I know a thing or two about bitter. I have felt the sting of anger and hatred. I have known the disappointment of living in world that does not accept me, and that allows those that openly vilify me to spew their bile. It is so easy to give in to outrage or, worse, into self-righteous satisfaction when those who have hurt us willingly have fallen. Still, I would hope we could get beyond all that.
It is not easy to show compassion to people like Fred Phelps, the hate mongering leader of the Westboro Baptist Church. He and his family have put folks like me in their cross hairs for quite some time now. The knee jerk reaction upon hearing of Fred’s failing health is naturally, at least for the LGBTQ community and our allies, is to at least let out a sigh of relief. Some of us may even take a certain amount of joy in the prospect of a man who has issued such venom on us passing. I cannot pretend not to feel that urge. The pain he has caused is very real. Every day we are subject to threats, implied or explicit, we are subject to the deprivation of love from our families, and some of us even give in and destroy ourselves because people like Fred Phelps and his followers convince us that there will always be people willing to target us for their hate.
Despite this I do not want to give in to that, and I hope you do not either. Love is hard, I know, and it is even harder when it is denied us. I know I am waxing all hippy-dippy here but I would rather extend the open hand, and open heart, to the Phelps family. Love should be freely given, without any expectation of reciprocity. I know he would never return this love, which makes me so very sad for him. He has denied himself the beauty and grandeur that is the diversity of the human experience. All those that carry so much hate in their hearts do. All the more reason to show them love, because they have denied it to everyone, especially themselves
Keep in mind I am not suggesting letting them off the hook. They need to be held accountable. They have to be told that they are hurting others and we will not sit idly while they do so. That’s tough love for you. It should be made clear that there will be consequences, including not having a seat at the table of loving, civilized beings, for their actions. We should also make it clear that there is a place for them, though, when they are ready.
Some of you will no doubt roll your eyes at it. Who knows, a few years back I may have. It is not an easy thing to believe, much less make a part of your day-to-day life; the notion of true, unconditional love. Nor will I suggest I have successfully embraced the practice. There will be times I will falter and let my frustrations get the better of me. I want to do better, to be better, however and know I can. I know you can too.
This, by the way, is not some metaphysical idea, I still haven’t found religion. I have, I believe, found a better way. I choose to lead by example with this, and invite you all to join me. Who knows, maybe if the Fred Phelps’s of the world see how much happier we are in our love, they will join us, but even if they don’t, that is their loss, and we should pity them, even as we condemn their behavior. Pit them, and hope someday they let the love in.