Members of Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church are scheduled to hold protests in the Spokane area tomorrow. It is easy to disparage, dismiss, and disown Fred Phelps and his fanatical family of God Hates Fags fame. They are so extreme and so over the top that few of us would subscribe to their harmful and hateful views. And yet there is a little bit of Fred Phelps in many of us. Hey, did you hear the one about the queer...? Sure, it was just a little joke and not intended to offend anyone, but little jokes send a message that some elements of mockery, discrimination, abuse and bullying are for lack of a better word, okay. And then there's challenging someone's masculinity or femininity. What man doesn't bristle at the accusation, "What are you, a fag or something?" And real men don't take kindly to being turned down so they apply the "she's probably a dyke" salve to their bruised Y chromosome.
Our children who are gay--and some who are simply accused of being gay--are bullied and harassed every day by our children who are not gay. Yes, in both cases it's OUR children. In response to a recent suicide by a teen who could no longer suffer his tormentors there's an online video project called It Gets Better with the goal of providing hope and strength for these young people. These targeted young people have to deal with the kids that single them out every day and heap humiliation and degradation on them. Fred Phelps is the least of their worries.
If it does get better as many who have contributed videos to the project say, there are still aspects of our society that send a different message. Just like any one of us--after all, they are just like any one of us--gays are teachers, police officers, cab drivers, politicians, members of the clergy, etc. They exist everywhere in the spectrum of productive adults in our country. Yet one reservation we have is for those who would serve in our country's military. In that case they are told to shut up. Keep it secret. It is tantamount to saying, "We don't want to know about you people". Why? For irrational excuses which essentially legitimize the question, "What are you, a fag or something?" By the way, does that question offend you because it challenges your gender or because it's intolerant?
Whether you counter protest, donate to gay rights or veterans, or post comments to express your disagreement with the God Hates Fags message, there's one thing you should keep in mind. Fred Phelps is a mirror reflecting an ugliness that has been here all along. Let's not let him distract us from that.