Warren Blumenfeld reminds us that on the spectrum from occasional microaggressions to full-blown genocide, there is no such thing as an “innocent bystander.”
In response to my recent editorial blog titled “Westboro Baptist Church: They’re Baaaaach!,” for the Good Men Project, a reader responded with the following question: “There are only a tiny handful of people who participate [in the Westboro Baptist Church protests]. Why does the GMP [Good Men Project] give them so much airtime while ignoring loons of other stripes? That’s a great question!”
I would remind the reader that the Good Men Project publishes news and editorials on individuals and groups focusing on an extraordinarily wide-range of issues and concerns, and we do not single out the WBC.
I do agree with the reader that, “There are only a tiny handful of people who participate.” The underlying assumption I hear the reader voicing is: “Since there are such a tiny handful of people who participate in these offensive demonstrations, the media, including GMP, should simply ignore them rather than give them the publicity they crave.”
I have heard this criticism many times in the past. I truly believe, though, that this relatively small band of fanatical terrorists would continue to travel around the country inflicting their brand of pain whether or not the media covered them.
They would continue to picket the funerals of fallen soldiers of all apparent or stated sexual identities because WBC believes these deaths are God’s punishment against a country that tolerates homosexuality. And WBC would continue to cause enormous pain whether or not the media were present.
They would continue to picket the funerals of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* people (LGBT), and their supporters, and they most likely still would have picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a college student from the University of Wyoming in Laramie murdered in a brutal homophobic assault. And WBC would continue to cause enormous pain whether or not the media were present.
They would continue to picket university campuses that support their LGBT students, staff, faculty, and administrations, and WBC would still most likely schedule to come to my campus, the University of Massachusetts, to protest Derrick Gordon, a sophomore starter on our men’s basketball team, for being the first athlete in Division 1 men’s college basketball to come of the closet as gay. And WBC would continue to cause enormous pain whether or not the media were present.
They would continue to picket Jewish museums, synagogues, community centers, nursing homes, and schools like the very one my young cousin attends because WBC believes, as they state on their obscene website, that “…the Jews… arrested, falsely accused, prosecuted and then sentenced [Jesus] to death…” And WBC would continue to cause enormous pain whether or not the media were present.
We may never know the actual number of other people this small band of “loons” influences, but I don’t believe it was mere coincidence that the vicious hate-inspired murder of Jewish people at two separate Jewish sites, a community center and a retirement home resulting in at least three deaths, took place in Overland Park, Kansas, the home state of the Westboro Baptist Church!
Ignoring oppression does nothing to eliminate oppression! Ignoring oppression is an act of collusion with the oppressors. On the other hand, I subscribe to the words of the great Margaret Mead who said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
This is fully in keeping with the Jewish notion of Tikkun Olam: the transformation, healing, and repairing of the world so that it becomes a more just, peaceful, nurturing, and perfect place. One way to achieve this is to call out and stand up to oppression. In the spectrum from occasional microaggressions to full-blown genocide, there is no such thing as an “innocent bystander.”
Photo: AP/Orlin Wagner