Midvale School for the Gifted Alumni Association

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In Which I Piss Off My Liberal Friends Everywhere

Please, read the article first. Then read my comments.

Before I begin, let me just say that the Westboro Baptist Church are reprehensible, un-Christian, weak-minded people who disrupt the grieving process, bring a circus upon the surreal experience of burying a loved one, and make themselves clowns, ultimately diminishing their message, which, again, is reprehensible, disgusting, cruel, and a violation of that deceased soldier’s civil rights and moral character. But, as I read this article this morning, regarding a Supreme Court challenge to a ruling that soldiers' families cannot sue the Westboro Baptist Church for damages based on their appearance at their soldier's funeral, I come to the difficult but necessary revelation that they need to be legally allowed to do stage their protests and maintain their website, and speak their words of hate because if they are barred, then these soldiers have really died in vain.

“Attorney General Martha Coakley and US Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts are among politicians nationally who have signed friend-of-the-court briefs urging the Supreme Court to ensure that military funerals cannot be hijacked by protesters. ‘There are many public forums to make one’s beliefs known, but a private family service to bury our nation’s fallen isn’t one of them,’ said Kerry.” (source)

A moving and commendable statement, Senator Kerry, but I ask you when was the last time a soldier’s funeral was really PRIVATE, what with the participation of fire, police, and military honor guards, state and federal government figures, such as Senators, Governors, and state and local politicians, closing of roads for processions, and in the case of my student who was killed, the presence of students on the lawn of the high school, out of class while school was in session, to hold flags and stand at attention as the cortege passed? Military funerals, at least here in the green-grassed suburbs of America, are not private events. They are very public, and rightfully so. Families’ individual GRIEF is certainly private, but the internment of the soldier to eternal rest has become a public spectacle. And if we are to believe that the First Amendment is sacrosanct, and wish its protections on the causes and speeches we agree with and would support with our dying breaths, then we need to allow it to be protected for people who, by their actions, have essentially failed at life and CERTAINLY failed as “Christians”, but, by virtue of being Americans and protected by the Bill of Rights, have the legal right to speak their peace in a public setting.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Text of the First Amendment.

You fight fire with fire in these cases, not with litigation that erodes the very protections our military dies to protect every single day. And if the Supreme Court rules to allow damages to be awarded to the families in this case, then President Obama may as well just stop nominating judges now because we will be so far along the road to eroding our Constitutional freedoms, we may as well dissolve the whole system of checks and balances in the federal government now.

You can yell at me all you want, accuse me of selling out my liberal beliefs to the prevailing conservative winds our nation has succumbed to over the past decade. But, I would argue that maintaining this point is exactly the reasons I am still a liberal. Because taking a deep breath, calling the Westboro Baptitst Church’s message out on its hypocrisy and evil intentions, and allowing them their right to speak, just as I expect and demand, as an American citizen, the right for my speech to be heard (or read on this blog). As much as it pains me to write this, and causes the bile in my throat to rise with these words, I want the Supreme Court to uphold the rights of the Westboro Baptist Church, NOT because I agree with them, and NOT because their speech is at all worthy of an American or a Christian, or any person with a social and moral compass, but because I want the Supreme Court to protect MY rights to speak, and be heard, and not punished for a belief that is not mainstream, or popular, or well regarded. You know, like this one.

“America isn’t easy; America is advanced citizenship. You’ve got to want it bad, because it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘you want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim that this land is the land of the Free? Then the symbol of that country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. THEN, you can stand up and sing about the Land of the Free.” The American President, 1995

I believe this, and I live by the quote, that yes, is from a Hollywood movie, but in my perspective is one of the great truths ever put forth to the public from that medium. It isn't easy, and it will put up a fight, but it's a fight that we as citizens need to participate in fully, with all our might.

Dress Blues - Jason Isbell

MP3 File

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Blogger Frankie Five Angels said...

As difficult as it is to admit, I have to agree with you. Yes, it's not easy to defend the First Amendment when the "free speech" in question is morally bankrupt, hateful, and simply designed to hurt others. I don't think that it's that sort of commentary that the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment.
Still, the conservative right has so shredded the resat of the Constitution, that it's crucial we maintain what little is left.

That said, let me pose THIS question: What about hate-speech then? Doesn't THAT fall under the auspices of the First Amendment? Why is it OK to outlaw that? And aren't the comments of the WBC just organized hate-speech?

As a recovering Catholic, I was raised on that timeless (if naive) idea that you should "turn the other cheek". In the extreme, this is a bad idea, but in general application, it's a pretty good one. If, instead of railing against groups like the WBC, we publicly prayed for them - or even better, ignored them completely - might they just go away? A large part of their persistence is fueled by the public outrage - they're like my seven-year-old, looking to start a fight because they have nothing better to do.

It's not an easy thing to defend sometimes, but the First Amendment is for EVERYONE, regardless of whether we agree with their views or not. And as for privacy, I think you make a valid point that funerals, military or not, are rarely "private", unless they're on private land. And then, the WBC and their ilk aren't trespassing, they're just being loud.

As for myself, I'll defend the right of anyone to speak their mind freely, but I'll pray for the hateful, small-minded ones who speak to hurt.

10:43 AM  
Blogger ~Easy said...

I agree completely. The minute that the any part of the Constitution doesn't apply equally to all will be the minute this country ceases to exist as we know it

4:22 PM  
Blogger courtney said...

Easy! Welcome back...

6:20 PM  

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