Dissent vs. Distastefulness

Contributed by the misplacedmtnman

The Supreme Court case involving the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, caught my attention recently. Sure, it’s a landmark case dealing with the First Amendment, a direct challenge to free speech protections and all that, but there’s actually an easy, common-sense way to adjudicate this so-called “Right to Say Anything I Want.”

Members of this radical religious group think it is their Christian duty to show up at the funerals of American soldiers who have been killed in combat, antagonistically bearing signs with slogans such as “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “You’re Going to Hell!” Casualties incurred in Iraq and Afghanistan are, as these nut-jobs claim, God’s punishment for the United States’ sins of homosexuality and abortion.

But as the old adage goes, “Opinions are like buttholes – everybody’s got one.” I believe the crux of the free speech argument is that although we all have a right to speak – even offensively – no one has the right to scream their free speech into the ears of those who do not wish to listen. You have a right to your own opinion, but others have a right to not give a crap and ignore you. Please get out of my face and leave me alone.

This reminds me of the infamous bumper sticker that liberals rushed out to paste onto the rears of their cars to demonstrate their superior opposition to “Bush’s War on Terror” (which they promptly removed when these same military actions were relabeled “Obama’s Overseas Contingency Operation”). The sticker, which I always read with a condescending Thurston-Howell-the-Third-voice, said “DISSENT IS PATRIOTIC.” At this my silent thought was always, “Yes, but being an anti-American snot-nose is not.”

To me there is a difference between offering an intelligent voice of opposition and simply acting like an attention-seeking jerk. That is the discernible “fine line” I hope the Supreme Court will determine has been crossed by these lunatics who think military funerals are the ideal opportunity for staging their insensitive, misguided protests.

You want to preach against homosexuality and abortion? Fine. Preach away in your own pulpit, and let people decide for themselves whether they want to come and listen to you.* Write a letter to the editor, start a newsletter, design a web site or call up talk shows on the radio. But just because this is your stalwart position on these issues does not give you the right to act offensively directly in the face of others trying to avoid you. Hold your rally elsewhere. Nobody is saying you can’t carry your controversial signs and act like an imbecilic brat, just do it someplace else. Maybe God does hate fags, as you so loudly proclaim, but I think he dislikes Christians who do mean and hurtful things in His name even more so.

Even the liberally-minded Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioned the funeral-protesters’ motives, saying, “This is a case of exploiting a private family’s grief.” Exactly. The key word there is private. You want to protest the military? That’s fine, but a private family’s funeral service is not the venue, dude.

Now if we could only get Justice Ginsburg to offer a similar opinion concerning detainees at Gitmo. I get the feeling she is only siding against the so-called “Christians” because of their religion. If they converted over to Islam they’d have it made.

But back to my main point: You want to protest the war? March away. Wave your signs. You want to do it by dressing in all pink and camping out on the front door of the President’s private residence? Oops, now you’ve lost me. You have now become a weirdo extremist. You want to raise awareness about the casualties of our entanglements overseas by writing a critical magazine article? Okay. Have at it. You want to include photos of the body bags as they are off-loaded at the airport? Nope. Now you’ve crossed over the line into schmuckdom. You want to demonstrate your outrage at Islamofascist terrorism? [ding!] Good for you! By burning Korans? [bzzzz!] Bad idea. You want to exercise your First Amendment right to oppose abortion? I wholly support you. You want to accomplish this by holding up englarged graphic images of aborted fetuses? Holy crud, now I’m just going to puke on your shoes.

The issue here is not so much free speech as it is the manner in which that speech is delivered. In the case of the Westboro Wacko Baptists, I would think we could all agree that it isn’t their message we wish to silence, it’s their attitude that is offensive and hateful. They’re not being bold and patriotic, and certainly not godly. They’re just being jerks. Anyone with common sense can see that.

This, might I dare venture to add, also applies to the “Ground Zero Mosque” debate: You want to build a mosque? Fine! At Ground Zero? I don’t think so, a-hole.
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*Note: Some preachers can even shout “G.D. America!” and still maintain a sizable congregation (including a future president and First Lady!). Sorry. That was really uncalled-for.

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3 Comments to “Dissent vs. Distastefulness”

  1. I enjoyed this article and completely agreed with it, Jeremiah. Great article!!

  2. Thanks for a thought-provoking (or encapsulating) belly laugh. I needed that.

  3. This ever increasing outlandishness of freedom of speech demonstrations is a result of ever decreasing opportunities to discuss things civilly. Our population is isolated households that don’t talk to their neighbors but talk to friends hundreds of miles away. There are very few places where people can gather without shelling out twenty bucks or more just to have a discussion with someone. So, we join a flashy band of agitated people.

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