Buried under the Daschle Drama, Stimulus Package Spectacle and Insatiable In Vitro Baby-Mama Insanity of the past week was a piece of good news from America's heartland that speaks of a better future. It tells the story of growing tolerance and engagement among the next generation.
Last Thursday, members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church - the fringe group that interrupts funerals of fallen service women and men - protested outside Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kansas, because Shawnee's last prom king was openly gay. While the kids who voted for Matt Pope obviously had no problem with his sexual orientation, the self-righteous fundamentalists were apparently very much discomfited. Shirley Phelps-Roper said "Those children elected a prom king, queen, thing ...They showed that they don't have a clue about their duty to obey the standards of God." Westboro members believe that god hates America and is punishing the country and its people for tolerating homosexuality.
The evangelical lunatics however were outnumbered by hundreds of students, parents and other good citizens of Prairie Village, intent on showing their profound disagreement with hate-mongering and bigotry. The counter demonstrators filled up three corners of an intersection, while the cultists were confined to the fourth. Students held signs reading, “God is love,” “God does not hate” and “No hate in P.V.”
“Everyone is equal, whether you’re gay or straight,” exclaimed a 16 year old junior who helped organize the rally. His mother showed up to support her son and the students. A 20 year old college student also drove in to participate with a placard that read, “Jesus wouldn’t hate. Why should you?”A 43 year old area resident, held up a sign she had made and sighed, “I’m just tired of hate." Another woman whose daughter attends the high school, waved a board that read, “SM mom for love, not hate.” “I think it’s important for parents and other Prairie Village people to take a stand against hate,” she said.
The controversial prom king also returned from college to be part of the movement."I've been targeted for almost my entire life," he shared. "I've been out since 14 and being really, really active in school, in the community, I've definitely been targeted a lot, but I'm just taking it with a grain of salt, and they're going to think what they're going to think, do what they want to do, and we're just going to do our thing and keep our spirits high."
This little tale from small town America challenges those who continue to cling on to intolerance, hate and bigotry, and deny equal rights to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered individuals. There is no doubt that they are not on the right side of history. Or the Right side for that matter.
Image from KansasCity.com.