the fred phelps "god hates..." clan continues their work. as do the counter-protesters. more and more i'm convinced that the westboro baptist church campaign is actually a subversive plot to promote awareness and acceptance of the lgbt community. and it's working.
most recently it was students at the university of chicago. walt whitman high school in bethesda, maryland is planning a counter-protest when westboro visits them on april 24th. and last week, students at lee's summit north high school in missouri joined the growing ranks of grassroots responses to the protesters from westboro baptist church.
what's stunning to me is not only the intensity behind the counter-protests, but who they're planned by: young people. thinking back to my high school days, i'm not sure many of my classmates would have been interested or willing to stand up to these folks. would i have? i hope so, but i don't know. it was a different time, i guess.
this is not to say that i've felt bigotry or discrimination from any old buds from the glory days. i haven't. much. and yet, stories like these (the response to westboro protesting a lee's summit north high school production of "the laramie project" – the story of the killing of matthew shephard in 1998) – give me great hope. i asked emily jarrett, education reporter for the lee's summit journal, how the event came off, and if there were any disruptions:
"The Laramie Project protest was pretty incredible. The Westboro clan showed up, complete with their "God hates fags" signs, but so did Lee's Summit North High School students. I counted over 100 before I gave up. Their signs were more "love-oriented" (my favorite was one that said: God loves everyone, even Fred Phelps.)
I was surprised by how many kids were there, not only because teenagers don't usually give up a Friday night to protest, but also because it was less than 20-degrees out and windy. But they stayed the entire time the protest was going on.
The most admirable thing though was that it wasn't just students from LSN. We have three (public) high schools in town and for the majority of the year, they're bitter rivals (as you can imagine, high school football and basketball rule around here). But I saw students from Lee's Summit West and Lee's Summit High School stand right along the North kids.
They said they were there to promote love and understanding for everyone."
these are high school kids in missouri.
this is the result, i think, of two things. first, somewhere along the line, a friend or relative has decided to live honestly and openly. this is the reason we need to talk to our parents, our next door neighbors, our employers. not to "promote an agenda," as those on the right so ignorantly suggest, but to promote awareness and honesty. this is who i am. i live right here. i'm your dentist, your housekeeper, your cpa. i clip your lawn every sunday afternoon. you do know a gay person.
second, it's the result of shining a bright light on hatred and bigotry. the more we see hate, the more we recognize it, learn from it, and grow into better humans. in other words, the more shirley-roper phelps and the westboro baptist church protest the better.
in fact, can we bring back anita bryant?
UPDATE 8:24 pm – more student organized protests in d.c, and nevada, and maryland:
the hits keep right on coming. this community protest in lexington, massachusettes might be the most moving: