Funeral Draws Protestors, Raises Questions
*note - many thanks to Roberta Vander Zwaag for the timely photographs in this story. Read more about Roberta’s work helping children in Haiti.
Wood was killed in combat July 5 in Afghanistan, but his funeral revealed that his true home was here in Omaha, as hundreds lined the streets to pay their respects. However, the service was made newsworthy not only by Wood’s age, job, and the many mourners he touched, but by the protests of Westboro Baptist Church.
This is not new for Westboro Baptist. WBC specializes in grabbing attention, and, to be fair, they’re very good at it. The Topeka, Kansas based church has protested at funerals across the country, grabbing headlines and segments on the local news at each stop.
They stand on the dividing line, partly an example of the wonderful freedoms we enjoy in this country, and partly an example of how freedom can so easily be abused and made subservient to the needs of fringe extremists. Their website address, which makes prominent use of a homosexual slur, pretty much sums up their main thesis. Through a rambling logic they relate this to the over 40,000 protests the group claims to have made since 1955.
And if you guessed that this has virtually nothing to do with the deceased, you would be correct. Westboro Church attacks the system of American politics, militarism, and morality, and often the family, friends, and memory of fallen soldiers are left to stand and suffer these attacks.
On Saturday, hundreds of Omahans came out and lined the streets to make sure that the Wood family did not have to stand alone. The Patriot Guard, a motorcycle group formed in reaction to the Westboro Baptist Church, were on hand to shield the victim’s family from the sight of the protestors. In the past, they’ve been known to rev their motorcycle engines to drown them out.
In an orderly fashion, the Patriot Guard rolled their flags, and helped escort the family to their son’s final resting place, fulfilling their role in the funeral. The WBC, numbering 10 at most, stood with their signs and their slurs, fulfilling theirs.
In a perfect world, neither group exists, not a church that thinks our country is doomed, nor a group founded specifically to counter them. But in our world, they do exist. Do they have a right to? Legally, apparently they do.
It seems, though, at least to me, that the men and women who have died to help protect our freedoms have become the victims of those freedoms.
What do you think?