Protest at the Holocaust Museum Houston
|E D Truitt|
|...that no more names need join these.|
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:40, KJV)
Last month, I wrote about a planned protest by members of the Westboro "Baptist Church" at the Holocaust Museum Houston, as part of their visit to Houston to commemorate the inauguration of our new mayor (or something.) That protest took place yesterday: I was there, drawn by a need to look evil in the face, as well as the need to stand up to the bullies in our midst.
I parked about a block down the street (which meant I walked a total of almost a half mile, not easy when your legs don't want to cooperate), pulled the camera out of the bag, put the Flip videocam into my pocket, and walked over. By the time I arrived, the protesters (and counter-protesters) were assembling, and ready to start doing their stuff. As the action started, I got a strange feeling of... it is difficult to describe. It was cold outside, but I felt even colder inside, cold as if I was inside a tomb. It was as if the very air itself was foreboding, warning me of the presence of something very wrong.
|E D Truitt|
|Layers of Defense|
In front of the Museum were multiple layers of defense. In addition to a significant police presence, there was a line of motorcycles, back-stopped by a line of people holding American flags. The purpose was clear: to shield those in the Holocaust Museum (which was open for visitors) from the activities in the street. The motorcycles provided an additional "sound barrier", as every time the protesters would start to spew their vile hatred sayings, the bikers would rev the engines. Whenever this happened, that tingling sensation in my spine would return. The following video is an attempt to capture a sense of what happened that day:
As you could see from the video, this was by no means a family-friendly activity. The signs the WBC protesters were carrying said some very ugly things, and some of those carried by the counter-protesters weren't all that much better. I can only imagine how sad God must have felt, as He looked down at the statements being made in His name. The hatred, the pure evil emanating from those signs must have been what triggered the karmic shivers I kept feeling, during the time I was there.
|E D Truitt|
|Protesters and Counter-Protesters|
Fortunately, in addition to the villains, there were heroes present in the form of motorcycle riders, veterans, and other concerned citizens who chose to stand with their backs to the protesters in a picket line/protective barrier:
|E D Truitt|
|They Continue to Serve|
After awhile, I found myself needing to get away from the karmic disturbance which surrounded me. So, I took a walk to the back of the museum, where I found several relics from the Holocaust era on display. The first was a small Danish fishing boat, which was used to ferry Jews and others seeking to escape the Nazi tyranny to freedom in Sweden.
|E D Truitt|
|Transport to Safety|
Right next to the boat, representing the other end of the spectrum, sits a rail car of the type used to carry millions of Jews and others deemed unfit to survive to their deaths in the concentration camps.
|E D Truitt|
|Transport to Hell|
As I walked back to the scene of the protest, it was clear that things were beginning to wind down. Maybe the WBC protesters had decided they made their point (whatever that was), maybe they realized that those who stood in front of them weren't going to let their message get through the multiple layers of defense. So, after a few more tries, they packed up and left. After they left, the counter-protesters and the bikers/vets also left. But, not before somebody (presumably from the Museum management) came out and thanked them for their service and support:
|E D Truitt|
|Thanking those who stood for those who can no longer stand for themselves.|
Later that evening, I was asked why I chose to be present at this event, as some felt that by ignoring the WBC protesters, we would deny them the publicity they were seeking. I had thought about that beforehand, and have continued to think about it since. As I noted above, there were two forces that were driving me toward the HMH that day. The first was the need to look evil in the eye. I had lived in Europe for 18 months as a child, and met and got to know several people who actually lived through the Nazi occupation of Europe and the Holocaust. I will never be able to forget the haunted look in their eyes, the sense of fear that crept into their voices as they recounted there experiences during that era. I also remember seeing some of the war-related sites, and getting the same sense of foreboding that I experienced yesterday. While by no means as much of a threat as Hitler was during the 1920s/1930s, the folks from Westboro represent the extreme, fanatical edge of a belief system which is shared (though in a much less extreme form) by others in this country. And, yes, I have actually listened to civilized, intelligent, educated people calmly and rationally discuss why some actions, such as the murder of a doctor who performs abortions, might indeed be considered "God's Will" and thus acceptable. Such an attitude is, to me, the very definition of evil. It makes my skin crawl. And, if I do not stand against evil, then at best I am an enabler, aiding and abetting those who do evil, by my lack of action.
The second driving force was the need to stand up to the bullies in our midst. Being on the receiving end of plenty of bullying (by both fellow children and by adults) as a child has made me very sensitive to the effect that bullies have on their victims. If only someone had stood up with/for me during those times, how differently things might have gone! And, when someone did stand up for/with me, how good it felt, what a relief it was, as if there was a light (not an oncoming train) at the end of the tunnel!
Now, there are those who would point out that the protesters from Westboro were not actually bullies, as they weren't coercing others. Rather, they are just a bunch (and not a very big bunch, at that) of moonbats who are exercising their First Amendment rights to
bray like a jackass make a total fool out of themselves speak what is on their mind. That the latter is true does not, in my opinion, negate the former. While they were not being coercive, they were making statements (through their signs; those bikes' engines were REALLY LOUD!) that were at the very least highly offensive, and indicated their belief and hope that those who they opposed would come to a violent, not-very-pleasant end. They can talk all they want about how this is done out of love, and how it is an attempt to turn people away from a life of sin to a life of Godliness. However, when you disrupt a funeral with statements about how glad you are that the deceased is now burning in Hell because the country "harbors gays"; when you claim that the horrors of the Holocaust are "nothing compared with what is in store"; when you target schools where children go to learn with your vile mouthings; in my eyes, you are attempting to change peoples' behaviors via fear and intimidation, which comes very close to the line known as terrorism. And, while I will grant you the right to carry your signs and protest/demonstrate, I will grant myself the right to be right there, standing against you, in testimony to those of us who believe otherwise, and in support of those who are unable (for whatever reason) to stand against you themselves, or who just need a little support.
To do any less would put me at risk of being unable to look in the mirror the next day.
Photographs, video copyright © 2010 E D Truitt.
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