I’ve been suggesting, for some time, that we need to be better than our enemies. Phelps and his Church were the face of unashamed homophobia and religious hate. A cartoonish set of underwhelming supervillains against which it has been easy to ally and align.
Phelps gave us a gift. An unambiguous, unalloyed bigot – a true believer in a form of Christian hatred that everyone thought was on its last legs. He brought moderate Christians, bikers, atheists, left wing, right wing all together against him and his Church and he reminded us all of the value of free expression, even horrible free expression.
If Phelps had been silenced, censored, prevented from publicly spewing his hate we would not have known and it would have rotted away behind the scenes and spread. That he was public brought us together. Nothing unites humanity like a common enemy.
I won’t celebrate his death. I won’t celebrate the death of any human being. We get one, glorious opportunity to live and to live without compromise, even as a disgusting bigot and slave to a myth, is something admirable.
If nothing else, he inspired Kevin Smith to make his first really good film since MallRats.
Bye Fred, you were a useful idiot.