I was not as silent as I thought I’d be.
I really tried, but it was just too much fun to sing happy songs and laugh along with the clowns (who insisted they weren’t the biggest circus in town). The ignoring-them idea is good in theory, but would only work if everyone does it; as long as one or two people are going to show up, I think it’s better to have a group and try to totally outshine the jerks with love and happiness and positive attitudes. And yeah, I even did respond to one or two quips. I mean this guy was yelling something that Jesus said, and I know for a fact he didn’t, so I turned around and asked him where he found that particular phrase. Then he asked me if I called myself a preacher and I told him no, three bishops from two different denominations did, and I could have walked away, but I had a pretty sweet spot right in front of his sign, blocking the view of him from the road. It’d be a shame to give that up. So I turned back around while he yelled at me that I was ignoring Paul. Probably, but he’s ignoring that Jesus guy, and right now, I’m focusing all my energy on ignoring *him*.
I’m very proud of my fellow Vermonters (and friends), who stayed positive, peaceful, and loving through the 90-minute protest. The four adults and one child from the Westboro Baptist Church didn’t really get anything they could use from Montpelier. They had to walk on our sidewalks, covered in hearts and rainbows, which had been lovingly chalked-in overnight. They had to listen to songs wishing Happy Birthday to equal marriage and chants of “God Loves Everyone.” They had their sight-line to the road blocked by colorful, fanciful clowns, ladies in floral hats, and really really tall guys with signs. And whenever a counter-protester *did* start to get riled up, there were a whole bunch of us who would calmly lead him or her away, and get them laughing with the clowns or buying cookies from the “peace is so sweet” bake sale.
And there were three other people from Trinity United Methodist Church. I was really, really proud of them. Guys, next time, we make and wear Trinity t-shirts.
Sure, the WBC people have big, foul signs, and they did get a couple of people to talk to them, including some reporters, and they are very good at getting as close to the front of the protest space as possible so that you have to be really creative to block their view. But boy, are they nasty people. I mean, you get that from their general outlook on life, but one woman bumped into me and didn’t even excuse herself! The nerve! And they are focused, in a zone. I don’t want to know what you have to do to get your head and heart in that space. Anger and negativity seeps out of them, and it’s chilling (seriously, it was cold this morning!). I don’t know why they all aren’t riddled with ulcers and cancers and other diseases that eat away at your body; all that hatred carried around has to be eating at you somehow or other.
As sickening– and I mean that, it makes you queasy to look at and listen to this group– as their presence is, it was really an amazing sight to see them outnumbered, twenty or thirty to one, by people who were not yelling, not screaming, not confronting, but having a bake sale, collecting money every minute for groups supporting the rights of all people, giving away balloons, cheering at couples walking hand-in-hand, and celebrating an historic day in Vermont. After the WBC left city hall, their last stop in Montpelier, a whole group of people stood around for a few extra minutes, lingering and enjoying the moment to celebrate love, love that endures long after hatred has packed up its signs, piled into its van, and driven off to another city to try to win some air time there. I know they were met in Burlington by those who stand for love and peace and inclusion. I know that because I know my state, and I know the power of love. It’s louder, stronger, more enduring, and feels a whole lot better, than hate.