We Are Fred Phelps
I would like to take a pause from the normal financial news and information of this site and, because it is really my only vehicle for this type of writing, talk about another topic — Fred Phelps. Phelps, the odious leader of the uber-odious Westboro Baptist Church, died this week. He and the Westboro Baptist Church made headlines for their “God Hates Fags” signs and protests at soldiers’ funerals.
Phelps wasn’t a polarizing figure. He was a unifying figure. Liberal or conservative, we could all hate Phelps. He was an equal opportunity hater and hated us all right back.
But, might there not be a little — about half — of Phelps in all of us? That’s my question — do we come off as Fred Phelps? Check out social networks, or watch the news and you will see and hear how ideology has split us into two ideological camps. We create templates for our hate. The same cruel jokes that liberals heaped onto George W. Bush and conservatives a decade or so ago match up pretty well with the anti-Obama, anti-liberal crowd today. We post our meme updates on Facebook and we call each other Rupugnican and libtards. All of which plays well to our peer groups. Liberals preach to the liberal choir, conservatives to theirs, just like Phelps came off to his choir.
To each other, though, we start to look like a more targeted version of Phelps, but with just a bit less self-awareness.
And there are a lot of reasons to keep this going. By losing ourselves in our ideologies, we place ourselves in demographics, which makes it easier for news organizations, publishers, and entertainers to spoon feed our hate and fears. Follow the money, reporters always say, and there’s a lot of money to be made in this.
We may make some friends with our re-spewing of the hate industry that most of us call politics, but we’re going to lose some, too — maybe even some good friends. We won’t make much headway and converting people to our ideas — because it’s really about preserving our self-interest, not at finding solutions that everyone can live with.
But, ultimately, we’re losing ourselves. We’re becoming soulless caricatures. When we cling to our ideology, at the expense of our humanity, we are Fred Phelps.