We’ve come to expect certain responses to a horrific event like the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords, the Democratic representative to Congress who represented much of Tucson, Ariz.
Some call for more gun restrictions. Others, paradoxically, call for yet more people to carry guns (to take out all those carrying guns). The left blames the right. The right blames the left. Pundits agonize over the "culture of violence" in this country.
And the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., announces it will picket one of the victim’s funerals. The church, which is entirely (yes, entirely) comprised of relatives of "Rev." Fred Phelps Jr., first came to prominence when its members picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the gay Laramie, Wyo., student left to die on a fence.
Since then, they have made quite a name for themselves with their "God hates fags" and "God hates America" protest signs. When it looked as though they were losing traction in the media, they stepped up their protests from anti-gay to anti-soldier.
The Phelps clan began picketing funerals of soldiers murdered in the Middle Eastern wars. One man’s father sued, and the case has yet to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, where most observers expect it to be on the docket.
Phelps & Co. have also been traveling to various synagogues to add anti-Semitism to their seemingly endless list of pet hates.
Now, Phelps & family have once again tried to grab the spotlight with their well-oiled hate machine. They announced they will picket the funeral of Christina Greene, age 9, who was gunned down in the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson.
Fred Phelps Sr. in a YouTube announcement (below), tells us, "Thank god for the violent shooter, one of Your soldier heroes in Tucson. God appointed the Afghanistan veteran to avenge himself on this evil nation. However many are dead, Westboro will picket their funerals."
It should probably be noted that the accused gunman was rejected from the military according to all news reports. But to Phelps, the gunman was retribution for the veterans who have hounded his organization at funerals and at home.
Congresswoman Giffords was shot because she opposed Westboro, according to Phelps. In his eyes, it’s apparently all about Westboro. He also mentions the federal judge who died -- again, it was because of his decision somehow affecting Westboro.
He does approve of Sarah Palin’s map with Giffords in what many see as a rifle’s crosshairs, although he condemns her for cowardice for taking the map down after the shootings.
In the most bizarre response to Phelps’ announcement, the ultra-right Hillbuzz attributed Phelps hatred to his being registered as a Democrat. Throughout the blog item about the planned picket, the blog writer continually refers to "Democrat Phelps" and his apparently close relationship to, of all people, Al Gore.
EDGE Editor-in-Chief Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early ’80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).