American patriotism in action!

Antiwar protesters turn up at Massachusetts military funeral. Wait, did I say "antiwar?" I meant "antiGAY."

It takes a special variety of derangement--a rich senselessness--to capture the human spirit in its contemporary state. Raw misery and rank awfulness are the rule of the hour; this isn't news.


Which takes us to the very special case of the right Rev. Fred Phelps, who took his anti-sodomite sideshow on the road this week to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Joined by parishioners from his Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, Phelps has made a cottage industry out of picketing the funerals of gay men who are, by his reckoning, steeped in sin. Massachusetts is a special destination for the Baptists--the next best thing to being in Gomorrah itself--standing as the only state in the Union where gay marriage is legal.


So it was that Monday found Phelps in the little town of Marblehead for the funeral of Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Piper. The Green Beret was killed by a roadside explosive on June 3 while riding in a Humvee in Afghanistan. He was 43 years old.


Fourteen protesters set up on a corner near the town's Congregational Church. Doing their best to ignore them were more than 1,000 souls who turned out for Sgt. Piper's funeral.


It's worth noting, by way of tangent, that when Phelps's godly army was in Minnesota a few weeks ago, this newspaper made the easy decision to totally ignore his media stunt. The Baptists were then picketing the Eden Prairie High School graduation, having smelled the brimstone wafting from that school's Diversity Fair and its Gay-Straight Alliance.


One suspects that Rev. Phelps is growing tired of being ignored, which brings us back to Marblehead and the military funeral. I've come to understand, if not accept, that about half the nation detests gay people and abhors their sexual freedom. Americans will enthusiastically pass special referenda to limit the rights of gays and lesbians to live and work as they choose. We can be outraged by this agenda, but we can't even pretend to be surprised.


But who would have the inspiration--who would hear the divine calling--to protest against homosexuality at the funeral of a soldier like Sgt. Piper who was not gay? I, for one, find this to be an extraordinary testament to the human spirit.


Shirley Phelps-Roper, a lawyer for the Westboro church and Fred Phelps' daughter, explained to a Los Angeles Times reporter: "We are protesting the sins of this nation. That doesn't exclude him." (The church subsequently commemorated the glorious day with a rhymed verse of some 23 stanzas, which I flat out cannot bring myself to link to.)


Inspired by these superpatriots and American martyrs, I will be protesting corporate governance and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act at the 2005 Minnesota Donkey and Mule Club State Show in Blue Earth, Minnesota. Please join me there July 29 and 30.


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