Rather than rejoice over the death of one very flawed — and I would assume, exceedingly tortured — man, maybe the best way to mark the occasion of Fred Phelps’ passing is to (re)dedicate ourselves to fighting the sort of bigotry he embodied… in whatever form, wherever we may find it.
Remember, bigotry doesn’t always do us the courtesy of carrying a “God Hates..” sign announcing its arrival and it won’t always show itself by picketing the funeral of someone held dear. Instead, too often we find it masquerading as “opinion,” as “tradition,” or as some sort of “strongly held belief.” We grant it entrance into our families, our churches, and our communities in far more subtle, but no less insidious, ways.
In the end, bigotry doesn’t thrive in this world because of a few asshats with colorful posters and loud voices, reprehensible as they may be. Rather, it takes root in the small moments when otherwise well-intentioned people find themselves justifying discrimination and turning their backs on the oppressed. Those moments are the true “monster” in our midst, not some pathetic old man who has now left this earth.
For more on the death of Fred Phelps: