Part of today’s blog post started as a response to something I saw over at Huffington Post. Whenever I post there, I get a message saying “this comment is pending approval.” If you respond to this below, you may get a similar message. Sorry about that. “Believe” me, I know personally how annoying that can be. Still, it can’t be helped. I decided to put my comment over here instead, for posterity’s sake. If Huff doesn’t get around to posting my response, at least i’ll have it online somewhere. I’ve posted over there before and lost what I said, then regretted it later. You might want to copypaste whatever you say below so you’ll have a copy later, if you’re as in love with your own words as I am with mine.
When I started a blog like this over at blogspot some years ago, I had originally intended to leave the comments open for anyone to say whatever they wish. Unfortunately that was abused by uncouth idiots and spammer bots. It’s one of the reasons why I moved over here to WordPress, since it was a little easier for me to police that sort of thing over here. Sadly, it means you can’t witness your comment show up immediately after you post it. You have to wait till I get a wild hair up my ass and remember to check in here. That can sometimes take days cuz I’m a lazy ass. Still, it’s a small price to pay.. or is it?
In case you have been living under a rock in recent years, The Westboro Baptist Church is this group of god fearing folk who have taken it upon themselves to tell everyone else how they think we should live. They take a stand for what they believe in by trying to make other people feel uncomfortable about what they believe in. They do this by making public spectacles of themselves with hate speech, badly painted signs, and poor fashion sense. Their behavior has become so unsettling, Congress has recently passed legislation making what they do around cemeteries illegal.
People from Westboro Baptist Church had on several occasions picketed cemeteries where fallen soldiers were being buried, in order to spread their message of hate and remind people that not all human beings are humane. A couple weeks ago, others had taken to picketing Westboro Baptist Church by dressing up like zombies or standing as a human ring of people around the funeral ceremony, in order to keep the Westboro haters away from the people morning within. However, because Congress felt the need to respond to Westboro Baptist Church’s horrendous displays of enmity, now they’ve made it illegal for those counter protests too. You can’t protest at all around cemeteries. It’s now federal law. Will this be held up in the courts? That doesn’t matter. The fact is the law has been made, and this is an attack on inalienable rights. Once again, the actions of Westboro Baptist Church, exercising their right to free speech and free religion, is inadvertently causing more harm than good. What can be done?
I’m all for counter protests, cuz I’m also for the protests. I would also be for protests protesting the counter protests, cuz I like the idea of free speech. I would say I believe in free speech, but I can’t use “belief” anymore. Why? Cuz it’s been so sorely abused. I refuse to use belief anymore, if nothing more than out of protest for how everyone else has abused belief. However, I still like the idea of free speech, even if I can’t prove it’s inalienable.
If it were inalienable, it would be impossible to pass laws restricting it. The fact we can pass laws restricting freedom, means it’s VERY alienable. That’s not an opinion. That’s demonstrable fact. My opinion would be freedom is inalienable, and I would be wrong.
The Westboro Baptist Church is an example of why I am no longer a Believer. If these guys are right, then I wouldn’t want to worship their god anyway cuz he’s a brute and a monster. If these guys are wrong (which they are), they’re delusional idiots who may deserve our disdain and ridicule but objectively speaking they also need psychiatric help. They’re sociopaths. Some of them may be a danger to themselves or others. If an aspiring neuroscientist can turn into a crazed homicidal maniac over an oral exam, what would it take for an ignorant member of Westboro Baptist to go on a shooting spree? Too much sugar in their Froot Loops one morning and they might go postal.
Claiming that their god is killing members of our armed forces cuz their god hates gays and people who support them? That’s sick and depraved no matter how you slice it. Still, they have a right to say that. An inalienable right. A right I don’t believe should be supressed, no matter how sick and depraved their words may be.
I’ve recently been accused of not believing in that right. I have to admit that’s correct, but only because I don’t believe in anything anymore. However, I like the idea that all human beings are born with certain inalienable rights. Life. Liberty. Happiness. If we don’t have the most basic right to exist free and pursue bliss, why climb out of the womb? Life is pointless if it can’t be lived.
Many believe they have the right to suppress those inalienable rights in others. If your bliss involves something their god tells them is wrong, they want to stop you from doing that. They can’t actually do that legally, so they voice their outrage that you can pursue your bliss despite their belief you can’t. Somewhere in the midst of this, there is a line drawn in the sand. We can’t tell where that line is anymore, for all the trampling.
“Don’t tread on me.” Too late.
Screaming “fire” in a movie theater when there is no fire is a terrible thing to do. We all agree with that. No one can argue that point. However, passing a law saying it’s illegal to scream fire in a movie theater was a blow to free speech. It meant that government could, in the future, rationalize restricting free speech in other ways. These sorts of laws are restrictions on freedom, no matter how insignificant they seem at the time, like ripples in the water they can affect us down the stream in ways we can’t even imagine.
A wise comic book writer named Stan Lee once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” You can smirk at the origin of that phrase, but it doesn’t belittle its meaning. Free speech is a great power, and each time it is abused, each time a government is either willing or coerced into restricting that power, we are all subject to the consequences of that result.
Where will the ban hammer strike next? No protests during weddings? Makes sense, doesn’t it? How about during any public function? Maybe the idea of designating “Free Speech Zones” will become more specific. We’ll mark those zones like smoking and nonsmoking areas. You will only be able to speak your mind where it is clearly marked with a sign or a painted rectangle on the ground, and those locations will be far removed from where decent people live and work and play, because no one wants to see your loud obnoxious signs saying “GOD HATES FAGS” or hear you randomly shout bible verses out of context. Even if protecting your right to be an asshole protects my right to be an asshole, I don’t want to see your hatred for gay people. You suck. It’s a small price to pay to shut you up, Westboro Baptist Church.
I can’t argue against that. Sounds like a good idea. I really wish I could, but I can’t. And my rights are once again chipped away, like a boulder turning into a pebble.
A funeral is a bad time for speaking your mind. It’s just impolite and unfair to those overcome with emotion and mourning the loss of a loved one. We all agree with that. No one can argue that point.
Westboro Baptist Church abused free speech, and now we will all suffer for it.