Well, the Westboro Baptist Church idiots were successful in causing a decent amount of grief and uproar. I hit up 3 out of the 4 stops (St. Mike's, St. Alphonsus and the waning moments of the Perkins debacle). I skipped St. Joe's and visited the counter-protest at the Wheeling Park Ampitheatre. I wanted to reflect on it for a few days rather than just write down my immediate reactions.
I was fascinated by the near violent reaction by local residents. For those of you who missed it, there were basically 6 WBC protesters. 1 woman, 2 men and 3 kids (ages probably 7-10). The children held the most offensive signs (God Loves Dead Coal Miners & God Loves Dead Soldiers). The mangy gray-haired woman was particularly driven to dispense her opinions. She would abruptly break out in song (All ye sinners, God forgive thee, etc.) One of the men would videotape everything with a hand held recording device. It has been suggested that this "church" makes a living simply by filing lawsuits. I seriously doubt this. People make too big a deal about filing lawsuits. Anyone can sue anyone for anything. Collecting a settlement is a far different matter. It's much more likely that their leader Fred Phelps simply has a million bucks or so. And he has a few idiots in his stable who can travel with minimal expenses. All they really had was a 10 year old Chrysler Minivan and some signs. In reality, that's all it takes. That and some inflamed locals and a little media coverage.
So here are the highlights/lowlights (depending on your perspective)
A. A man in his 40's who was most likely a military veteran showed up at the first protest. He was filled with rage and would occasionally lash out verbally. I never spoke to him but I did notice that when everything disbanded, he was walking away in tears. This was not some puny guy. He was probably 6' 200 lbs. He was being comforted by a woman (probably his wife). My point - he was so emotional that he had difficulty walking back to his car.
B. There was a moment a cop asked the young boy, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The blond haired, blue eyed child snapped at the cop, "You're going to Hell!" Oddly, the child was wearing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers ball cap. I thought this was unusual because I'm pretty sure they'd despise the NFL which provides employment opportunities to gays. That's pretty much there overriding logic when it comes to everything. Miners supply coal > the coal provides energy > the energy comes in the form of heat > the heat helps warm peoples homes > some of these people are gay. Hence, miners willingly support and encourage sodomy. Of course, you can use this type of specious God-oriented reasoning ad nauseum. The God argument is always the easiest. I think that's why it's so popular worldwide. It doesn't really call for much deep thinking - an overwhelming characteristic of those who wholeheartedly embrace religious dogma. Very Palinesque - praise the troops, cheer if you love freedom, speak out if you don't like wasteful, big government, high taxes, etc. Not the most informative policy positions. With that in mind, I've recently come to the conclusions that there are 2 different types of people on this planet. No, not liberal or conservative. It goes far deeper than that. I'd say that the most prevailing way to distinguish people is this...
There are 2 types of people - those who ask why, and those who do NOT ask why. Neither is necessarily better. You can live and maintain a successful, non-inquisitive life style and be entirely happy. I know many people who just seem to accept things. They have this "there's nothing I can do about it, so why get all agitated and try to change things."
There I go - going off on my tangent. Back to the highlights.
I noticed while at the St. Mike's protest that one woman was allowed beyond the police imposed barrier. Everyone else was forbidden to cross the street. This woman had two signs and would pace aggressively back and forth. She seemed generally composed but very determined to make it known that she thought the WBC was despicable. A few minutes later I learned that she was from Steubenville and the WBC had protested at her son's military funeral the day before.
The crowd at St. Mike's was pretty diverse. Lots of teenagers on bicycles trying to comprehend what the hell was going on. Plenty of hecklers with diverse comments. Many would counter with the imbecilic refrain, "You're the ones who are going to Hell!" A youthful, effeminate gay man stood out. "I'm more of a man than you'll ever be!" Kind of a comical buffoonish episode.
The cops seemed composed and generally had an attitude - "We'll just do our jobs and try to keep the peace." At one point, I sternly said the following, "If you're under the age of 16 and steal one of their signs, I will pay you $20 for it." One of the cops gave me a look of death and pointed his finger at me. His facial expression said it all - listen you godless troublemaker, if you say that again, I'm taking you downtown. Seriously though, this idea has merit. Here's a potential idea for exploiting the WBC fuckheads...
Just a I did, encourage a group of rowdy teens on bicycles to just zip by them and steal their signs. One thing I noticed, they had too many signs. The adults would hold multiple ones from time to time. If coordinated properly, a few boys could wrestle some of the signs away or just snag a few lying on the ground. Then, they scatter on their bikes in different directions. The two cops would have had few alternatives. If you chase after the kids, you appear foolish and worse yet, leave the WBC anti-cocksucking faggots with no police protection. And here's the best part, you take the signs and try to sell them on ebay. You assure potential bidders that a significant percentage of the proceeds from the sale will end up funding charitable organizations that the WBC rails against. Once it catches on in the media, you have created an inverted, viable small scale systemic disruption. Personally, I just wanted an original sign for my library. That would have been bad ass, particularly the sign featuring two male stick figures engaged in a sexual act. I might have even written on it - "THIS IS BAD ASS."
After St. Alphonsus, me and Jepson went to the counter-protest at Wheeling Park. I'd say it was unusually disappointing. The facebook page said over 350 were going to attend. Turns out it was more like 85. A few people on the hill side playing cornhole (or if you live in Pennsylvania it's called bean bag toss). And there were a few musicians singing with acoustic guitars. Kind of like a sparsely attended Peter, Paul and Mary show without anyone puffing the magic dragon. Sometimes I'm not sure whih I despise more - People that espouse hatred in the name of God (aka fire and brimstone shit) or people who are all about the goodness and love of the Lord. I generally prefer the hatred because it consists of more "variable entertainment."
Then it was onto the final stop. 5 of us went up to the base foothills of Wheeling Jesuit University. A crowd of a 100 kids were out there holding up signs. Most were throwing frisbees, hacky-sacking and making drinking plans for later in the evening. It became apparent that the WBC were denied permission to enter the campus so they ended up at the triangular median next to Perkins of the I-70 ramp. Fortunately, we encountered a woman who zipped us over. Regrettably, I can't go into details on this. Here's a brief verbal synopsis which took place on the ride over.
Saf - "I was hoping there'd be some kind of Soakapalooza. Did you hear about that?"
Female - "Ohhh, I can't believe someone made that flyer. That was just plain ridiculous."
Saf - "I know. I know. What kind of an asshole would do such a thing?"
3 second pause
Saf "IT WAS ME! I AM SOAKAPALOOZA! C'mon, who else would do that?"
Female - (staring back at me while on the interstate) "I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT WAS YOU!"
So we get to the place and the police are escorting them back to their minivan. We go running after them on the opposite side of the road. The last thing I remember was screaming at them from across the road, "YOU'RE GOING TO HELL!"