…is apparently not good for the soldiers.
As reported in this article from the New York Times, 31 states have either passed or are considering legislation that restricts demonstrations at a funeral or burial. Additionally, Congress is expected to address the issue of protests at federal cemetaries. This legislation stems largely from responses to the most recent disgusting behavior of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Cult, I mean, Church. It seems that Phelps and his despicable cohorts got tired of spewing their virulent homophobia at the funerals of queer folks; now, they’ve taken up conducting similar demonstrations of hatred at the funerals of american soldiers who were killed in Iraq. In their truly twisted logic, soldiers are dying because of the wickedness of american society, which has apparently embraced queer folks. Funny, I didn’t get the memo letting me know that we’re no longer largely maligned and discrminated against by american society and law. Wonder how we missed that one.
So, in turn, politicians are turning towards legislation to limit the effect that these protests can have on grieving families.
“Repugnant, outrageous, despicable, do not adequately describe what I feel they do to these families,” said Representative Steve Buyer, an Indiana Republican who is a co-sponsor of a Congressional bill to regulate demonstrations at federal cemeteries. “They have a right to freedom of speech. But someone also has a right to bury a loved one in peace.”
“I haven’t seen something like this,” said David L. Hudson Jr., research attorney for the First Amendment Center, referring to the number of state legislatures reacting to the protests. “It’s just amazing. It’s an emotional issue and not something that is going to get a lot of political opposition.”
Now, don’t get me wrong – I think that what these people are doing is disgusting and, while I worry about laws that infringe upon first amendment rights to free speech, I do think that people have the right to mourn their loved ones without having to endure such harassment. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be a grieving friend or family member and to see these fuckers desecrating your loved one’s memory. Well, I’d probably feel something like Jonathan Anstey, who spoke to the Times about his experience at his friend’s funeral: “It’s hurtful and it’s taking a lot of willpower not to go down there and stomp their heads in.”
Yet still, I can’t help but think: where was all the outrage when Phelps and company were pulling the same awful bullshit at the funerals of queer people? I didn’t see much outcry (outside of the queer community, of course) when that was going on, and they’d been at it for nearly a decade before they started picketing soldiers’ funerals. There was certainly not this remarkably widespread political response. There were no vets on motorcycles circling the families and trying to shield them from the awful chanting and sign-waving, as there are at the soldiers’ funerals.
And why is that? Did those queer folks, some of whom died of AIDS, deserve to die more than the soldiers did, by virtue of their sexuality? Did their families not deserve to grieve in peace as much as the families of the soldiers? Were their memories less sacred and less deserving of dignity than those of these soldiers?
Of course, my answers to those questions are no, no, and no. But I can’t help but take away that, for many of the politicians and other people taking action now, the answers would be yes.