Wednesday, March 2, 2011

At This Point, God May Indeed Hate America: When Forming a "Dead Zone" May Be The Only Solution

The Life of Religious Hate  
and The Death of Decency

"Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and - as it did here - inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker," Roberts said. "As a nation we have chosen a different course - to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate."
"Public Debate" - has Fred Phelps and his clan ever had a "public debate" with America? Mindless hate can only debate with its opposite - meaningful love. And while Fred Phelps has always garnered the public's attention, America's "Church" has never really stepped up to the podium for that debate. We will hear an almost deafening chorus of "Although we abhor what Phelps does, we applaud the Court's decision."

A cowardly statement. A statement filled with relief. A statement filled with satisfaction. Free speech trumps hate speech.

Another chorus we will hear: "Phelps isn't really Christian. He certainly doesn't speak for us who are." We've heard that one before. Too little, too late: Phelps' rants have gotten notoriety for over 15 years, but few have ever actually chastised him in public. How many "faith-based" pickets have ever graced the outside of Westboro Baptist Church? How many have taken out ads in local or national papers denouncing Phelps' deeds? Not enough. When have the Baptist conclaves attempted to legally remove the name "Baptist" from Westboro Church? None that I know of. 

America's denominations and non-denominational churches have always done more harm to America by NOT saying anything, by NOT doing anything. I saw the results of their indolence in the faces of AIDS victims streaming into San Francisco. It was definitely passive/aggressive behavior on the part of the Christian Right.

Interestingly, as of this writing, neither the FRC nor the AFA have commented on the decision. As of 8:30PM (EST), when I googled Phelps ruling response, the only ones to come up were:

Democratic Underground
Free Republic
and The Moderate Voice

The response from the ACLU:
“The Court’s decision properly and respectfully acknowledges the Snyder family’s grief. But it correctly holds that the response to that grief cannot include the abandonment of core First Amendment principles designed to protect even the most unpopular speech on matters of public concern.”
The response from the Phelps clan was predictably giddy and dire at the same time:

"A leader of the Westboro Baptist Church told reporters Wednesday that the congregation would "quadruple" the number of funeral protests in the wake of a ruling by the Supreme Court.
"Let me tell you what this church does: Shut up all that talk about infliction of emotional distress..,When you're standing there with your young child's body bits and pieces in a coffin, you've been dealt some emotional distress by the Lord your God"
As is sometimes the case with her, Sarah Palin got defiantly confused and combined two parts of the First Amendment in her tweet about the decision:

This coming from a woman who was "anointed" by a "witch hunter" from Uganda. 

Speaking of freedoms, and what America will allow and not allow, the decision has paved the way for what I've called EMOTIONAL VANDALISM: that is the right to mar or disfigure in any way people's emotional state when faced with personal grief. While the Phelps clan believed that the funeral of Matthew Snyder was public, it was not: most invitations to funerals begin with the statement "For those wishing to pay their respects." The event of a funeral, whether lavish or plain, is the physical and emotional property of the deceased's loved ones presiding at the funeral. Again, the primary purpose of the Phelps' protest was not "public discourse," but to inflict true pain, true emotional distress on the loved ones. It was vicious and performed with malice-of-forethought. There are many churches in this country that have wished they could go as far as Fred Phelps, but have not dared to because of the possibility of misusing freedom of speech. 

They no long need to fear: they will be free to disrupt solemn gatherings and inflict as much emotional pain on others as they want. This case will bring out an impertinent plethora of screamers with placards coming dangerously to violence - violence which they may want to incite for purposes of publicity.

The "Dead Zone" Proposal

I've long thought about how to handle Phelps and his kind, but the answer always came back: the most effective disciplinarian would be the Christian Right itself. OK. Fat chance. But please hear this one out. The Christian Right is very fond of boycotting businesses that commerce with or support "evil" groups or even specific people. The one glaring fault of their tactics is that they have never, ever used them to censure - or "shun" - one of their own. Of course they don't view Phelps as Christian, let alone one of their own. But perhaps it's time for self- monitoring to give them the credibility they lack. A strong stance against the Westboro Baptist Church would tell the rest of the country churches will do more than just pay lip service to "righteousness." Let them take a small area around the Phelps's physical sphere (say 5 miles) and warn all the businesses that they will be picketed if they continue to provide services to the Westboro Baptist Church. After all, like many things the Church disapproves of, if someone's actions are "legal", they can still be immoral. I'm sure this has been proffered before, but if someone like Rick Warren (who still needs some good PR and has said that "God tells us to do away with evil-doers") were to spearhead a protest and boycott of nearby grocery stores, banks, ATMs, drug stores, gas stations, clothing stores on religious grounds ("it's against our religion to give succor to the devil"), Westboro would find out what life is like without even minimum support. Afterwards, the boycott could be expanded to all services the Phelps could receive via the internet. They would be busy with lawsuits, of course, but that's part of the strategy: they couldn't "quadruple" their efforts if they're too busy with legal briefs. 

It's time that America's religious community "quadruples" its actions in calling Fred Phelps immoral. And the churches of Topeka, KS must be tired of defending themselves, explaining to people that they are not hate groups. 

It's all rather draconian, of course, this concept of creating a "Dead Zone" around Phelps, this update of traditional "shunning"* but is there a better idea? His family can't hold picket signs if he can't get them printed up (or get his printer serviced). He can't travel much anywhere without gas. Shirley Phelps-Roper would have to go miles outside the compound to shop for groceries. 

One church's activism against another church on moral grounds is not new. The bickerings witnessed by the rest of the world are always seen as titanic clashes by their own congregations. They have been able, however to set those differences aside in favor of unison against what they think is an extreme evil. So isn't it about time churches set aside their consternation for gay marriage and abortion against a force doing evil under their very noses and insulting God by calling it "Christian?"

It is a challenge. And, dare I say it, a moral one at that.

* a concept as old as religion itself. 

Who Is Frances Fox Piven and Why Do Phyllis Schlafley and Glenn Beck Want Her Beheaded?

This story has "Righteous Assassination" written all over it!

Although her name's certainly not Alice, Francis Fox Piven  seems to have fallen down a rabbit hole and has found herself deep in  Right WingNutLand, with Phyllis Schlafley, the Queen of Draconian Hearts calling "Off with her head!!" 

The frumious mess all started out with Glenn Beck (must it always start with him?). He started to link Ms. Piven to the nastiest things imaginable: social justice and the lot. He named so very many nasty things that Ms. Piven has gotten tons of ... death threats. 

Seriously. Death threats. For which he steadfastly refuses to apologize for. And the threats can be quite easily be linked to him because they've always increased every time he's mentioned her on his program. They are a barometer of hate, if you will. 

So who is Frances Fox Pivon and why do Glenn Beck and (by extension) Phyllis Schlafley want her off the planet?

Frances Fox Piven was born (1932) in Calgary, Alberta Canada of Russian immigrant parents who, when she was one year old, moved to the U.S. and became a naturalized citizen in 1952. She received her B.A. in city planning, her M.A. and Ph.D. all from the University of Chicago. 
She married Richard Cloward and the two collaborated on a small article for
The Nation magazine in 1966. It was titled: "The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty" It advocated encouraging the country's poor to take full advantage of all welfare programs, in order to "weigh" the system down, thereby forcing reforms to the system and lead to a guaranteed annual income. Although the Nation was, at the time, a very small publication, the article gained ground in sociological circles and the strategy came to be known as the "Cloward-Piven strategy." 
Her career as a sociologist and political scientist was highlighted by efforts such as founding Human SERVE (Service Employees Registration and Voter Education). And her writings on poverty (with Cloward) such as Regulating the Poor, Why Americans Don't Vote,  and Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America. 
In 2006-07, she served as President of the American Sociological Association.
Her awards include: (from wikipedia)

When most people see Frances Fox Piven's curriculum vitae, they are astonished that they've never heard of her. Which may also be the reason Glenn Beck smells treachery and treason: Piven must be a kind of secretive socialist-anarchist. Look at her career and wards once more. Now think of what associations Beck has latched on to:

Russian immigrants  (Commie-pinko Russkies!)
University of Chicago (a veritable hotbed of leftist - horrors! - intellectuals!)
An article in The Nation (incendiary, at  the very least!)
A TIDES FOUNDATION award! (they love her leftist little heart!)
(What a good thing patriot Beck discovered her when he did!)

The latest news in this horrendous contract out on Piven is her denunciation by none other than America's Rethuglican Sweetheart, Phyllis Schlafley. View the short video below and see just how, in a minute's time, Schlafley can render the coup de gras on Piven. The irony in Schlafly's speech is that she too created controversey - but at the other end of the political spectrum: In 2008, Washington University (St. Louis) produced a slate of honorary doctorates to be bestowed during commencement. The appearance of Ms. Schlafley on that slate caused a degree of consternation:

Students and professors contributed to the award controversey:
Fourteen university law professors wrote in a complaint letter that Schlafly's career demonstrated "anti-intellectualism in pursuit of a political agenda."
In other words, they thought Phyllis was too radically Right Wing (as well as stupid) to receive an award.

Both Schlafley and Beck now claim that Piven turned Obama into a socialist. A McCarthy-ite witch hunt can't be very far away. In the meantime, Piven still receives death threats every time Beck mentions her.* And he cavalierly eschews any thoughts of righteous assassination. Byron Williams may be in jail ...

but there are more where he came from. 

*I wonder if the threats are sent through the mail or if they're via email. If they're sent via snail mail, there may be some money to be made in this sad story - buy stock in Crayola!