Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Free Speech Vs. Freedom to Assemble

This is a tough one but in the particular instance of the Snyder's, I hope the Supreme Court rules in his favor. Slain Marine's father fights funeral protesters

Snyder, a Pennsylvania resident, is challenging the protests held by the fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. Westboro pastor Fred Phelps and other members — many of them Phelps' family members — have become well known for their funeral protests, which they have used to advertise their belief that U.S. Iraq war deaths are punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

Church members have protested at numerous soldiers' funerals nationwide. In March 2006, they protested at the funeral of 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, Albert Snyder's son. Standing outside the funeral at a church in Westminster, Md., Westboro members held signs that read "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "You're going to Hell," among other things.
I bow to no one in my support of free speech, even when I want to wring the neck of the person speaking. But no one has the right to deliberately disrupt a funeral. Especially a the funeral of a man who died protecting your rights.

Twenty-nine states have signed up supporting Mr. Snyder's case and my question is why haven't the other twenty-one?

The Westboro tactics are repulsive and vile. Do they have the right to "rhetorical hyperbole"? Yes. Do they have the right to engage in "rhetorical hyperbole" at a stranger's funeral? Absolutely Freaking NOT.

Let's face it, the Westboro group is using "shock value". It's a nasty trend developed by Baby Boomers and their ilk to get attention. Shock value used to have currency but if we all work together we can debase that particular coin. May I suggest naming-and-shaming, legal recourse, funding withdrawl, and osticizing. Only once, shock value, created by "rhetorical hyperbole", is valueless can truly civil discourse begin.

Because manners, tradition, and customs are not some bourgouise relic of the past. They are the social glue of all communities and have evolved over all of human development as a way to mantain cohesive societies. Courtesy isn't quaint, it is a vital need if we are to work together as human beings. Learning good manners is learning to treat everyone with respect, dignity and fairness.

As always I blame the societal upheavals caused by the Baby Boomer's but we all now are responsible for reversing their bad behavior. While that generation refuses to grow up or accept responsibility for the ills their "movements" inflicted on us, we must insist on grown-up behavior from others.

Whether it is naming-and-shaming bad behavior or supporting Mr. Snyder's fight, just because you want to do something does NOT give you the right to do it. Defending Mr. Snyder's right to bury his son in peace isn't just about freedom to assemble, it's about the rights of all Americans to be treated with dignity and fairness. Good manners and civil behavior from everyone creates that respectful treatment. The Westboro group deserves to be made an example that Americans will no longer tolerate shocking behavior as a form of communication.

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