The Supreme Court ruled 8-to-1 that the endlessly fascinating Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, a (very, very ) small family-invented “church,” has a Constitutional right to show up at military funerals carrying signs saying that God hated the dead soldier and wanted him/her dead. They’re free to do this providing they adhere to various local ordinances regarding permits and maintaining the legal distances from the funeral & etc., just like any other group that wishes to picket or protest on public streets.
Judge Alioto dissented on the point that “fighting words” are not protected. Then noted that “Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.”
Clearly, he’s wrong about that. Americans LOVE vicious verbal assaults. Always have. And while such assaults used to be held on the looney fringe and ignored by polite society, our present Twittered/Facebooked society has brought vicious out into the open. For better or for worse.
But like all the often dark unconscious matter roiling around inside our poisonous souls, “vicious verbal assaults” can serve to illuminate a great deal. Which is why I find the Westboro crowd (Weirdly Gay-Obsessed Preacher Daddy and his adoring Daughter) absolutely refreshing. Their fascinating obsession with all things homosexual mirrors what many more “reputable” religious organizations also believe but are too polite to say outright . While many mainstream Christian churches are weaseling around with the old “God hates the sin not the sinner” rhetoric, the Westboro Duo get straight to the heart of the matter. God hates fags. Right there in the Bible. Period, end of discussion.
And if you believe in the absolute inerrancy of the Holy Book, (and/or if you’re weirdly gay-obsessed like Preacher Daddy) your lines are clearly drawn. At military funerals, you have a choice: Stand with the Westboro crowd or stand across the street holding a sign saying, “Uh, what’s up with the Gay Obsession thing anyway?”
Doesn’t get any clearer than that. And, thanks to the Supreme Court, the right to decide which side of the street to stand on remains clear as well.
Interesting article in today’s New York Times, “Teachers Wonder, Why the Scorn?” The protests in Wisconsin and elsewhere have certainly highlighted the contempt for “government employees” by non-government folk, among which is a constant leitmotif of the lazy, overpaid, glorified babysitters formerly known as “teachers.”
Not a new article of faith, but a conservative mantra that’s being played again for all its worth: Public schools are a waste of money, teachers are crappy (except for MY kid’s teacher, who is terrific), privatize the schools, de-unionize the teachers and the country will soon be filled with brilliantly educated kids at half the price.
Nice fake dream and useful for whipping up the resentful masses du jour who wonder where their jobs went, where their paychecks went, where their futures went. (Don’t bother pointing them in the direction of Wall Street or advise them to take a peek at tax breaks for Corporate off-shoring.) Nope, kick the teachers because they think they’re better than us laid-off, low-information schnooks who are now sinking out of the middle class and into the hard soup of the working poor. And beyond into the ranks of the “permanently poor.”
While this meme is being dredged up for political purposes, it’s not a new theme. Americans have long had a love/hate relationship to “book larnin’” and “schoolmarms” and “pointy-headed intellectuals” of all stripes. In short, America holds them in low esteem – unless they’re also rich. Then they’re admired, not for their intellectual gifts but for their money, while their intellectual gifts breed nothing but resentment: He thinks he’s smarter ’n me.
All of which keeps America heading for the bottom, our kids poorly schooled and testing near the bottom of the heap on international math and science scores. None of which should come as a surprise: You don’t get good results from things you do not value and/or actively scorn. If being smart isn’t cool and being dumb is, then you’ll aspire to achieving Dumbness.
Thus does American class-resentment meets America’s political “paranoid style” meets Tom Sawyer’s anti-intellectualism. So, kick a teacher today, then wonder where your and your kids future went.