A lot can be said about Westboro Baptist Church. Despicable, cruel, objects of disgust, the lowest form of humanity, the list goes on. But none of this really compares to the one thing about them that is of note, particularity to those of us in America, and that is... patriotic.
I know that this will come as a surprise to most, maybe even upset a lot of people, especially considering that WBC often protest the funerals of fallen American Soldiers, these same soldiers who are believed to be examples of true patriotism. So for many Americans, this comparison will be very upsetting but it nonetheless needs to be said.
What does it mean to be a patriot?
Well a patriot is someone who feels strong support for their country, and in this particular case that country is America. This definition only raises more questions. What does it mean to feel strong support for America, is it simply blind admiration for our government and its officials, or is it unrelenting support for our troops engaged in combat, or is it something more?
The answer is, and must be, more. Because America is not just a collection individuals governing a nation, or an army of American citizens killing in the name OF that nation. America is, and must be, the ideals that this country was built upon, because ideals last longer than politicians, ideals last longer than wars.
But what does any of this have to do with WBC? Fair question, it has EVERYTHING to do with WBC.
The foundation of America is the right to free expression, often called free speech, it is this, the first amendment to the constitution that shaped our country It was first specifically because it is the right, that guarantees all other rights. I am reminded of a quote I once heard, though I cannot remember from where:
If I had to lose all of my rights, save one, then I would keep freedom of expression, because it is through this right that I can regain all that I lost.
The most important thing to remember is that freedom of speech is built on principle to protect unpopular speech in all its forms, because tyrants always want to control speech and cater it to their own ends, and nothing is more unpopular to tyrants than voices speaking in opposition to cruel and unjust acts.
When WBC protests the funeral of a fallen solider, regardless of how anyone feels about the act itself, that act IS a form of expression, a form a speech. Yes, it absolutely is cruel, and horrible, add the anguish and sorrow of the families that lost a son, brother, father, makes it even worse.
The pain felt by the families though cannot stand in opposition to something much greater than the loss of a loved one, who, gave their life to uphold a set of ideals, it is the very act of individual sacrifice of countless Americans that makes these ideals so great.
This brings me to my point. Who has truly done the greater harm to the memory of a fallen solider, is it the radical church group engaging and exercising that very right this solider died to defend?
Or is it the families and communities who, through their anguish, strip away and remove the right that their son, brother, father, died to defend and uphold?
To do the former is a celebration of that sacrifice.
To do the latter is to render the sacrifice in vain.
Thomas Jefferson once said:
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants
If the constitution is like the tree of liberty, then the roots of that tree are the first amendment. To rip out the roots, kills the entire tree.
This forces us to except that freedom is a hard and bitter pill to swallow, and that in order to preserve that freedom, then we must learn to be OK with hearing things that may shock us to our very core, that WBC protests the funeral of fallen soldiers only makes the necessary burden of upholding the inalienable right to free expression ever more clear.
And this is why Westboro Babtist Church matters.
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