Why do I love Fred Phelps?

For those who don’t know who Fred Phelps is, I envy you. Fred Phelps was a preacher and head of the Westboro Baptist Church. He was best known for his adamant views against homosexuality and protesting at the funerals of US soldiers. He and his followers would show up with signs that read “God Hates Fags”, “Thank God For Dead Soldiers”, “America is Doomed” and other incendiary statements about what he believed God felt. He died last Wednesday and outside of his followers, mostly members of his extended family, it is hard to imagine anyone will be mourning his loss.

By all accounts he was a truly despicable man. He exhibited no love or compassion towards anyone. He would beat his children. He celebrated the deaths of people who were killed by anti-gay violence, people who died from AIDS and soldiers who died in combat. He caused tremendous hurt to countless people already dealing with great sadness and grieving the loss of their loved-ones. He fuelled the hatred that has caused so many young people to take their own lives and for others to act out violently against their peers. While he never pulled the trigger himself he most certainly has blood on his hands.  Perhaps worst of all is that he involved children in his salacious acts and poisoned their minds with his hateful rhetoric.

So why do I love a man who is so diametrically opposed to everything I believe in? The simple answer is because I love everyone. Still, simple doesn’t always mean easy. When I made a commitment to love everyone I knew it would be hard. I knew that there would be cases like this that would test my resolve. It would be easier to simply dismiss him as a crackpot and just not care… but I do care. Fred Phelps thrust himself into my world, into the lives of people I care about, into the media spotlight and into the national consciousness.  I couldn’t simply ignore his existence. If I was going to love EVERYONE then I was going to have to find a way to love him as well.

His beliefs about God and homosexuality are certainly extreme but so is the belief of loving everyone. Fred Phelps and I may be polar opposites but when it comes to holding extreme beliefs we have something in common. While I don’t share his views I can’t help but admire his conviction. I don’t know I could ever believe anything that strongly.

It’s not like he invented hate. While his particular verbiage in interpreting the Bible is unique he was hardly alone in his position on what the Bible says about homosexuality. If you believe as Fred Phelps did that God is omnipotent and the ruler of everything then what other conclusion can be drawn from the 9-11 attacks and dead US soldiers other than God hates us. It’s got to be troubling for those who believe that God is on our side. Most people can find some other explanation or rationalization for these events but if you take certain parts of the bible or certain beliefs about God to their logical conclusion, you wind up with Fred Phelps.

One thing I can say about Fred Phelps is he forced people to take a stand. You were either with him, or against him. Thankfully most people decided that they were against him. It’s hard to say what effect Fred Phelps had on the gay rights movement but he certainly helped our cause more than he did his own. He made people think. He caused people who were perfectly comfortable hating gay people to become uncomfortable with their beliefs. For the longest time I suspected that he was a one man false flag operation. Like a good conspiracy nut, I became obsessed with trying to find evidence to support this theory, but in the end I came up empty-handed. Fred Phelps really was the man he portrayed himself to be.

Fred Phelps was also a champion for the First Amendment although I’m not sure he saw himself that way. He was vehemently opposed to the freedom of religion part but he sure embraced the freedom of speech part. At least one case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. I had my doubts as to whether the constitution was strong enough to endure such an hideous attack but even Fred Phelps could not cause us to abandon our values. As a result, the people responded with their own brand of free speech showing love and respect for the targets of his hate. Gangs of motorcycle riders would show up at military funerals to drown out the protesters. Even the threat that the Westboro Baptist Church would be protesting would cause people in support of the event to turn out in droves.

During his time on this planet, Fred Phelps made a difference. He was fueled by the worst in himself but he brought out the best in others. When I look at my country today, compared to how it was before Fred Phelps began his picket line crusade of hate, I see a stronger and more tolerant nation. Obviously, I don’t give him all of the credit, but overall I believe we are better for having known him. He set an example by the way he lived, in his case, it was a bad example. We all have a role to play and this was his.

That is not meant to justify anything that he did. I still don’t believe that the ends ever justify the means. The means must be justifiable unto themselves and I don’t find anything to justify the means used by Fred Phelps; but they were not my means. It’s not up to me to justify them. Perhaps he will find his justification now that he is dead but I doubt it. From my perspective I see a lonely man who lived a life of anger, torment and fear. His actions caused him to become estranged from some of his own children, disbarred by the State of Kansas and later prevented by the federal court from practicing law altogether. Near the end of his life he was even excommunicated by the church that he founded.  It’s almost tempting to feel bad for the guy, but I don’t.

The only thing I can feel is love. There is no other emotion he can cause me to feel. He could not inspire me to feel hate, anger or disgust. He could only inspire me to shine light upon the darkness. The struggle to see his humanity has made me a more compassionate and forgiving person. For that, I do love him.

A week in a day

Taking a couple of days off last weekend totally screwed up my daily post schedule. It’s also been a hard week for me to get anything done besides writing. I don’t know if that’s because I had a big weekend but I doubt it. Weeks like this happen regardless of what I do. It’s just the natural ebb and flow of chronic illness. It would have helped if I had kept up on taking Vitamin D every day but that got neglected in all the chaos.

Here’s a synopsis of my week to the best of my recollection:

Monday (25 Feb 2013)

I woke up at 11 am but was moving pretty slow. I had gotten 8 hours of sleep, which is two more than I usually get, but I had no motivation and an achy body. I had nothing to be excited about until I saw a text message from one of my best friends. She was also lacking motivation but needed to spend some time promoting her new business. Sometimes it’s easier to find motivation for someone else’s project than your own.

We spent several hours that afternoon putting up flyers. I was mostly there just for support but sometimes that’s all it takes. At least it got me out of the house. Without that, I have a feeling I would have laid in bed all day.

I was still beat by the time I got home. I received a call from a friend seeing if I would go out with her but I was done. I spent the evening writing and was passed out by midnight.

Tuesday (26 Feb 2013)

Tuesday sucked! After sleeping 10 hours it still took everything I had to get out of bed. I guess there was a high pollution count in the air. That may have made things worse. Fuck pollution  Not to mention, I had run out of coffee. How the hell did I let that happen? Oh yeah, sucky week so far.

The only thing I had to do was pick my daughter up from school at 3 pm. I did manage to do that but she was also having a really bad day. She just wanted me to take her back to he mother’s. I’m still glad I got to see her, even if only for a little bit.

In a way, I was relieved. This way I could just go home and get some more writing done. I stopped on the way to get tobacco and coffee, two things I neglected to pick up while out the day before. I also got some food for dinner since I hadn’t eaten all day.

At 8:15 pm I got a txt from a friend asking if she could call me. I had called her a couple of times over the past week or so and she was feeling bad about not getting back to me. I sent her a message back saying, “Call me. I’m just sitting at home writing.” [Actually I put two t’s in writing. I make that mistake a lot.]

We talked for a good hour but then I needed to get back to work. I finally got my post published just after midnight and headed to bed. There I got sucked into watching House of Cards on Netflix and didn’t actually fall asleep until 3 am.

Wednesday (27 Feb 2013)

Wednesday was my job day. I woke up a little later than I normal but not so late that I couldn’t get my route done in time. It just meant that I would run into a little more rush hour traffic at the end of the day but I skipped the morning rush hour traffic. Now that it is not getting dark so early I think it’s totally worth working later in the day.

I was still done by 4 pm or so. I called my friend to see if she would come in early for her restaurant job and hang out with me before punching in. I also called a mutual friend to join us. Good thing I did because friend #1 didn’t show up until it was time for her clock in. I would have been fine on my own. It’s just hard to see all the people I want to so sometimes I double book. I’m glad when I get to see at least one of them.

I ordered half a sandwich, soup and a beer. Shortly after, my friend showed up. I had not seen her since she got back from Florida so I was really eager to catch up. The whole time we were talking, I was eating and drinking my beer and she was just drinking the water I brought her. I was wondering why she wasn’t ordering anything. Was she not hungry? Was she not drinking? I didn’t want to pry but I was perplexed.

Then, through the course of our conversation, it became clear that she was not ordering anything because she couldn’t afford to order anything. I felt horrible. I could have at least offered her some of my soup or sandwich. In any case it would have been the polite thing to do.

Instead, I was selfish. I was treating myself after getting paid to a meal at a restaurant. It was the only real meal I would eat that day and I didn’t want to share. I was afraid to share. After six months of barely making it, I was afraid to be in that position again. I felt like I was splurging as it was and I didn’t have anything to spare.

But I did. I had money in my pocket. I could have at least bought her a beer. Instead I was a selfish dick. As bad as my financial situation was, her’s was worse. I made it through these past few months only because of the generosity of friends. Here was an opportunity for me give back and I blew it. There were other ways I could have helped that night but I kept over-thinking the situation, giving in to fear and not following my heart. Let me tell you, not honoring your core values feels really shitty.

I must have gotten home about 8 pm. I still wanted to get some writing done but I felt so far behind on my daily updates that I didn’t know where to start. Instead I decided to write my About page. I figured it was about time I had one of those.

Thursday (28 Feb 2013)

Getting out of bed on this particular morning was the worst it had been all week. For two hours I struggled. I would begin to get out of bed, roll half-way over and become too exhausted to continue. I would rest for another 10 – 15 minutes and try it again. I kept trying to entice myself with thoughts of coffee but in the end I just had to get all drill sergeant on my ass by tapping into my anger and frustration. I believe that chronic fatigue syndrome is primarily a condition of the brain but the brain is a pretty power piece of machinery.

About the only thing I accomplished during the day was writing my daily post which had nothing to do with my daily activities anyway. I did manage to get a shower in for the first this week but as a result I was running late to pick up my daughter from school.

When I got out to my van I discovered that my battery was completely dead. Some idiot had left the dome light on overnight. Okay, that idiot was me. Still, I was in a panic. A man a the end of the block was sitting in his car waiting to pick his daughter up from the bus. I asked him if he could give me a jump. I explained the urgency of my situation and he agreed to help. Unfortunately my jumper cables didn’t work for shit. We gave up and I realized I needed to get a hold of my daughter. It was ten to three and she would be out of class at 3 pm.

I didn’t even have the school’s phone number. My daughter’s phone has been lost in her apartment for over a month. I had no way to get a hold of her. I had to call her mother who started spewing so much information at me I could barely keep up and it just made me more frustrated as it got closer and closer to the time my daughter would be getting out of school. There was a time crunch here.

Anyway, I figured out what I needed to do. After some research online and a number of phone calls I finally got through to someone who could get a message to my daughter. She could go home with a friend and everything would be okay.

I still had to get my van running though. Normally I would just call AAA and someone would come give me a jump but I have already used up all my service calls until April. Yeah, I get my monies worth but now I was on my own. I couldn’t afford to call a service station to come give me a jump. I didn’t even know which of my friends to call so I turned to Facebook. Within 10 minutes I had two people offering to give me a jump. These were not even close friends, just people who knew of me and were able to help. It really made me feel like I was part of a community. I am so grateful for that!

Now with my van running I was just waiting to hear from my daughter so that I could go pick her up. I waited and waited. I sent a text message to her mother stating what I had done and that I hadn’t heard anything. I called the apartment but there was no answer. These are the moments a parent dreads, but I knew that they usually turn out just fine so I tried to remain calm. At 6:51 I called again and got my daughter on the phone. Her mother had picked her up. Relieved, I asked if she wanted me to come pick her up or if she wanted to stay there and I would see her the next day. She informed me that she had a doctor appointment in the morning so we decided I would pick her up after that and she could spend the night Friday.

I need to get this girl another cell phone. I can’t go through another day like that.

Friday (1 Mar 2013 – today)

I woke up today feeling pretty normal. I was excited to see my daughter. I was excited to get my life back on track. I made coffee, took my Vitamin D and got to work writing. I had a week’s worth of daily updates to write. Monday and Tuesday were pretty easy. I don’t know if you’ve notices but each day get’s progressively longer. I don’t know if that is because the passage of time gives me clarity or because I just fucking forget shit.

It’s now after one in the morning and I really need to get this done before I go to bed. I’m helping a friend move in the morning so I don’t want to spend all night doing this. Let’s see if I can be brief. This is already my longer post I’ve ever written.

At 10:09 am, as I’m exiting the freeway, I get a call from my ex-wife saying that my daughter is done with her appointment. I told her I was 2 minutes away and would pick her up at the main door of the hospital. When I got there my ex told me that she was going to miss her bus to class and asked if I could drive her to the bus stop. I love my ex-wife, as I love all people, but I really can’t stand being around her. Still, I know that if I can help someone I need to help them so I drove her to her class.

The next thing that needed to happen was to get my daughter a cell phone. We drove to World of Wireless. I’ve had some good experiences with them before but I think they are now way over-priced. A new place opened two doors down that is cheaper but my daughter and I both though we could do better.

We headed back to my house to check Craigslist and eBay. We had some fun bidding on eBay but didn’t win. Then it was time to run off for her chiropractic appointment.

When we returned I checked the mail and found my State tax refund check. We went back to eBay and bought a brand new phone, the same kind she lost, for $75.

We talked, had a snack, played a game, made dinner, watched TED Talks and a movie and whenever she was distracted with her own activities I would try to get some more writing done. That didn’t really work. Even when she is doing her own thing she could still manage to interrupt what I was doing. As well she should. I don’t see her that much and she loves her dad and she is absolutely my priority. We just need to work out some boundaries and mutual respect. She has a blog that she is working on as well. We will work it out in our own way. I just don’t think she has much experience with these things. So I sent her to bed at midnight and now I think I’m done.

In the news this week…

Minnesota introduced a bill that would remove the prohibition on same-sex marriage. After defeating an attempt to change the constitution to legalize this kind of discrimination I believe now is the time to end it once and for all.

Chuck Hagal was confirmed as Secretary of Defense. I think this is a very good thing too. Even though he is a Republican, I believe he is a man of principles and integrity.  That means more to me than whether we agree or not on all the issues. Unfortunately the congressional Republicans don’t see life that way…

…and so we have enter into sequestration.

 

 

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