Graf: Hate breeds hate

BY L.C. GRAF | MARCH 26, 2014 5:00 AM

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When I was in the sixth grade, a guy in my class hit me in the face with a dodge ball. In turn, I hit him in the face with a rock (that’s right, Mrs. Roberts, he knew it, I knew it, it wasn’t that kid David after all).

The most important thing was: I never got caught.

The second most important thing was learning this: Two wrongs don’t make a right.

On March 19, Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, passed away. The response online was a general sigh of relief and then a plethora of all-caps-lock-ridden threats and warnings that people across the country were going to picket his funeral. I won’t lie, I wanted to go out for a few beers, celebrate the death of one more hater in the world, and throw an all-out party … But, I didn’t. Even though Phelps is the epitome of everything I dislike about the world, somewhere in my deep cold heart, I felt some sympathy. It is 2014, yet people are still discriminating based on race, gender, profession … We have touchscreen computers and phones that can talk to us, and we personalize everything down to our shoelaces. But, in the 21st century, Phelps was controlled by his need to hurt others that weren’t just like him. He was a man who couldn’t accept love. He couldn’t accept that despite a nonconformist society, we are all the same inside.

Phelps was obsessed. He was dedicated to berating the LGBTQA+ community; he dedicated himself to protesting funerals of soldiers. He brought hatred and fear into the minds of his grandchildren and extended family members. He pushed away those closest to him, including his own children, many of whom left the church. He was an equal-opportunity bigot, stressing that everyone in America was doomed for Satan’s lair. In the end, he was left excommunicated from his own cult creation because he wanted “kinder treatment” among members.

He stood against the one thing that makes the country so great, the very idea that “all (peoples) are created equal.” And yes, I know, that there are things such as privilege and oppression that hold us back from this. Fred Phelps was a part of that. And that’s where my sympathy is. Here was a person that had a strong influence over a group of people, and he turned them toward hate. That does not mean that we should excuse people such as him. It is one thing to be saddened; it is another thing to turn a blind eye. I hope that Phelps’ passing makes a statement to the members of his church. I hope that instead of seeing signs that read “GOD HATES FRED PHELPS,” his family sees more signs that say “SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS.”

There will always be Fred Phelpses in the world, no matter how hard we try to eliminate them. And it is always so unfortunate to me, that, rather than living your own life and choosing your own path, people want to control and hurt others for their own decisions. I grieve for him, and I grieve for his family and those who follow his teachings. It is better to move forward than to react with anger; we shouldn’t give room for others to validate hatred.

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