How we should react to Fred Phelps' death
Since the news broke of the death of the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church I've seen countless Facebook posts, tweets, and Reddit comments, and images about the subject (see below).
People have posted about picketing his funeral, harassing his family and desecrating his grave.
Reactions like these, so vitriolic and cruel, make me sad.
Because I know we have the capacity to be better than this as a society.
I know that we can take the pain and confusion that the members of the WBC made us feel and let it go. We can understand that these people, however much they may have tried to hurt us or people that we love, don't deserve anything but our sympathy.
If we feel the need to react at all (and honestly, most of us shouldn't) we should make a point to be thankful that someone who was clearly so hateful and spread such sadness doesn't feel the need to do so anymore, and that whatever was raging inside him that caused him to lash out at the rest of the world in the way that he did is now silent.
One of my favourite quotes on the matter is from the always-wise George Takei:
"Today, Mr. Phelps may have learned that God, in fact, hates no one. Vicious and hate-filled as he was, may his soul find the kind of peace through death that was so plainly elusive during his life.
I take no solace or joy in this man's passing. We will not dance upon his grave, nor stand vigil at his funeral holding "God Hates Freds" signs, tempting as it may be.
He was a tormented soul, who tormented so many. Hate never wins out in the end. It instead goes always to its lonely, dusty end."
In the end, it is our actions that define us. They defined Fred Phelps, and they will continue to define the members of the Westboro Baptist Church.
It is at moments like these when many of us are able to make a defining choice: do we engage in hate-speak, condemning a man that most of us have never met? Or do we take the higher moral ground, and act like members of a civilized society?
I'd like to think that most of us will do the latter.