Fred Phelps is dying and I don’t really feel anything about it. For years, this man – a man who terrorized his family, violently abused his children and formed a small but very vocal organization based on hate and demonization – has captured the world’s attention by publicly flaunting his brand of hatred at funerals, concerts and other gatherings for the purpose of media attention.
His church – comprised primarily of family members, many of whom are lawyers or have studied law – sustains itself by suing anyone who attempts to silence them. It’s a scam, a plea for attention based on a whacked out theology and – lo and behold – an insanely successful strategy. They’ve been around for so long now, and are so ubiquitous at the funerals of service members, celebrities and children, that they’ve become a part of the American backdrop. They’re horrible people – but, very well educated people – who’ll do what they do and they are actually free to do it.
And, Phelp’s death won’t end it. There’s too much momentum behind it and his followers are too inured to his way of thinking. You can’t argue with them – they know how to not listen. You can only ignore them, and they make that very difficult. Phelps is a horribly flawed man, a warped individual, a destructive force. But, I take no joy in his impending death. It will help no one. Protest his funeral if you will, it’ll just help create Buzzfeed articles.
I do have one hope, though.
For reasons unknown to the general public, Phelps was excommunicated from his own church in August. That had to be incredibly difficult for him. He may have had to hold on to the notion of receiving peace, finally, in paradise. I hope that as Fred Phelps dies – as he slips away into that vast nothingness, that blank, that void – I hope he realizes that nothing awaits him.
That there is no other side.
That there is no reward for his work and no punishment for those he hated.
I hope he realizes, in that brief final second, that everything he has done in the service of his god and his values has been for nothing.
I hope he realizes that he has only made the world a harder place to live.
I hope he attains that brief moment of clarity and that the last thing he feels before he feels nothing at all forever, is sadness and disappointment in himself and grief for the pain he caused so many people on this small and tightly packed planet.
I take no pleasure in his death and I hope he doesn’t either.