It appears McAlester has become the unfortunate target of a group of people whose main goal seems to be eliciting negative attention through acts and words aimed to pierce the sensibilities of anyone who has any. Dead babies, servicemen and servicewomen killed in action, homosexuals, patriots, religion — there is no sacred ground for this group.
The congregation was represented in our community last weekend by two women and three children, and seems to revel in what they call their victory. Local police estimate that about 3,000 people turned out to show these five Kansans how they feel about their vitriol, many waving flags of support in a counter-demonstration. Some cried for the family of the McAlester soldier whose funeral the five chose to protest. Some shouted in anger or disgust. At least one wielded a knife, as evidenced by the slashed tires the five found at the end of their “demonstration.” Even more vandalized the vehicles of a few Kansans not associated with the Westboro Baptist Church group from Topeka.
All of it, we are convinced, was a welcome reaction by the fringe group to a well-calculated visit. In fact, they might welcome even more furious reaction, if their reported plans for a return tour of our city are to be believed.
Here is a group that has built a profession of inciting anger and hate, suing those who react, and grabbing headlines where they are able. While they tell us they hold a higher purpose, we find it hard to believe — preposterous even — that any zealot who professes faith in a Christian God would resort to such methods.
One can’t help but wonder what the group’s next step would be if members failed to elicit a reaction. What would happen if they staged a protest, and no one saw it? If they spouted their vitriol, and no one heard it? If they had no audience for their hate and anger?
As we covered last weekend’s funeral, protest, and counter-protest, many of us wondered at what point events might have escalated. We saw a lot of anger. We saw a lot of fury. We saw a lot of sorrow.
There is no doubt that we are angry. Of course we are disgusted by the hateful terms and slogans spouted by the group and their signs.
That’s the point.