As I’m sure you’ve already heard, Fred Phelps died at the end of last week.
My Twitter stream erupted into two basic types of responses once the news broke. I follow a lot of Buddhists and pacifists, so there were many prayers offered for Fred’s family and that his soul would find peace.
A smaller percentage of my social circle was unapologetically gleeful. Fred Phelps has caused so much suffering that they were thrilled to see him leave this world. He will never be able to hurt anyone again. One of my lingering convictions from growing up in the church is that everyone deserves grace and compassion. The people who need it the most are often those who are the hardest to love because of how horribly they behave.
The funny thing is that certain members from both groups want to stage a protest at his funeral. The former want it to be a positive demonstration of love for the family members and Westboro Baptist Church. The latter want to give them a taste of their own medicine, and I also grok the thirst for justice. Call it karma, fate, or providence, there comes a time in life when your choices come back to you. If nothing else, any abusive or hateful person is going to be remembered quite differently than someone who was consistently loving and kind.
But this is how I will be acknowledging his life and death.
Not hatred. It’s never satisfied.
Not love. (Although if I’m wrong about the existence of an afterlife, I hope it is a place of forgiveness for everyone).
The slow erasure of someone who failed to make the rest of the world swallow any of his fear.
An empty, white circle that will never react to him again.
There are so many other people in this world worth remembering. Let’s focus on them.