Westboro founder near-death is no cause for celebration

Westboro founder near-death is no cause for celebration

Dewey Mullis

Fred Phelps, founder of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, is nearing his death, according to CNN.

The infamous patriarch and his Kansas congregation have been the epicenter of anti-gay, -military, -Jewish and -Muslim protests.
While we can remain divided on gay rights and other issues, displeasure for Phelps and his community are more concrete.

On Facebook, “Fred Phelps Death Watch” is dedicated to living Phelps’ legacy through various memes. Tweets, petitions, protests and watch groups are remembering the man – who is still living – by organizing protests and commentary mirroring the very hateful speech they fought.

While I have always stood in fervent opposition to the message and tactics of Phelps and his followers, I am sincerely saddened by the sheer hypocrisy that is shattering the value found in true peace and equality.

Upon one’s death, we traditionally and naturally express mourning while celebrating the positive attributes of the deceased’s life in an intimate, hopeful and reverent manner.

Regardless of when Phelps passes away, his death should retain the same level of humanity as if he were any other person. He should be remembered as an outspoken man, driven by a passion greater than many can imagine.

Stripped of his signage, harsh message and controversy, Phelps is a man born into this world by the same processes as anyone else. It is by our own doing that we made this man an infamous symbol of hate.

He has also brought out the best in millions of people. How fervently would we protest equality if it were not for the equally fervent opposition?

In the greatest spectacles of competition and debate, we strive to fight harder than our adversary. Like it or not, Phelps is making the progression of equality a reality in this country. Isn’t that what this whole fight is about?

Never is the celebration of another’s death an acceptable form of human behavior. If we are truly equals, let us demonstrate that we are not hypocrites and grudge-holders, but instead actors and doers of the more central and meaningful message.

Surely, when the day comes that Phelps passes, there will be those who taint ideologies of religion, politics and morality by repaying the favor to one of America’s most outspokenly intolerant men. But let it not escape us that vengeance toward a dead man is as fruitless and lifeless as the very body itself.

Intolerance of intolerance is not tolerance just as vengeance is not justice. It is a mockery of equality.

Dewey Mullis, a junior criminal justice major from Wallburg, is an opinion writer.