Thursday, January 08, 2015

Recalling a 2014 obituary, Fred Phelps, and a curious lesson

I noticed, in a review of events of 2014, the story of the death of Fred Phelps, who had founded the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka KS, in the New York Times, written up by Michael Paulson, on March 21, 2014, here.  The biography of the man, and the way what seemed like righteousness and charisma when he was younger (with marital fertility) turned into a kind of hate that was so addictive, is curious.  One of his daughters had said he was addicted to his own hatred, as his “church” staged disruptive demonstrations all over the country.
I can recall looking at his website (“God Hates F___”)  on a computer in a bar, the Saloon in Minneapolis, out of morbid curiosity, round 2001, but never looking at it at home.
Curiously, we defended his legal right to free speech, and let the population absorb it – by ignoring it.  It’s an odd irony to remember this story given what happened in France Wednesday.
Also it’s interesting that the family did not hold a public funeral.  The character “EJ” on the soap “Days of our Lives” did not get one when he was murdered (in fiction) either.  The absence of a ceremony itself says something.
I shot a picture of the Westboro Baptist Church, on a residential street in Topeka, from a rental car in July 2006 on a long weekend trip.  By coincidence, I attended the University of Kansas in nearby Lawrence 1966-1968 and earned an MA in Mathematics.  

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