Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Circus Is In Town

As a media contact for NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, I got the following via e-mail today.
Statement by Speaker Christine C. Quinn


"We accept and welcome all forms of speech in our City, except one - hate. When a group plans to meet out of hatred towards another group, we must speak out and say no. The act of spewing foul racist remarks towards the Jewish community will not be tolerated in Brooklyn or anywhere in our City. We need to stand against the Westboro Baptist Church and any other group who are under the misapprehension that they can come into our neighborhoods and home and stand in hate against any community. I condemn the very nature of this group and what they stand for and hope that soon they will realize the acts they carry out daily are not for the good of any society."
Being new to all this gay advocacy stuff, the name "Westboro Baptist Church" was not immediately familiar to me. Then I Googled it and said, "Ah... they of fame. Great. What kind of trouble are those nutty kids stirring up in Brooklyn?" Well, it turns out that they got a cold reception that vastly outnumbered them at Brooklyn Tech. While reading a second article I was tickled to suddenly be reading a quote from a friend of mine who teaches there.
At Brooklyn Tech on Wednesday, there was a calm before the impending anti-gay attack. A teacher, Sean Shaynak, vowed to be ready.

“I’ll be sure to wear pink tomorrow, maybe some stretch pants,” said Shaynak.
The exploits of Westboro Baptist demonstrators read like a "TO DO" list of folks who are out to prove, once and for all, that they have cornered the market on childishness. "You jumped into a sandbox, threw sand in a three-year-old girl's face, and stole her Barbie doll? That ain't nothin'! Why, I just got back from picketing a soldier's funeral!" Man, where does that get fun?

And yet.

My mother taught me to ignore bullies. I wish I was able to embrace that philosophy entirely; I wish I was entirely sanguine, and not sanguinary. But I am my father's son. There was a moment or two this evening when I relished the thought of feeling blood spurt past my knuckles as they shattered the facial bones of a Westboro Baptist demonstrator.

These violent thoughts came like an occasional backwash in the midst of their direct antithesis. I needed to visualize how I would respond to such hatred with love, so I thought of visiting one of their protests, turning my back to the demonstrators, and completely ignoring them while focusing all my love on the targets of their hate.

I like the thought of being a force of love amid the hatred: of interposing myself between the hate and the hated. But I imagine it's a damned hard game to play, so I wonder if it's always best to just flat-out ignore them. I suspect that's the case: like my mother said, "Ignore the bullies."

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