Monday, August 29, 2005

Finally, something both sides can agree on

As a moderate minded person I often try to find common ground with the extremes on either side.

I want to give the people on all sides a chance to express their opinions, and try to make sense of them. It seems logical to me that if a person passionately believes in something, then there must be some kind of foundation to that belief. Most people do not just believe something on a whim, though there are obviously exceptions.

And by the same token, I have noticed that a lot of debates really have a lot of common ground on the two sides. Sometimes it’s just minor issues that really separate them.

And then again, many debates have no commonality at all except stubbornness and refusal to listen..

So when I look at the Anti Bush/War protesters and compare them to the Pro Bush/Support the troops folks, I have to admit, it’s hard to find a common ground. The lone exception is the concept of supporting the troops since both sides ‘claim’ to be supporting the troops in their own way. I will retain the right to blog on that another day.

Instead I found an issue I think most people on all sides might actually agree on, and here it is:

Fred Phelps is a Jackass.

Fred, or the Rev Fred Phelps as he is known, is the founder of Westboro Baptist in Topeka Kansas, and he is one of the Country’s most outspoken anti Gay activists.

He has many utterly contemptible websites, two of which are and God, according to Fred, also hates Canada and Sweden.

I looked on the sites and I am utterly speechless. He openly praises god for the deaths in Iraq, for the deaths in the London subway bombings and plenty of other similarly minded tripe. Look if you like, but I warn you, it is shocking.

Fred it seems, among other things, has taken to the belief that our soldiers are dying because God is unhappy with the US for harboring Gays and for the US having bombed his church in 1995.

Now look, I can deal with extremism, it exists all around us. And he is not the only one to have made some claims about the US being punished, I believe Falwell and Robertson have crossed that line.
But Fred and his followers have crossed a line that I believe to be so reprehensible, that the pro and anti war people would feel justified in jointly condemning it.

Fred and his ilk protest military funerals.

This story illustrates one example of it:
(excerpts only)

SMYRNA, Tenn. (AP) - Members of a church say God is punishing American soldiers for defending a country that harbors gays, and they brought their anti-gay message to the funerals Saturday of two Tennessee soldiers killed in Iraq.

The Rev. Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist in Kansas, contends that American soldiers are being killed in Iraq as vengeance from God for protecting a country that harbors gays. The church, which is not affiliated with a larger denomination, is made up mostly of Phelps' children, grandchildren and in-laws.

The church members carried signs and shouted things such as "God hates fags" and "God hates you."

Lovely. Lets make a families pain that much more painful.

It almost happened here in the Seattle area as well. A rumor circulated here that his people were coming to protest at a funeral. A large group of people stood ready to completely block him access, but he didn’t show, thank God. But honestly, you shouldn’t need bouncers at a funeral, should you?

The people in Smyrna took similar action:

The church members were met with scorn from local residents. They chased the church members cars' down a highway, waving flags and screaming "God bless America."

So many counterdemonstrators were gathered in Ashland City that police, sheriff's deputies and state troopers were brought in to control traffic and protect the protesters.

The church members held protesting permits, and counterprotesters in Smyrna turned their backs to Westboro Baptist members until time expired on the protest permits.

And as I said, both sides of the war debate seemed to join on this:

"My husband is over there, so I'm here to show my support," 41-year-old Connie Ditmore said as she waved and American flag and as tears came to her eyes. "To do this at a funeral is disrespectful of a family, no matter what your beliefs are."

"If they were protesting the government, I might even join them," Danny Cotton, 56, said amid cries of "get out of our town" and "get out of our country."

"But for them to come during the worst time for this family - it's just wrong."

And that is exactly the point. Both sides had a common enemy in Mr Phelps. In this case, respect came before ideology.

Not to say both sides will not argue all the way home from the funeral, but its good to know that in some fundamental matters, common sense prevails.