Hatred and a "Church"
Early in March, a supreme court decision came out in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church's (I want to make it clear that the Baptist Church is in no way affiliated with this "church") right to protest funerals, rallies, memorials, and pretty much whatever else they decide they want to. If I sound unhappy, it's because I am. Although I agree with the court decision, I cannot support that church. For those of you who don't know the whole story behind the church, I will give you a summary to get you started.
Founded in 1967 in Topeka, Kansas by Fred Phelps, a civil lawyer known for his angry outbursts and constant harassment, the WBC started gaining media attention in 1992 by protesting a speech by Hillary Clinton during Bill Clinton's presidential campaign. They really hit the media spotlight when they protested a gay hate crime victim's funeral in 1998. Since then, they have protested military funerals, gay rallies, national memorials, church services, and on and on. According to Phelps, between 1991 and 2007, they had participated in 30,000 protests in 34 states. There have been many more since. So, why are they protesting? What is it that they don't like so much?
In a couple of words, not them. They pretty much hate anyone who isn't them. They hate gay people. They hate Jews. They hate Christians (that don't condemn gays). They hate Hindus, Islam, the Pope, and they believe that Barack Obama is the Antichrist. They say that the "scripture doesn't support racism", so at least they don't hate blacks...
This is a group that has perverted the word of the Bible and uses it to spread hatred. And they have spread hatred. Of them. Which leads to my wondering yet again, why are we so easily swayed to react in the exact way that they want us to react? Their goal is to spread hate, so why is it that we allow them to spread that hate? I guess I have a strange take on this situation.
Patriotism and individual fixes
As much as I disagree with the message and tactics that the WBC uses, I am right now deployed to protect it. So, I say let them do it. I say that we allow them to protest. I say we don't pay much attention to it (on a news media scale). On a personal level, we should drown them out. In ride the Patriot Guard Riders. These guys follow the WBC and drown out the protests with engine noise and block the WBC from even being seen with American flags. I am deployed to protect the right of those guys to do that as well (and I do it happily). I understand that these guys are there with their hate at one of the most personal and awful moments in a person's life. I don't know how my family would handle something like that. It's tough, and I can definitely understand the hatred for this group.
Now, what does all of this have to do with patriotism? I think that, even though this group is far from patriotic, I think the ideal is patriotic. The fact that this group is allowed to exist - protected by the supreme court and all - is a testament to this country (and hopefully an end to Political Correctness). I feel liberated by the idea that I can say whatever I believe without fear of retribution. And you should, too. This is not something you get in a lot of countries.
There is still the problem of protecting the sentiments of others. The question keeps being asked, where do the rights of one end and the rights of another begin? Like there is some line drawn on the floor of life. I think that the rights of one can overlap the rights of another. I have the right to write this blog in any manner I choose. You have the right to not read it if it offends you or if you don't like what it's saying. So, what about the funerals that are protested, or the churches, or the memorials? You can't necessarily just leave. You can't just stop listening. How do we work that out? Most would go, "We need laws! That is just not right!" I don't think we need laws. I think that is part of the problem we have today. We always turn to someone else to fix it.
Activism that is "Defiantly Patriotic"
What we need is activism. Not activism to make laws, but activism to make the world make more sense. We need more Patriot Guard Riders. We need to use the rights that are available to us to turn the tables. How many are up for going to protest the WBC during their church service? How many want to show up and protest the protesters? It seems like a simple solution to me (one of many that could be proposed). If they can legally do it to me, then I can legally do it to them. Turn-about's fair play, right? We need to form ideas, rally around them, and make them happen with minimum government involvement. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead To me, that quote says it all. That is patriotism when it comes to America.
In the end, I am not here to put blame on big government, or even tell you that you are wrong if you are a believer in making a law stopping the WBC from protesting at funerals (this topic is just too big and complicated for there to be just one right answer). I just know, for me, I don't necessarily like people telling me that I cannot do things and so I am not in favor of laws when I can see other ways to remedy the situation. I am pretty confident though, that if we, as individuals, start solving our own problems, we will all get solutions we like. I think that was the goal of the founding fathers when they risked everything to make this country. They said that they wanted to be free of the crazy number of rules they were put under. So, what did they do? They used activism (and eventually war) to make a change. And that, my friends, is defiantly patriotic.