'/> Uncommon Hours: Further thoughts on the great response of Shawnee Mission East High School students to Fred Phelps
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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Further thoughts on the great response of Shawnee Mission East High School students to Fred Phelps

By Bob Sommer
Uncommon Hours

The turnout and response to Fred Phelps and the Westboro Church crew this week at Shawnee Mission East High School is without doubt the most effective of any reception he’s had. Unfortunately—and this is no reflection on their good will and intentions—the Patriot Guard’s presence at the funerals of soldiers is by its nature noisy and obtrusive. It's also both defensive and confrontational, and the roar of their motorcycle engines over the vile screeds of the church members has to be unsettling at best for afflicted and bereaved families.

But if the response to these vermin was always to greet them with good cheer and to raise money for AIDS research—as it was this week, with the counterprotesters raising over $5,000!—wouldn’t that be the greatest success of all, and the most discouraging to Phelps & co.?

The great thing about the counterprotest was its positive tone. It would have been so easy for the students to stand across the street from the Phelps crew and shout them down with obscenities, which would probably have led to a confrontation—which is exactly what Phelps wants. He’d be more than happy to press charges for assault—or see one of the children in his group injured so the child could be turned into a martyr.

A letter-writer in this morning’s Kansas City Star spoke out in support of the Shawnee Mission East students but seemed to miss this point when he concluded by inviting Phelps to lunch with his “former Marine friends.” He spoke up for tolerance on behalf of the kids, but his bottom line is that thrashing Phelps is the best solution.

The kids got it right, and the former Marine got it wrong—and that’s why they succeeded.

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