Wednesday, June 07, 2006

EDITORIAL >> As we grieve a fallen hero

If early-week reports are right, the funeral in Beebe today for Army Spec. Bobby West, who gave his life patrolling the harrowing streets of Baghdad, will be disturbed by not one but two fringe groups.

Brother Fred Phelps and his church disciples, the Kansas scourges who haunt military funerals, show up from time to time to taunt the families of fallen soldiers. Rev. Phelps says God is killing soldiers in Iraq to punish Americans for their tolerance of gay and lesbian people.

They will show up with their signs (“God hates fags”) and march around as they’ve done for years, starting, as best we can recall, with the funeral of President Clinton’s mother at Hot Springs and uttering the same hateful shibboleths. A new state law will keep them at a distance this time.

There was word that vigilante motorcycle groups that have deputized themselves to shield grieving families from the nuts will show up, too. They will make the scene no less appalling for Specialist West’s family and friends.

But the family and admirers of the young hero need not despair. Rather, they should take increased devotion from his unstinting service to his country because in the broadest sense it is the sacrifice of the Specialist Wests that insure Rev. Phelps and his followers the extraordinary privilege of speaking their hateful minds. Where else?