It is interesting to see the reaction to Fred Phelps' proposed demonstration at the memorial for gay and lesbian veterans here in the valley, including the Sun Poll results. I have witnessed several of his ugly demonstrations of intolerance and disrespect.
While I don't think hindering his demonstration is going to accomplish much -- as he appears to thrive on conflict -- it occurred to me there might be a way to "de-fang" him somewhat.
The Rev. Phelps and his followers spend a lot of money flying around protesting homosexuality, but what if gay-friendly charities could somehow profit from these protests? When they come protest, what if they are met by a counter-demonstration collecting donations from anyone who disliked or disapproved of their tactics of abuse and harassment?
Perhaps a folding table, some smiling volunteers, a donation box and a large sign -- facing Phelps -- where the running total of donations given to support acceptance and mutual respect would be posted and updated every 10 minutes or so. Anyone who felt Phelps' intolerance and hatred were inappropriate could drop by and put some money in the donation box.
Even people whose religious belief did not recognize the validity of gay relationships could express disapproval for Phelps' methods in good conscience. And every dollar would be a clear refutation of his vehement meanspiritedness. In this instance, the funds collected could be distributed to help valley veterans with their electric bills -- any vet, gay or straight.
If this were successful, and if it became a standard practice for responding to Phelps' hate-filled demonstrations, he eventually would give them up rather than risk making money for the people he hates so much. In the meantime, much good could be accomplished by way of his nastiness.
I'm a new resident of the valley and haven't the contacts to make something like this happen on my own, nor have I been here long enough to know whether this would be a true reflection of this community's spirit. But if anyone is interested in turning the tables on Phelps in this fashion, contact me at email@example.com .
I particularly would like to hear from and work for community leaders who could lead the effort. Together we can ensure Phelps completely wastes his time and money without giving him the conflict or victimhood he craves.
Darr Eric Sandberg of Palm Springs is a computer programmer.