Sunday, March 13, 2011

As It Stands: Recognizing when not to 'die' over an issue

By Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard

Posted: 03/13/2011 01:27:28 AM PST

Have you ever heard the phrase, “It's not worth dying for?” Basically, it means there's no use getting stressed out over things when you're the one who will suffer.

Not that politician who angered you. Not that jerk who cut you off on the freeway. Not that clown who claimed to be pious but was actually a child molester. You're the one who will suffer the consequences of increased blood pressure or heart attack when your anger gets the best of you.

I had to remind myself of that when I heard the Supreme Court's decision to allow the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) to continue picketing Army funerals. Watching that hate group taunt the families of dead American servicemen on TV practically sent me through the roof!

For days, I fumed over the decision, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was the only decision the justices could make. Free speech was challenged and had to be upheld, regardless of how hateful that speech was. It still hit me hard.

As a Vietnam veteran (Army) I looked at the decision with biased eyes. Gut reaction. Those fallen men and women were my brothers and sisters, and the WBC is allowed to mock their deaths. To disrupt a sacred ritual of comfort for the living over their loss. How wrong was that?

Matthew Snyder was killed in Iraq in 2006 and his funeral was picketed by Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church, Albert Snyder, Matthew's father, told Katie Couric on CBS News.

He also said, “When the government won't do anything about it, and the courts give us no remedy, then people are going to start taking matters into their own hands. And believe me, someone is going to get hurt. And when the blood starts flowing, let it be on the Supreme Court Justices' hands.”

I feel Albert Snyder's pain. I didn't lose a son but I felt like the whole world was turned upside down, and wrong was right. The bad guys won. Chaos was creeping nearer. Then I heard Tom Brokaw say something that really struck a chord with me. He mentioned the veteran groups that were attending military funerals to shield the families from Phelps and his minions.

If anything, the WBC has caused attendance to increase at military funerals across the nation. The fallen are actually getting more recognition for their sacrifices than before the WBC started their vile campaign against them.

For years, I've read about low attendance at military funerals. They even had a hard time finding people to play taps and used tape recordings instead. The services were generally confined to immediate family and friends, in spite of being open to the public.

Look at what's happening now. Hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of strangers are going to military funerals to show their respect and solidarity against those who would profane such a sacred event. I wouldn't be surprised to see even more dramatic increase in attendance after the WBC promised to “quadruple” their demonstrations after the court's decision.

The mistake Albert Snyder makes is he's prepared to “die over something” that's not wrong according to our Constitution. The WBC is morally wrong, without a doubt, but the court can't use that as factor in its decision for freedom of speech. Hopefully, Snyder can take some solace since his son's funeral brought about an awareness of military deaths. The public needs to be reminded that Americans are dying in our never-ending wars. Matthew Snyder's legacy is that he died fighting for his country and his funeral became a wake-up call for America.

Violence at military funerals, as Snyder suggested may happen, is not the answer. Violence is never the answer. The Supreme Court's decision was the right one. Threatening the WBC members will accomplish nothing and will only keep them in the spotlight they crave.

To put things in perspective, a small cult/church is spewing hateful messages and will do or say anything to get attention. Most of the country disagrees with them, and the end result is an awareness of military deaths and a reaffirmation of free speech.

As It Stands, few things in life are really worth “dying for,” and the ability to recognize that means a longer and happier life.


Jendocino said...

LOVE this, Dave. I don't know if you got it or not, but I sent you an email a few weeks ago linking to a community who had lost one of their local sons in Iraq. There was going to be a "demonstration" at the soldier's funeral by a branch of one of the hate groups you mention, but the community prevented it by attending the soldier's funeral in such huge numbers that they blocked the streets for almost a mile. As a result, the hate group couldn't get anywhere near the cemetery and church. I was utterly moved as I read the story, as I am by your piece here. Thank you for posting. Now THAT'S what I call freedom of speech.

Jocko said...

"Gimme that old time religion......"