Tuesday, March 18, 2014

If You Can't Say Something Nice...

A lot of news (or at least "Internet news") in the past few days has focused on the fact that Fred Phelps, the founder of the hatemongering Westboro Baptist Church may be dying.

There are basically two camps in the things I've seen.

There are the people who think that his funeral should be a place for joyful protest - lots of rainbows and glitter, and kind of a "nyah nyah, you're dead" party. (The irony of "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" being sung outside the funeral seems like a fun idea on some level, I'm sure.)

There are also the people who think that we should kind of forgive and forget and pray for his soul to find peace of some kind, since he was obviously a tormented person to say and do the things he's espoused.

Sure, there are some people with other views. I saw a comment, recently, that said that we should all simply find peace in knowing that a just God will put him in the level of hell he most deserves for what he has done to people. And while I'm kind of in favor of that view, I also realize that finding peace without taking action can be hard.

It seems that we all kind of want resolution. We want the final moment on the screen when the two lovers are reunited in one final kiss. We want the bad guy to get his comeuppance and end up on the wrong end of a light saber. We want the catharsis that comes with taking one last parting shot, and getting in the last word.

Maybe it's an American thing. I mean... European movies are much more frequently ambiguous at the end. The hero and the heroine walk out the wrong doors and miss each other at the train station in French films. The bad guy gets away. The last word is swept away by a gust of wind and no one hears it. The only movies that end without resolution in the States tend to be horror movies which are left open-ended for the sake of sequels - which doesn't exactly lend the audience a sense of peace.

So I understand how we all want the death of Fred Phelps to be something we can point to and say "See? It's over. Done. The end."

But he wasn't alone. He was the head of a church with a full congregation. When he was out being crazy and picketing military funerals, there were lines of people with him. Sure, he was the head of it all, but there was also an "it all" that he was head of. And so this story - just like the horror movies - will continue. Without it's speaker it might be quieter, but this will not be the sudden end of the story. So we'll deal with someone else tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. And we'll just hope that the voices of hatred eventually fade away.

First, though, we have to address the matter at hand: What to do when he dies.

As with any obituary, if and when I see his, I'll probably look to see where he came from, who his family was, who he leaves behind. And I'll feel sorry for them in their loss. I won't rend my garments and wail. I won't throw confetti. But I also know that I don't have it in me to forgive that much hatred all at once. Forget, though... With some time, that might be possible.

And can you imagine how much it must piss someone like that off to know that he might be forgotten? To know that all of the energy he put out into the world just dissipates into nothingness? When the loudest person in the room finds out that the quiet voice wins... that's gotta just be annoying as all hell.

So, personally, when I hear that he has died, I plan to do what I do every day. I plan to annoy the hell out of him and the people who are like him by quietly (well, relatively quietly) living my life. By sharing a home with Christopher. By doing my best to care for the people with whom I share this world. And by not giving him the satisfaction of being talked about except as a cautionary tale or the footnote to some answer in a trivia game.

(For the record, I'm happy to say that I spelled "comeuppance" right, even though I know it looks really weird.)

1 comment:

Robin said...

Bravo! But I really think confetti and "ding dong the witch is dead" would be a just send off.