Where’d all the good people go?

Posted on Thursday 3 March 2011

If you’re a Jack Johnson fan, like me, and, like me, contemplating yesterday’s Supreme Court decision regarding Westboro Baptist Church’s protests at dead soldiers funerals, the song, “Where’d all the good people go?” is humming inside your head if not on your lips. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0kZGb0R-AQ)

I own a newspaper. I write news and on occasion, my opinions, so I am in full support of their decision to uphold the first amendment. However, I do not support the lack of civility or malicious actions committed when people exercise those rights.

I don’t think our forefathers who authored the constitution ever dreamed that this particular scenario would be addressed as a “right” to free speech. The difference between now and then is obvious. Our forefathers exercised regard for people, unlike the parishioners from Westboro Baptist Church did when they protested at the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder who was killed in Iraq in the line of duty.

In case you missed it, here is the case: Lance Corporal Snyder’s father selected the Catholic church in the Snyders’ hometown of Westminster, Maryland, as the site for his son’s funeral. Local newspapers provided notice of the time and location of the service. Phelps became aware of Matthew Snyder’s funeral and decided to travel to Maryland with six other Westboro Baptist parishioners (two of his daughters and four of his grandchildren) to picket. On the day of the memorial service, the Westboro congregation members picketed on public land adjacent to public streets near the Maryland State House, the United States Naval Academy, and Matthew Snyder’s funeral. The Westboro picketers carried signs that were largely the same at all three locations.They stated, for instance: “God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11,” “America is Doomed,” “Don’t Pray for the USA,” “Thank God for IEDs,” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Pope in Hell,” “Priests Rape Boys,” “God Hates Fags,”“You’re Going to Hell,” and “God Hates You.”

The  church notified authorities that they planned to picket, and they did abide by the law by staying 1,000 feet away and complied with police instructions. Even though their protest was backed by law and their first amendment rights, it does not excuse their actions. I suggest Westboro parishioners and Rev. Phelps remember only God reserves the right to judge. They might also return to His teachings, like when Jesus said: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:2

And like Jack Johnson’s lyrics say:

Sitting round feeling far away
So far away but I can feel the debris
Can you feel it?
You interrupt me from a friendly conversation
To tell me how great its all gonna be
You might notice some hesitation
‘Cause it’s important to you, it’s not important to me
Way down by the edge of your reasons
It’s beginning to show
And all I really wanna know is…

Where’d all the good people go?
I’ve been changing channels
I don’t see them on the TV shows
Where’d all the good people go?
We got heaps and heaps of what we sow

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