A lot of people are talking about the reported grave condition of Fred Phelps, ex-communicated patriarch of perhaps the most hateful American organization since the days when lynch mobs were a common occurrence. Here are my two cents.
Upon the death of Osama bin Laden, a quote (inaccurately) attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. made its way around Facebook, and read as follows: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
Allow me to state, for the record, that I wholly disagree with this sentiment. Darkness absolutely can drive out darkness, and (for that matter) regularly does. The quote is an impractically idealistic one. Who among us would dare shun hatred of genocide, brutal indoctrination of youth, sexual subjugation, national imperialism, or racism? Hatred of these wickednesses is not only morally just, it is a wholly necessary tool in combatting them.
I also don't find it a moral failing to rejoice at the death of an enemy. Osama bin Laden was directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents, and instilled an entire generation with a dark terror at the very mention of his name. Even up to the time of his death, he represented a very real threat to global safety and security. The world is wholly a better (and safer) place with him gone. To criticize people experiencing joy at this weight being lifted from their shoulders seems, to me, quite strange.
That said, I find myself rather unsettled at some of what I've been hearing concerning Mr. Phelps' imminent demise. Gleeful depictions of the old man enduring infinite agony in the bowels of hell abound, and there is (disturbingly) a great deal of chatter concerning a massive picket of the fellow's funeral, in a manner similar to that performed by the Westboro Baptist Church itself.
I must say that I find this to be petty, childish, and pathetic. By all means, nurse a deep hatred for those who cause evil in the world around you- it will motivate you to combat them with a fervor that those who do not possess this hatred could never imagine. But in the name of all that is good, do not descend to their level, nor advocate doing so. Picketing the funeral of this man who is about to die is an act that will ultimately do nothing but further cement the fanaticism of the Westboro Baptist Church itself and cast the gay rights movement in a petrifyingly twisted light. No matter how horrifyingly misguided the brainwashed members of the Westboro Baptist Church may be, gleefully mocking human beings that have just lost a beloved father, grandfather, or great-grandfather and feel a genuinely deep sense of loss purely because of a prepubescent “he did it first” mentality is utterly abhorrent.
We are the good guys. We are different than people like them. We are better than people like them. Now let's damned well act like it.