September Column Winner

Community's heart trumps hate

Dyrinda Tyson-Jones, Mustang News

It's never good news when Westboro Baptist Church rolls into town — but you don't need me to tell you that. Westboro members link the misery in the world to what they consider America's casual acceptance of homosexuality.
To make that point, they take their dog and- pony show across the country, brandishing signs that might make the princes of high taste on "Jackass" turn away and wince.
Westboro Baptist Church feeds on grief and publicity, seeking out stages large and small to sate their collective appetite.
They gathered outside the memorial service for TV's Mr. Rogers in 2003, a ripped American flag underfoot. They picketed at Elizabeth Edwards' funeral last year, siding firmly with the cancer that killed her. And earlier this year the idea of the Westboro clown car pulling up to the funeral for a little girl killed in a Tucson shooting spree sent Arizona lawmakers into overdrive. They managed to craft, pass and sign into law a bill creating a "funeral protection law" banning protests within 300 yards of a service — all in record time, all with nary squawk about First Amendment rights. Emotion may have trumped constitutionality for the day.
And military funerals. They love military funerals.
Members exercise their constitutionally protected right to free speech — reaffirmed by a Supreme Court ruling in March — by waving their usual signs and thanking God for dead troops, dealing a double blow to families already struggling with grief and pain.
How do you face such hate?
You do what people here did Monday. As the family and friends of Sgt. Mycal Prince gathered at the Bridge AG to say one last, long, sad goodbye, crowds lined both sides of state Highway 152 near the church. Some came with signs, some with flags and some with simple respect.
Prince, a Minco police officer in civilian life, died Sept. 15 in Afghanistan during his third tour of duty. Many of the people who lined the street Monday also turned out last week as Prince's journey across the world neared its end in a motorcade bearing his casket through town. And some of the faces along the way that day reflected genuine pain.
Lives snatched away too soon are never easy to contemplate. "God's will" just can't encompass it.
Americans disagree on so much right now, including just whose god is in the driver's seat, but we all seem to come together when it comes to Westboro Baptist Church. That may be their sole redeeming quality — they unite Americans in disgust.
Westboro's message is ugly, their penchant for self-promotion far outstrips any biblical concepts they might espouse, and they find no friends as they go from town to town. They elicited no love here either, with less-than-cordial sentiments bellowed back and forth Monday as law enforcement struggled to keep both sides contained.
But that scene was dwarfed by the larger crowd swelling along state Highway 152, watching and waiting, flags and signs in hand. Most of us probably didn't know Mycal Prince personally, but we all respect and mourn the sacrifice his family has to bear. And we all understand one thing, beautifully and simply expressed in a sign a woman held up out there Monday: GOD LOVES ALL.
That's how you face the hate. You smother it in love.

2 comments (Add your own)

1. India wrote:
I thought I'd have to read a book for a dsiceorvy like this!

Sun, January 15, 2012 @ 8:32 PM

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