Taking it personally
I drove to Chardon early this morning to join hundreds of people outside the church where services were held for one of the Chardon High students killed in last week's shootings.
From the jackets and colors they wore it was clear that many were Danny Parmentor's fellow students, their families and friends.
I wasn't part of that group.
I was one of hundreds who showed up because of an anti-protest organized via Facebook. A couple of internet posts indicated that the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church planned to protest at the funeral.
Why me? Why now?
I've been mostly passive since the last presidential election. Sure I bitch and moan about the state of American politics, but who doesn't?
I've been both amazed and dismayed at the Republicans' unrelenting efforts to destroy Obama, regardless of the cost to the country. But mostly I've sat and watched. Events of the past week finally pushed me to take one tiny step to resist the cruelty and crudeness in our politics that Westboro represents.
It started with reading about the federal judge in Montana who sent an email "joke" to friends with a punch line that referred to bestiality and Obama's mother. A federal judge did this. About the president.
I'll admit that a few years back I laughed at jokes about GW Bush, but the worst I can remember was "Somewhere in Texas a village is missing their idiot." Disrespectful, yes. But not disgustingly crude and racist to boot.
And then there was Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown coed who testified at a Congressional hearing, a "slut" and suggesting that she post sex tapes of herself. He calls that "humor." A particularly brutal kind of humor coming from someone with a national audience, directed at a young woman who didn't choose a career in the spotlight.
Enough is enough
On top of all this, the thought of the family of the Chardon student, already suffering unimaginable grief, having to endure the taunts of the Westboro folks kept me up Friday night.
It stayed with me through two hours of shivering in the cold wind on North Avenue on Saturday morning.
A whole lot of people decided to literally put their bodies between the crazies and the family. I was proud to join them.
Maybe it was just an Internet rumor. Maybe Westboro plants threats like this to keep their name in the news. Maybe it was a waste of time.
Wait. No, it wasn't a waste of time.
Instead, it was reassuring to stand with hundreds of strangers on a morning when 40 mph winds made it feel way colder than 35 degrees. There were no chants and most of the signs were simple red hearts. It didn't feel political, it felt personal.
Some of the people had been there since 7 a.m. Many were less prepared for the cold than I, but stayed anyway. This Aurora High student was clearly suffering but marched up and down the sidewalk all morning.
I don't know, it seemed pretty darn reasonable that on the way home I stop to get a hot cup of coffee and the breakfast that I hadn't had time for earlier.
Thanks, Waffle House, I needed that.