The Obamas have done their best to keep their daughters out of the political limelight, to ensure that they have as normal as possible of a childhood. They have kept the press away from the girls. Michelle Obama in particular has viciously defended her daughters and even sent an official letter, asking for the production of dolls named Sasha and Malia to end.
The Phelps family of the Westboro Baptist church have become famous by protesting at military funerals. They believe that the wars that the US is engaged in, and the terrorist attacks of 9/11, are a punishment by God for the tolerance of homosexuality, which they view as sin. They even went as far as to protest the funeral of Matthew Sheppard who was murdered for being gay. They are staunchly anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-Obama. The Phelps family intend to picket the Fort Hood memorial services this Tuesday. They carry posters saying things like thank God for 9/11. To say that the Phelps family is a manifestation of evil and intolerance is an understatement.
This morning the Phelps family decided to protest outside of Sidwell Friends, the school attended by Sasha and Malia Obama. One of the protesters posted this picture on twitter. Tomorrow they plan on protesting lower Sidwell where Malia matriculates. They stood across the street and held their signs up. The school did nothing to stop them.
The Phelps are protected under the First Amendment. What is understood as free speech, is definitely hate speech when it comes to the Phelps. It is one thing to disagree with someone’s position but the Phelps take this a step further. It is their intent to dehumanize people, to preserve a privilege which supports a damaging social hierarchy. Not every idea is healthy for a society. When language promotes hate it is damaging and those that pay the cost are usually members that are already marginalized. While there may be many who abhor the tactics employed by the Phelps, there are still far too many that sympathize with their point of view.
Everyday homophobia is ignored because people can point to the Phelps and claim that they are not that extreme. You hear things like, I don’t mind gay people but I don’t want them as friends or I have nothing against gay people but I don’t think that they should be allowed to marry. This is homophobia and allowing the Phelps the freedom to spread their particular brand of hatred, allows people to delude themselves into thinking that their brand of heterosexism is less harmful.
We need to take a stand against this sort of hatred. To allow it to fester and grow is akin to allowing cancer to go unchecked in a body. The slippery slope argument that permits this behaviour, also supports the idea that people have the right to preserve their undeserved privilege. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking that this hatred is any way healthy for a free society. This kind of hatred is what leads to murders like that of Matthew Sheppard and Angie Zapata. How much blood must we have on our hands, so that some people can express power coercively?