Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and every news source with an online presence would like me to know that Fred Phelps is dying. Who is Fred Phelps? He’s the guy who pretends his family is a church and enjoys all of the benefits of being a horrible, abusive patriarch with tax exempt status.
In case that doesn’t trigger your memory, he looks like this:
I first heard about his illness via my super-awesome imaginary Facebook uncle, George Takei. His take was simply this:
There’s a really, really good chance that George Takei is a better person than me.
Lots of other people have used words like “pity”or “forgive”. They have even said that they hope Fred will “find peace.”
I am not that generous. I can’t feel pity for him. He has accomplished exactly what he wanted to with his life. He wanted to spread hatred on a small scale and on a large scale and he succeeded. He abused those he should have loved. He attacked those who were beyond protecting. He did it with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. He’s said as much.
I don’t pity him. Being twisted and malicious does not also mean unhappy or unfulfilled. So he was a monster? I don’t pity the monster. Not while it tries to burn down my town. Not while it eats its own children for lunch.
Too hyperbolic? Dude said I was going to burn in hell. He had a graphic on his website of Matthew Shepard literally flailing in flames. When I saw that image, the year I came out, it ripped me up.
And don’t feed me that line about how mentally ill he must have been to be so evil. There are a slew of symptoms that come with schizophrenia and he wasn’t sporting any of them. If, down the road, we find out what causes folks to behave like this and we fix it, I’ll be right there pushing for a cure – but until then, it’s crash positions, because evil still destroys lives.
So no, I don’t pity him. Not one iota.
Do I forgive him? He’s not looking for my forgiveness. He’s probably still sincerely hoping I burn while worms eat my flesh and scorpions sting my eyeballs or something. Do I carry it around with me on a day-to-day basis? No, because he’s not the religious extremist who tried to ruin my life. That was someone else. And he’s still doing fine.
What of Fred’s 13 kids, and their kids? What about them? Should they forgive him? If they want. If it makes their lives better. But just to be a better person than him? Honestly, most of us have reached that just by waking up in the morning, so no, forgiveness is not a forgone conclusion.
There’s this idea that only base, low, uneducated people rail against the ugliness they see (complete with hyperbole and, I’m sure, other logical fallacies.) We love the high ground. It’s so easy to look down on folks from up there. I try to spend time on the high ground when I can. In this case, though, I’m down here, bellowing at the walls. When Fred is gone the world will have less hate in it and I will celebrate that.
Maybe someday, when I’m older, I will find another way to think about this, but for now I will not pity him, I will not forgive him and I will never wish him peace (I’m an atheist so I suppose there’s no point in that one anyway.)
Goodbye Fred. I hope to never, ever hear about you again.