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Monday, April 5, 2010

Some Thoughts on Westboro Baptist Church And The 1st Amendment

 

In 2006, US Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was killed in Iraq.

His body was brought home to Baltimore for burial with honors.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church showed up at the funereal to preach the word of their small and hateful and evil God.

Corporal Snyder’s father, Albert, sued Westboro Baptist Church for, among other things, emotional distress.

A federal jury awarded Snyder $11 million in damages.

Westboro appealed, the damages were reduced to $5 million.

Westboro appealed again and the ruling was overturned altogether.

And then came the final insult, Albert Snyder, who had lost his son in Iraq and had endured the hatred and unwarranted persecution at the hands of this bizarre and malignant travesty of humanity, was ordered to pay Westboro Baptist Church $16,000 in court fees.

It’s not over yet – the case heads to the Supreme Court of the United States next.

 

I am certain that most of you are at least passing familiar with this story. It’s been in the news for the last two weeks. A number of my friends have blogged about it. The pundits have waxed pompous and feculent over it, Bill O’Reilly himself has apparently offered to pay Snyder's fine en toto – though I suspect the money will come from Fox’s advertising budget and not out of Bill’s personal savings account, but I could be wrong (and if I am, and O’Reilly does make good on his promise from his own pocket, well then good on him. It’s a hell of gesture and one that deserves the sincere thanks of all).  Those of us who come from the military are certainly aware of it – we could hardly be otherwise.

I’ve received a number of emails and messages asking my opinion and wondering when they’ll see an outraged rant on this subject here on Stonekettle Station.

I don’t have a rant.

I do have some thoughts – I don’t think you’ll like them.

 

First and so there is no mistake:  I think that Westboro Baptist Church is an abomination. I think its founder and prophet and head asshole, Fred Phelps, is a foul, revolting, sub-human piece of shit. No, scratch that.  Shit at least can be used for fertilizer, Phelps and his followers don’t even rate that, they are a pox, a pestilence, a poison on the land. But - and here comes the part that some of you aren’t going to like very much – I just don’t see their message as being all that different from a number of other, more mainstream, religions.

I can name the churches. I can name the religions.  And if you’re honest, so can you. Some are Christian. Some are Muslim.  Some are nice and polite and wear pointy hats. Some are full of fire and brimstone and passion. But their message is the same. Gay = Bad.  Gay = burn in hell. Tolerate gays, accept gays = destroy the country.  Now you can whore it up however you like, hate the sin and love the sinner, whisper the word homosexual instead of shouting fag! I don’t care. Fundamentally, the message of Westboro is exactly the same as that preached from pulpits and TV sets and radio stations across the country and around the world every single day – in the American Midwest and the Middle East. No different.  Hate is hate. Intolerance is intolerance.  Fear is fear. Period. Westboro doesn’t have the corner on it, they’re just more obnoxious about it.

Please. Save it.  You damned well know I’m right.  Don’t try to tell me why your religion, who sweetly peaches every Sunday how your loving savior Jesus is going to damn the homos to hell to burn forever in the fires of eternal torment, is any different just because you’re polite about it.  Don’t. Just don’t.  Spare me the hypocrisy.


Second – and here’s the next part you’re not going to like – I think Albert Snyder is going to lose his case before SCOTUS, and I’m not sure he shouldn’t.

Again, understand something here: I’m a veteran. I fought for this country.  I spent my entire life in uniform. I have the utmost respect for those who have given their lives the service of this nation. I think the actions of Westboro are despicable and I would cheerfully help the Marines kick the ever living shit out of these people and anyone else who would desecrate the funeral of a fallen Marine. And I would derive great satisfaction from it.

But I am a private citizen, not the government.

Freedom of speech means exactly that – the freedom to speak your mind (in the proper venue, and we’ll come back to that. Bear with me for a minute). I understand Albert Snyder’s pain, I do, and I think forcing him to pay Westboro’s court costs is a fucking travesty of justice on a grand scale.

However, that’s what happens when you lose.

Snyder knew what the possible consequences were going in – and if he didn’t, his lawyers certainly did. Having to foot the court costs was one of those consequences. In this case it is particularly egregious given the circumstance, but it’s not unusual or outside of normal judicial guidelines – it happens every single day and most people are good with it. The potential to end up paying those fees helps cut down on frivolous lawsuits (and I’m not saying that Snyder's case was frivolous, so don’t go there).  Snyder sued Westboro, not the other way around and this is one of the risks you take.

Yes, it’s outrageous. Yes. But, here’s the thing, the judge, the jury, can not make decisions based on emotion. They must obey the letter of the law, no exceptions. And in this case, Westboro was in compliance with the law. Their protest was outside the cemetery at the specified distance in compliance with state and federal law. They were on public, not private land. They did not accost anybody.  Their message was massively offensive, offensive to the Snyder family, offensive to the Corps, offensive to every veteran such as myself, and offensive to many Americans. But it wasn’t illegal.  No more so than those Christian protestors who wave pictures of aborted fetuses and shout hatred and condemn their fellow citizens and their country to hell every single day outside of every single abortion clinic in this country.  To win, Snyder had to prove emotional distress as a result of the protest, and he tried – but in the end he lost. Proving emotional distress, empirically, legally, is extremely difficult – and for damned good reason. Snyder lost, and in the end he was required to pay the costs of the people he sued. Those are the rules.

I think that SCOTUS is going to have a very, very difficult time saying any different – as much as they may want to. 

Westboro can’t be treated any different than anybody else.  Westboro can’t be held to a higher standard than those aforementioned abortion protesters. The law cannot single out one church, one belief, one religion, one viewpoint over all others and apply different rules to it. No matter how revolting such a thing is. We Americans prize freedom of speech so much that we allow Nazis and communists and the KKK to march in our streets – so long as they obey the law – and for our own sake SCOTUS can’t make an exception for Westboro Baptist Church just because the majority of Americans would love nothing better than to see them dragged to death behind a Marine Amphibious Assault Vehicle, me included – in fact, I’ll drive.

 

Third – and here’s the rest of it, the part you’re really not going to like – you ought to be ashamed. Yes. That’s right. Oh not all of you Americans – but one hell of a lot of you.  All of you great patriots who thought you could fight a war without loss, without blood, without sacrifice. All of those of you great patriots who let the fallen come home for damned near seven years, hidden away in metal boxes, off-loaded out of sight and out of mind at Dover Air Force Base.  You sent us off to great fanfare and cheers and glory and the sound of trumpets, but where were you when the bodies started coming back?  The 24 hour news channels showed the Navy sailing from the harbors and the Marines and Soldiers boarding the transports and the fighters and bombers rotating off the runways headed to Iraq and Afghanistan – but somehow, somehow, never managed interrupt your dinner with images of those cold silver flag-draped coffins. Where was your outrage then?  When the fallen came home in boxes to be buried with only the tears of their widows and widowers, of their children, of their parents, of their brothers in arms? Where were you then?  Everyone of you who drives past the America flag every single day with your eyes averted, tooling along in your giant gas guzzling hummers and who have the audacity to complain that this war is being fought for oil. Those of you weekend patriots who think that as long as you slap a $3 magnetic yellow ribbon made in China on the back of that same hummer you’ve done your duty by honoring the fallen. All of you disrespectful sons of bitches I’ve seen cutting up at the USS Arizona Memorial or letting your kids run fuck all over squealing and yelling before the Iwo Jima Memorial at Arlington or of all you assholes who stood behind me talking on your cell phones during the national anthem on Memorial Day. Yes, you. Tell me again about respect for the fallen.

 

Bottom line, there are only 90 of these Westboro bastards. Ninety.  There’s about 305 million of us.  I think we’ve got them outnumbered and surrounded by a significant fraction. 

Here’s what you do. 

- Help Albert Snyder pay off those legal fees.  Send him $10, send him $20 if you’ve got it. It only takes a minute. Sure, it’s likely that money will ultimately end up in Fred Phelps pocket, but that’s not the point.  The point is we, Americans, help share Albert Snyder's burden. His son died for us, it’s the very least we can do.

- Write to your congressman and agitate for the laws regarding military funerals to be changed, enhanced, strengthened. SCOTUS doesn’t make the law, their job is make sure the law complies with the Constitution – the same Constitution that Lance Corporal Snyder died for.  Westboro is entitled to their 1st Amendment rights, but those rights have limits (limits that have been repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court) and those rights have responsibilities. 

- When Westboro comes to your town, gather with your friends and neighbors and community - and sing.  Yes that’s right, sing. Surround these bastards a thousand deep and drown them out.  Stand outside the funeral of your fallen Marines and sing the Marine Corps Hymn at the top of your lungs – trust me, there’ll be enough Marines around to help you learn the words.  Sing The Caissons for your fallen Soldiers, and Anchors Aweigh for your Sailors and send your Airmen off into the Wild Blue Yonder and fuck Wesboro Baptist Church. Stand the watch, 24/7 until they leave. They have a right to exercise their voice, so do you.

- And the next time the national anthem plays turn off your damned phone, take the headphones out of your ears, shut up, stand up straight, put your hand over your heart and remember all those who served and sacrificed and bled and died so that you might be free. When you stand before the memorials, when you stand on the grass of the national cemeteries, show some respect.

- One last thing, listen. Listen to message of Westboro Baptist Church. Listen. Hear it? Hear the hatred? Hear the intolerance? Hear the fear? Hear the perversion of everything that makes us Americans in the first place? Ask yourself how your religion is any different – if fundamentally, you’re preaching the same exact message.

 

You wanted my opinion, you got it.

60 comments:

  1. No comments yet? Well I for one like the idea of the sing-ins to show respect and drown out the Westboros out there. If anyone would feel uncomfortable about doing such a thing then just standing respectfully between the family of the fallen and the protesters may be enough. The protesters may get pushy or try to get past to make their message heard or seen but a big blank piece of cardboard held overhead may be deterrent enough for future protesters. Cowards are easy to thwart. Just stand up to them and they back down. No action required just stand there and stare them down. Hell you can even smile and it makes them that much more uncomfortable.

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  2. I agree - I think Albert Snyder is going to lose his case before the Supreme Court. I did the first time I read about this case, and nothing I've read to date makes me think any different.

    As despicable as the Westboro Baptist Church is, they have a right to lawfully express their opinions. But so do we. As you noted, if these assholes come anywhere near to protest, we can counter-protest, standing up for our fallen comrades and their families.

    The most difficult thing for me in my Christian faith is having to constantly disavow those who claim to share my faith, yet spout hate and stupidity. Yes, my views on some subjects are different than yours and others, and some of those differences are based on my faith. But hate changes nothing. All hate does is generate more hate.

    So as tired as I get of saying that I do NOT stand with those who call themselves Christians yet spread hate and fear, that even where I disagree with some laws of the US that this is a secular country NOT a theocracy and I'm very glad that's so, I will continue to do so.

    All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.

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  3. I am appointing Jim as the official spokesperson for my moral compass. Agree completely.

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  4. See, there you go, getting inside my head again. Now I have to find something else to blog about today. No, seriously - this was my topic for today, and my thoughts are close enough to yours that I think I'll just point my readers over here.

    Yeah. That pesky Constitution, insisting that the Bill of Rights applies equally to all...

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  5. I'm generally in agreement with you. I've always favored letting the most vile people air their views as publicly as they want to -- what better way of making sure the rest of us know who isn't fit for society?

    I don't favor altering or strengthening laws regarding protests at military funerals (or anywhere else). Sorry, I know where you're coming from, but it just smacks of Bush's "Free Speech Zones", an obscenity if there ever was one.

    You're suggestion about singing at the protests ain't a bad one. Here's another:

    I'm pretty sure that some film guys showed up at one of their protests in Brooklyn and stood there holding up a couple of 12' X 12' Gryphlons between the Westboro assholes and the target of their obsession. When the douchebags complained, the cops said they had as much right to be there as anybody else.

    Also, worth watching (really), is this clip of Megyn Kelly explaining reality to Bill O'Reilly. One key point is that Snyder's lawyers filed their challenge to paying the costs after the deadline for filing.

    Look -- Westboro posts their protest schedule online (Google their name + "protest schedule). It's not a secret where they're going to show up. Countering them is not hard. (In fairness to Snyder, I don't know if they were publicizing their protests when his son's funeral took place -- I'll admit that that event may have been the first time I'd ever heard of them.)

    Shall I stop rambling now?

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  6. Oops, Rambelus Interruptus.

    I forgot to mention -- They may have ninety members, but their protests usually consist of no more than 10 or fifteen idiots. They're really easy to outnumber.

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  7. I live in the same town as those sons-of-bitches, every time I drive by one of their pickets around town somewhere, I can feel my blood pressure spike. I really can not understand how they can live their lives in such fits of hatred and vileness, I just can’t get my brain around it, they are vile and ugly.
    When Mr. Snyder won his case and got the huge judgment I had a fit of giggling, you could almost hear the celebration across Topeka at the thought of the Phelps’ being bankrupted. Then I felt an immense sadness at the death of another piece of the Constitution. I was saddened for Mr. Snyder and much relieved when he lost on appeal. That kind of ruling against their hate speech was just too dangerous. I think that SCOTUS may not even hear the case and just refer to the lower courts rulings as stands.
    The Patriot Guard helps block out the like you were describing, they can always use more help. I just keep waiting for the day when a big rigs tie rod end breaks off and drives over the whole damned clan.

    PS, I think phred phelps would make great fertilizer… I just wouldn’t eat anything from that particular garden, he might be contagious.

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  8. Nathan, I think that in some cases the Federal laws against hate speech could be applied to these people - though I think it would be difficult to do - but I agree with you about the free speech zones and anything similar. However, we do place limits on free speech, and I such could be applied here. However, I think the matter requires very careful consideration - and in the end it may be that we have to tolerate the situation exactly as it is in order to maintain the rights of all the rest of us.

    Sorry, Janiece. I know how much you detest these bastards.

    I'd heard of WBC before the first Snyder case

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  9. I watched a video of a recent appearance of a Phelps daughter on TV. Even though she was characterized as a "crazy woman," her tone, vocabulary and theology struck me as nearly identical to OT, NT, early church, medieval and Reformation examples of jeremiads denouncing a people who have turned their back on the Lord God. Not my thing, but I know from my extensive historical reading that this is the classic stuff. For people who believe in this construct, the only question is whether the Phelps message is heretical or authoritative.

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  10. One of the things that keeps me coming back to this blog is the respect you show for the Constitution and the willingness you have to put up with some foul things in the name of that respect, Jim. And the timely reminders for us to do the same. I'm neither gay nor a vet, but you don't have to be one of Phelps' targets to see him for the colossal waste of time, space and oxygen that he and his demented little posse are. You just have to be sentient.

    Sometimes I think we could solve the whole thing by making assaults on the WBC punishable by a $25 fine. We could fund the national debt.

    Not a solution. Just a fantasy.

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  11. I think I have a new platonic crush on History Dave.

    A $25.00 fine. Hee.

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  12. Jim, you are so right. I may not agree with what other people say, but I will defend their right to say it. Westboro's first offensive mistake that day was the particular forum they chose to use, it was offensive as hell to protest at a funeral.

    And I do understand the problems trying to prove emotional distress, we have the same problems everyday with pain & suffering in injury cases.

    However, take comfort in the fact that if the court costs do end up getting paid, they will have to go to the Westboro attorneys...if the money ends up in any church member's pocket, the attorneys will be disbarred.

    And finally, considering how much it costs to take something all the way up to SCOTUS, I hope Snyder's own attorneys advise him well. The $16K may seem like a lot now, but it could more than triple by the time it grinds through the federal court system.

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  13. Wendy, the lawyer for WBC is Shirely Phelps-Roper, Fred Phelps' daughter. No matter how you slice it, as long as this ruling stands it's money in Fred's pocket.

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  14. OK so now that I have thought about this all day and did a little reviewing of my own personal experiences, I think that the thing we are missing here but which was alluded to by Nathan is basic human dignity. Are we so jaded by our own importance anymore that we would think harassing a grieving family in the proximity of their sons' or daughters' grave site is a good idea. Bah! Again for the second time today I curse these bastards with a Pox on their heads! Laws are laws and I get it but common courtesy is something we should find in ourselves no matter how passionate about an idea we are.

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  15. I understand where you're coming from, Beastly, but courtsey can't be dictated - otherwise everybody in Congress would be in jail, along with the Tea Party and the FoxNews pundits.

    Me too, for that matter.

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  16. Beastly's just bent out of shape because I yanked his chain with that reprehensible fuckstick Lt Col Lakin.

    I think we should leave SCOTUS alone, and give both Phelps and Lakin a beat-down of epic proportions.

    I may be willing to stand trial for assault in those two cases...

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  17. It's only assault if they find the bodies afterward, otherwise it's just another missing douchebag case.

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  18. How is making the inference that one should, or could, assault or 'disappear' their antagonists acceptable within the context of supposedly taking a stand against hate ?

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  19. The anti-gay message in Christianity is one of the many reasons I became an atheist :)

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  20. Cassie, is that you?

    I am obviously joking. I was joking because sarcastic humor is how I deal with things like this. You may not recognize it, but Janiece knows me well enough to recognize it. And in fact, if she thought I was seriously advocating violence she, and the rest of the UCF, would call me on it. These people instill in me the urge to do violence, fortunately I'm not a slave to urges or impulses, but that doesn't mean I don't crack wise about it and that I don't recognize the urge in others - which is why I use graveyard humor, because I hope my smart alec remarks remind everyone why actually doing harm to these idiots, no matter how revolting they may be, is wrong.

    Additionally, Anonymous, I hope you understand that if I did indeed plan violence against these people that I wouldn't be so fucking stupid as to actually broadcast my intent here.

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  21. I read where the lawyer said the money they get from the lawsuit will go to fund more protests.

    According to Wikipedia, Fred Phelps was a civil rights attorney in the 60s. I'm guessing when that money dried up, he went with his current occupation. Seems to me he is baiting people to sue him so that he can get more attention and more lawsuits from which he'll get more money because, legally, he has the right to be so reprehensible. He's bucked the system pretty thoroughly.

    I think ignoring him/them may be the way to make them go away. He/they thrive on attention and without it, they'll grow bored. Without lawsuits, he/they won't be able to so easliy finance the pathetic little protests.

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  22. Apologies on the double post!

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  23. At the risk of sounding like Jim's butt-monkey, I have to agree with him YET AGAIN.

    I may be sorely tempted to smack the likes of Fred Phelps and Lt Col Lakin in the face with my Shovel of Doom™, but I would never actually do so. Because that would make me the kind of unthinking jerkoff who tries to force my opinions and standards on others using force. Ew.

    It's a rhetorical device, nothing more. I'm much more inclined to join the Patriot Guard or stage a sing-in with a simultaneous donation drive for GLAD or Freedom to Marry.

    But I do thank you for forcing me to be clear in my intention. Not everyone who comes here knows me, or is aware that 90% of what I say is sarcasm.

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  24. My long, rambly response, written over three or four sittings through the day, is up at Giant Midgets.

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  25. Yes, Eric, but are there pictures? Like new camera pictures?

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  26. Heather, no problem. I fixed it.

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  27. Please donate money to an honorable young man's memory. He gave his life for his country and to protect you and me. Make a donation to speak out against hate and to support sacrifice and courage:

    http://matthewsnyder.org/

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  28. Yes. Lee, that link is in the post above. But by all means pass it around.

    Donate to the Synders...and then send a card to Fred Phelps advising him that you made a donation to support the families of American Military in his name. Booyah.

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  29. Speaking of donations in douchecanoe's name, have you seen this?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7Of_2ykZpQ&feature=player_embedded

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  30. Heather, yep. It's embedded here, a couple of posts back. Brilliant, eh?

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  31. Also, go read Eric's post on Giant Midgets. Linked to in his comment above and in the link below.

    Eric's a lawyer, his take on the case and the 1st amendment is that of a professional. Read it, you'll learn something (this is also why I didn't make any kind of attempt to analyze the Court's decision in this case - because I knew Eric would and as I said, he's a professional).

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  32. Heather, you maketh me to giggle with your ad hominem "douchecanoe."

    HAHAHAHA!

    And yes, Eric's analysis is, as always, brilliant.

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  33. I have to agree, Jim.

    I'm well aware that many of my own views on a variety of topics are profoundly distasteful to a large number of citizens. And vice versa.

    If I want the right to spew my bile publicly (in their view) I have to support their right to spew bile publicly (in my view).

    That said, I adore the backlash of civil protest and singing these scumbags into backing off. Citizens exercising their rights is the best way to combat, well, citizens exercising their rights.

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  34. It's the tough part of Civil Liberties. They're not just for people you agree with.

    As I remember, the Phelps team have already caused a change to military funerals. They used to be on the cemetery grounds and now I believe they must be off-site.

    Also, Rolling Thunder does some anti-WBC protests as I remember. From surrounding them in Harley grumbles to forming a human wall to keep them at a distance from the grieving family.

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  35. You made me cry.

    You sir, are a Patriot.

    Lastly, I would prefer to see the law applied to all funerals. Families and friends laying loved ones to rest should be off-limits to protests of any kind.

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  36. Just wondering (and this is something Jim might know or be able to find out),

    It's my understanding that there's an officer assigned as liaison to families through the funeral (I'm not sure what their official title is). Do they check WBC's website and notify the family if a protest is expected? I understand that doing this wouldn't be publicized, since the military wouldn't want to give more credibility to WBC, but it seems a sensible step to take.

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  37. Nathan, if the service member is on active duty when they pass, the military will assign a CACO (Casualty Assistance Calls Officer) to arrange the service and help the family with the details associated with the military aspects of the death. I don't know if checking the WBC website is part of their process at this point, but I would think it would be the smart thing to do.

    There's an excellent book on this topic called Final Salute, which I reviewed here, if you're interested.

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  38. There is a difference between public and private figures. There is a difference between public and private events. There is such a thing as the right to dignity and the right to protection from intrusion into fundamentally private moments and places.

    There are some occasions in the lifespan of humans that are one time moments for each individual, moments of great solemnity, and that cultures the world over recognize as such and therefore recognize with ritual.

    Births and private funerals fall into that category because they mark the beginning and the final end for each and every one of us. (I would add deaths to that list, even though many deaths are not ritualized in any way; they are still exceedingly painful and private for families.) Therefore, I do not think it is inappropriate to separate such occasions from all else we engage in.

    It doesn't matter if protesters are on a public street. Just because I wear a skirt, it doesn't mean I've given permission for someone to stick a camera under me. In that same vein, because a cemetery is next to a public street doesn't mean a family isn't entitled to some privacy. In this particular case, a father should not have to be thinking about how to avoid protesters as he faces his son's funeral. It is appropriate and fundamentally right to protect grieving citizens from intrusion and from civil/political protest and discourse.

    We should make public protests at all funerals illegal. That isn't discriminatory and it doesn't prevent free speech, not even hateful speech; it merely makes the most private moments off-limits. There are many other places and avenues for expression that can be used instead.

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  39. Nathan, as Janiece said, CACO.

    I was a CACO here in Alaska (it's a collateral duty, performed in addition to your regular duties).

    I would say that as a CACO, or any active duty military (especially one in performance of official duties) you'd have to be very, very careful about such things as notifying the family of protests by WBC or any other private group - such assistance could very easily be interpreted as government/military interference with a citizen's 1st amendment rights. I would venture that legally all you could do would be to maybe suggest that the bereaved check the websites or the town office (for registered protests, etc).

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  40. the lawyer for WBC is Shirely Phelps-Roper, Fred Phelps' daughter. No matter how you slice it, as long as this ruling stands it's money in Fred's pocket.

    No, I did not know that. Which means...if there had not been a ruling on court costs to be paid, I'd bet the whole thing would have been pro bono for the WBC.

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  41. Oooh-fucking-RAH!
    There are few I've read, few I've heard that have things as square and tight as that dissertation.
    Nothing but net!

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  42. Well said. Covered all the bases and then some.

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  43. jim, for you and janiece to attempt to distance yourself from your voicing the suggestion of violence and disappearing your antagonist might make you think it's ok to give voice to such suggestions since, as your defense you say, essentially, 'who'd a thought it could be taken seriously' or 'far be it from me to actually do something that I suggest', but what you are doing is no different than those goading the unbalanced among the tea party, or the anti-abortionist extremists, who then, as we know all too well, go on to act on the suggestion of violence.

    Those who suggest violence, no matter their rationalization or justification are just as culpable as those who eventually act on those suggestions.

    It's not acceptable when the right wingers goad their base, and it's not acceptable when anyone else engages in the same.

    I agree Phelps and his followers deserve nothing but scorn and contempt. But dipping into their playbook can't be condoned nor can it be 'explained away'.

    It is and should be unacceptable from any quarter.

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  44. Anonymous: I beg to differ. I do not know anyone on this site, yet I knew all mentions of violence were merely jokes. I didn't take a one of them seriously.

    The jokes made here among these few are not in Any way "just like" the hate filled call to spiritual arms made by the WBC pinheads or the many like them. Staging highly visible "protests" and inflaming large numbers of people with senseless fear of difference, anger, and a sense of warrior for God, especially inflaming those unstable enough to actually buy in, is not the same as a few people who are exactly the opposite, and therefore cannot be whipped into a mob-like frenzy, making a few jokes between them.

    Jim and Janiece are not going to "goad" any of their readers into violence for which they will then be culpable. The main reason for that is that their readers are intelligent, well-balanced, thoughtful readers who not only know better, but are sensible and well-educated enough not be vulnerable to political guru worship and mindless following. That is why they argue for and we agree to defend the rights of those who are most willing to take away our rights, in a heart beat.

    They are not the same.

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  45. "goading the unbalanced among the tea party, or the anti-abortionist extremists, who then, as we know all too well, go on to act on the suggestion of violence."

    I've yet to read anything unbalanced or extremist here, and that includes responses to Jim's posts. Except for the overgeneralizing equating posters here to the disrespectfully cruel, dangerous nut-jobs like the WBC.

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  46. While I do agree with Jim in general and as my only child is openly gay and way over 30, I don't ever see a military funeral in my future, other than perhaps mine.

    However I did shoot Expert once, long ago. Phelps and those that scatter in the right direction would be unlikely to protest a second time. Yes it would be wrong in a general sense, but I could face a life in prison or a gallows with no doubt in my mind.

    And I will be sending Snyder a check if the Supremes uphold the court costs.

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  47. Anonymous,

    Janiece can speak for herself. As for me, I'm not attempting to distance myself from anything. This is my site and unlike the folks you compared me to, I at least have the guts to own what I say.

    You are entitled to your opinion, and you're entitled to see my words however you like and I doubt that anything I say will change your opinion - and frankly I just don't care.

    Here's the bottom line, I was joking for the reasons I explained above. My sarcastic comments expresses how a great many of us veterans feel about WBC. This sarcasm is within the normal style I use here on Stonekettle Station. Is an expression of feeling, not a call to arms and any reasonable person should be able to figure that out. I like to think that I cultivate a higher level of intelligent reader than rabble rousers such as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. You may not agree, that's your opinion.

    Unlike the Tea Party, or members of the GOP I did not call for violence against anybody. I did not suggest you throw bricks through windows, I did not suggest you take up arms. I sarcastically referred to MY OWN hypothetical actions - I see this as no different from the previous post which was a humorous pillory of Sarah Palin's Alaskan reality show.

    The other difference is that while Stonekettle Station now gets several thousand readers a day, most are not insane Tea Party zombies who will jump to my beck and call - in fact a significant fraction are Canadian, so I don't think we need to worry about them crossing the boarder to do WBC harm.

    Now, I'm done justifying my actions and my words. This is how I write. Smart assed sarcastic comments are part of my charm, if I had any friends you could ask them.

    If you don't like it, then go elsewhere.

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  48. psst, Jim. If your Canadian Teabagger brick-throwing zombie minions invade could you ask them to bring beer? And some of that ham they put on pizza? Thanks.

    Excellent post, Jim. I came in to comment a few times yesterday between tasks and everything I wanted to say was already said, except for the 'bacon' thing...

    Janiece, I had to giggle too. At that and the image of 'Sherlock Hose and the Case of the Missing Douchebag'. (on a Conan-Doyle kick here, lately)

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  49. Haha! I probably got that video from you, then! It is brilliant, as are you. I'm thoroughly enjoying reading your posts.

    Janiece and Karl, I'm glad you got a kick out 'douchecanoe'. I can't claim to have coined it, but I get tickled every time I read or use it, too. :)

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  50. douchecanoe: If you say it outloud, it sounds French - and therefor highbrow and sophisticated. It is the perfect insult.

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  51. Making the assumption that only 'reasonable persons' could possibly read and/or react to your public suggestions within only 'reasonable' self-imposed parameters you presume is to stretch the plausibility a might too far.

    One of the 'features' of groups like the WBC is that the vision they insist others should adhere to is the only vision worth consideration. It's a feature of groups like that that anyone who dares bring a challenge to their beliefs should be minimized, degraded, intimidated, and summarily excluded.

    Not to mention following up by demeaning and attempting to invalidate the crux of any challenge that doesn't demonstrate obeisance to their singularly narrow constraints.

    Your suggestion that if I don't like it I should lump it smacks of the same kind of self-generated dogmatism and intolerant exclusivity.

    I submit that however you choose to react to my observation, the observance stands as both a valid and respectable subject matter for reflection within the context of this issue and a simple matter of fact that needn't be under-rated nor attempted to be invalidated.

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  52. @Anonymous (the one who wants to beat a dead horse): The mistake you make is in assuming your thoughts and emotional responses are a "matter of fact."

    My read of Jim's answer to you is that he read and considered your comments; responded respectfully; read and considered the repeat of your initial comments; showed you respect by answering directly and forthrightly; and then using social intelligence and culturally shared social cues, let you know he was finished and moving on as there was nothing left to say.

    It's his blog. If you want to start a topic that lives on, including about Jim and his readers, you are always free to start your own blog. In this blog, however, if your only real interest is trying to piss higher than Jim in order to mark his territory, it's a boring read.

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  53. Does it rhyme with 'Tippecanoe?'

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  54. Anonymous

    Making the assumption that only 'reasonable persons' could possibly read and/or react to your public suggestions within only 'reasonable' self-imposed parameters you presume is to stretch the plausibility a might too far.

    Well I suspect that there is not one thing I can say that will pull you out of your smug self-righteousness, so I'm not going to bother. Suffice it to say that in this matter, and every other in my life, I'll use my definition. Thanks.

    One of the 'features' of groups like the WBC is that the vision they insist others should adhere to is the only vision worth consideration. It's a feature of groups like that that anyone who dares bring a challenge to their beliefs should be minimized, degraded, intimidated, and summarily excluded.

    Yeah, me and Fred Phelps, hard to tell us apart. Thanks for the pointing that out.

    Not to mention following up by demeaning and attempting to invalidate the crux of any challenge that doesn't demonstrate obeisance to their singularly narrow constraints.

    I calls 'em as I sees 'em, Anonymous. It's worked for me so far. How's it working on your blog?

    Your suggestion that if I don't like it I should lump it smacks of the same kind of self-generated dogmatism and intolerant exclusivity.

    No, what I said, and what is clearly stated in the commenting rules - exactly as I pointed out on the last post you trolled - is that I am who I am, you're welcome read what I write, you're welcome comment on what I write up until you piss me off. You're also welcome to go elsewhere. You don't seem to like me much, you don't seem to like what I write. Frankly I don't understand what you're doing here unless you're a sadist or an evangelical.

    I submit that however you choose to react to my observation, the observance stands as both a valid and respectable subject matter for reflection within the context of this issue and a simple matter of fact that needn't be under-rated nor attempted to be invalidated.

    I don't consider your view point valid. You're attempting to pin your jackassery on me from the cloak of anonymity, I'm not going to accept it. You're going to have to learn to live with that disappointment.

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  55. Amongst all of your several ill-founded presumptions, Jim, two stick out.
    '
    One being, ...that I may be 'disappointed'.

    Two being, ....that you might confuse or conflate what goes on here with what goes on somewhere else.

    (Begging your pardon, but you've no cognition of any aspect of what goes on at my blog. ....and no, it's not Pissupawall.com)

    In any case, what goes on there is most assuredly, altogether irrelevant to the context of some issue or comment taking place within a separated context of writings occurring in an entirely different place.

    As far as 'liking you' goes, I fail to see any interconnection of how that might alter the observance about your suggestion of disappearing your antagonists. I'd not feel any constraint to raise such similar questions even if it came from family, so for my part, to question or confront anyone else in a similar fashion isn't anything I see as being inconsistent in my raising the question, nor would I ever feel I would or could confine such queries to only those who I may not 'like'.

    As to 'liking what you write', I've got a tremendous amount of respect for your writing, from the alacrity you demonstrate on which issues you choose to comment on, to almost all of your own mostly circumspect editorial observances.



    The only drawback I see is you seem a bit too tightly wound to address the atypical or anomalous seeming contradictions or inconsistencies in your editorial content. The rare and occasional reflection brought to your attention can sporadically devolve into a disproportionate, (and sometimes quite irrational), paroxysm.

    If I were you, I would reserve more of that rancor and vitriol you've expended for those occasions when you're confronted with the incivility of actual trolls.

    After all, what good are 'culturally shared social clues' if they aren't freely exchanged ?

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  56. And I thought that *I* was caloric writer! Wow!

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  57. Anonymous, you're not my moral compass. You will never be my moral compass. You can drop the entire "If I were you..." bit right now. You're not me and you have no rights expressed nor implied to make me your pet project for man improvement.

    How I respond to commenters or deal with trolls such as yourself is not up for discussion. I don't care if you don't like it, you have two options 1) stop acting like an asshole, 2) go away.

    Now you're done here. Any further comments from you will be deleted.

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  58. A different HeatherApril 8, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    Gooness gracious! For somebody who doesn't even bother to admit to their name, Anonymous sure does act as though their word is law.

    I especially love the chiding for Jim's lack of knowledge regarding Anonymous' blog. You'd think someone with such a desire to show off their vocabulary (so much so that actual content seems to matter little) would be able to grasp sarcasm.

    I oughta track him/her down and wreak violence upon him/her. I'm sure, somehow, this would be the fault of Jim and/or Janiece.

    Jim - as for your actual post, I'm inclined to agree with you, for exactly the reasons you stated. I'd love to see the WBC pay, but I'm partial to free speech, and can't see a way in which the SCOTUS could rule in favor of Mr. Snyder without opening up a figurative can of worms.

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  59. i have only two words to say Sir, Thank you *salutes*

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  60. Jim, you and I both know that we and Lance Corporal Snyder fought for was the belief that low life scum like Westboro can live in a world where they have the right to spew what ever scum like thoughts run through their tiny ungrateful minds. Agree or disagree with their rantings, to try and silence them contradicts what so many have sacrificed for. If only those disrespectful assholes realized that the ONLY reason the can speak out at the funerals of our nations fallen heroes is because of those very individuals they are damning to hell.

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