La La How The Life Goes On

Dignified Shmignified

Posted on: April 7, 2011

Oh, I’m gonna get letters.

Today the Westboro Baptist “Church” held an anti-semitic protest on the property line of our local JCC, which is where Baby Sister goes to preschool.  As expected, a grand total of four of them showed up (since I believe the “church” is really this one dude and his 7 sister wives).  In the runup to this demonstration, many emails were received from the local Jew Crew about how we should not engage the protesters, instead opting to “maintain the dignity and integrity of our community.”  We even got a thank you email today, expressing gratitude for conducting ourselves with that apparent holy goal of “dignity.”

What. The. Eff.

Listen, if you tell me to ignore them because they are ignorant sadists who thrive on the free press they get for behaving cruelly and hatefully?  I’m on board.  But tell me to ignore them so I can be “dignified”?  You all need to kiss my undignified Jewish ass.

There is indeed a call and a need for Ruby Bridges (whom the Bambina met and got her book signed and is a tremendously impressive woman, not to mention was an amazing young girl).  Ruby Bridges was dignified and displayed integrity in the face of vile hatred, and my daughter is richer for learning her story.  This country is richer and better for the bravery of the young Ruby Bridges.  But, in today’s world, if you’re going to go that route, you’d best back it up (and front it up) with some serious talking to the children, and here’s why:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

You can call it “maintaining dignity” or whatever you want to, but what you’re really doing is letting haters be hateful near your kids, in your community, where you live.  So get as dignified as you want, but be honest about it.  Are we all part of a strategy to deny these bastards some media attention?  Or are we somehow saying that the way to be better people than they are is by refraining from giving them a little of their own demonstration?  And that therefore, we will be better fighting the hate?  Honestly, you may believe that.  But again I say that this approach requires serious discussions with any kids watching and internalizing the scene.  Please believe that I will not be teaching my girls to turn a cheek when they are being maligned.  I will not teach them that they should passively allow themselves to be insulted by racist haters.  Because at what point does dignity end and passive assent begin?  At what point is my desire to be nobler than the haters actually empowering the haters?  If I won’t fight back for my kids, what the hell will I fight for? At what point does “ignoring” the haters contribute to that proverbial warming of the bathtub water, where it gets hot so gradually that you don’t notice until you’re boiling to death?

Much of the direction we received regarding protecting the kids from it revolved around “words can’t hurt us” and “we don’t use hateful language like that.”   For the little little ones, sure, I’ll say that so they can stay little little for a while longer.  For five and up?  Show me a kindergartner who doesn’t already know that “words can’t hurt us” is a rampaging monster of a lie.  Show me a kindergartner who won’t wonder why someone isn’t making the nasty hateful-language people be quiet, especially because they are saying nasty hateful things about HIM?  Show me a kid who sees that you quietly allow people to disrespect and mistreat you without a peep of feedback from your parents, and I’ll show you a very confused child.

Will I teach Bambina to take a gun to a knife fight? No. Will I teach her to bring big rocks to an anti-Semitic rally outside a preschool (even though one of the dads and I had that same idea simultaneously)? No.  But I will teach her that we have to beat the haters.  Sometimes that means ignoring them so that everyone else will ignore them.  Sometimes that means taking off the gloves and taking some haters to school.

I hesitate to quote him, since Malcolm X is a rather fraught topic for Juifs like myself, but he nailed it thusly:  “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.”  I can do that.  With dignity.


4 Responses to "Dignified Shmignified"

Amen sister! Ask the Mrs about my reaction everytime I see those whacko’s with the Obama as Hitler pictures (2x…in Mass!!!!) she has to keep me from pulling over and going postal on them. Next time you feel conflicted about pulling out the Malcolm quote remember you can get the same idea from The Coward of the County….”Sometimes you got to fight when your a (Wo)Man”….Sing it Kenny!

There is a time and a place for every action. A time to be passive, and a time for aggression. A time to ignore, and a time for the finger. A time to turn the other butt cheek, and a time to open a can of whoop-ass.

True wisdom lies in learning the correct time for the correct action. Nowadays, with people like these, it’s unfortunately more often than not a time for the whoop-ass. sigh.

How is it okay for these nutjobs to spew such hate and venom? It bothers me that they get so much press and attention for their vile behavior. Sure, I’m for free speech and all that good stuff, but what point exactly are they trying to make except the point that they have the right to behave like *total* dickheads?

(I like Debbie’s comment – “a time for the finger”! As a born and bred Yankee, living in the South, I am quick with the finger (and the car horn), much to my Southern husband’s chagrin.)

Common civility is always easier to ensure in an environment where shouting hateful things at children and mocking dead strangers at their funeral could land you in the ER getting stitched up at your own expense. Pragmatically speaking, our legal system has been slow to catch up to the fact that absolutely enforcing certain laws eliminates commonlaw solutions to these kinds of problems that have worked just fine for centuries. The WBC clowns are cowards who perform these stunts because they know their victims are law-abiding folks who are unlikely to retaliate in the way they deserve. I’m no anarchist, though. I hesitate to say that selective application of the law is necessarily a good thing because the cop/prosecutor/judge who looks the other way when an indignant father punches out the moron who trashed his son’s funeral could just as easily look the other way when an actual injustice occurs. Nor would I argue that the WBC doesn’t have the right to free speech, but I would strongly argue that they ought to face consequences for violating simple decorum.

So the WBC enjoys absolute free speech, and absolute protection from anyone they choose to attack. Common sense dictates this is an untenable situation, which is why this group gets people so worked up. I recognize that it’s just about impossible to write the law so that it covers these sorts of gaps, but ultimately if human civilization is to move forward we’ll have to work out a compromise in favor of justice. I think at one time the jury system was meant to be just such a hedge, allowing laws to be written broadly but letting a group of one’s peers level-headedly decide if the law was being twisted into a kangaroo court. I wonder what the legal system would look like if it properly acknowledged that juries have the power to say “not guilty” for any reason they see fit. As long as the jury couldn’t be dominated by any one group (e.g., no way to use this system to promote biased outcomes against a minority group), I’m guardedly optimistic about what would come out of such a system.

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