3 min

Shaking off my apathy

How to get rid of an uninvited guest, part one

‘Canada is a filthy country run by fags. Oh Canada. Land of the sodomite damned.’
– Rev Fred Phelps

A self-professed hermit finds it hard to give a rat’s ass about the world we have shunned.

Giving in to hopelessness and an annoyed intolerance of the world’s problems, we live blissfully in a state of apathy.

I have been guilty of living in my own headspace for too long. Of course, I resolved almost two years ago to shed such self-satisfying denial. I have peeked my head back out into the world and find myself growing more and more fascinated with what I see. Who would have thought?

My usual flare for detachment seems to be fading more and more. Paying more attention to what transpires outside of my hole, I want to throw my own two cheap cents in.

The late September beating of Jordan Smith in the Village came as a smack across the face. I had been reflecting on the considerable freedoms I and others in the queer community enjoy in Vancouver and throughout the country. It only takes one incident like this to make you take a step back and say, “Everything is not well in Lalaland.”

Still, I figured there was not much I could do.

Watching the election south of the border, I was curious to see what would happen with the controversial Proposition 8. Swept up in all the rhetoric spouted about “change” and “hope,” I assumed California might be ready to accept gay marriage.

The election of Barack Obama momentarily overshadowed a nasty blow to queer rights. Flipping through the Province, I saw nothing of Prop 8 and its outcome. The next day, I was able to find a quick blurb on the bottom of a page in the newspaper stating the majority of California had voted to ban gay marriage. I was pissed.

As my anger and disappointed began to brim, I felt at a loss for where to put this energy. I did not just want to sit back, watch the next episode of America’s Next Top Model and drift off to sleep.

However, being so grounded in a life of inactivity, I did not even know where to start.

Thank the heavens for Fred Phelps. It is this cantankerous hatemonger that is giving me the outlet to become involved.

For many a gay man and woman, the Phelps name is a familiar one. I cluster him in with the Buchanans, the Falwells, and the Robertsons who have made it quite clear they just don’t like gay people.

I have never taken them seriously. Phelps, in particular, rests his “morals” and “beliefs” on a podium of lies, bizarre parallels and good old fashioned hate.

With an agenda that is so over-the-top in its stupidity, I never deemed him worthy of my time. However, I am about to make an exception.

As I write this, Fred Phelps and his cronies are preparing to pay Vancouver a visit. To what do we owe this great honour? On Nov 28, the Westboro Baptist Church plans to picket a local production of The Laramie Project, a play based on the slaying of Matthew Shepard. We can expect the Phelps’ usual antics and stunning visual aids with placards declaring “God Hates Fags.”

When I first heard of this, I knew I was not just going to sit back and see how this all unfolded. I wanted to join other queers and our straight allies in the protest of a protest.

I am shaking off the moss of inactivity and standing up for something I believe in.

I only wish I had a greater threat to face.

I find it hard to take the Westboro Baptist Church seriously. Does anyone?

I knew I would need to do some homework before the counter-protest. A portion of Michael Moore’s series The Awful Truth rips into the Phelps family and their insane devotion to absurdity. It involves a chorus of flamboyant gays, a fearless Moore and a loud pink bus dubbed the “Sodom-mobile.”

It’s humorous, proud and off-putting enough to ruffle even the most stoic of social conservatives. 

A BBC special called The Phelps: The Most Hated Family in America also gave me a tiny glimpse into what the revered and his minions are all about. The journalist, a gay-positive atheist who had a child out of wedlock, held his own against a family of god-fearing hell-damning souls.

The more I heard, the more I began to feel that protesting their protest would mean I would be somehow validating their mission. Still, I need to see them do their thang.

I feel as though I am about to have a brush with celebrity. What will be the psychological ramifications of seeing these people in the flesh? Will seeing them prove that they are indeed “real”? Will I be able to control my anger and frustration during a peaceful counter-protest? Or will the gloves come off?