, white supremacy," she told reporters. "The Bible doesn't say anywhere that it's an abomination to be born of a certain gender or race."
Police were on site to keep the two groups of hate-filled wingnuts from getting violent, but you have to wonder if it might not have been better for humanity if the police had simply handed them sharp sticks and told them to go at it.
Me, I just watched the whole thing with my jaw hanging open slightly. I would think that anyone who rejects Phelps' brand of vitriolic homophobia would have to have something going for him, but here's a group who rejects Phelps and espouses violent racism. "Hating homosexuals is obviously immoral!" they seem to be saying. "You should spend your time and effort hating people who aren't white!"
The whole thing is more than a little baffling. It brings to mind the African saying, "There are forty different kinds of lunacy, but only one kind of good sense."