It’s a chilly rainy Saturday in Raleigh. Our football venues are silent but our malls are crowded, and just off downtown today – A Gathering of Kooks will assemble. The lure of interest is the funeral service of Elizabeth Edwards.
As noted in that earlier column, any disagreement I had with Elizabeth Edwards (EE) and/or her immediate family is on hold until the mourning formalities are completed. Using her death as an opportunity to squeeze some partisan publicity out of the local/national media sponge is not my style. It can wait.
But, not everyone thinks like I do. ( ….and a BIG “Thank Goodness for that” echoes across the land )
Since Monday’s news stories that EE was “beyond treatment” and Tuesday’s report of her passing; the local media (print and electronic) has been in an Elizabethan feeding frenzy. Our area was Ground Zero for The Edwards so I suspect it was not quite so frenzied elsewhere. Ms Edwards (and her estranged husband) were legitimate celebrities in a culture that is extremely generous in affixing that label.
The Edwards, The Kardashians, Jenn Sterger, Oprah, Julian Assange, ….. and a farmer outside Fort Collins that grew a rutabaga that looks like Andy Devine. We Americans pass out celebrity labels like our politicians pass out false promises. Both those labels and those promises have a very limited shelf life.
Clyde King’s funeral in Goldsboro last month filled a quite large Methodist church. Elizabeth Edwards’ would, without too much promotion, fill Raleigh’s Edenton Street United Methodist Church. There will be family, neighbors, friends of long standing and more than a few rubber neckers on-hand simply to say they were there to see if Rielle shows up or to see if John Kerry does indeed look like Lurch.
And a block or so away will be a mini-bus load of “kooks from Kansas” – the Westboro Baptist Church cult. If you follow national news you’ve read about this bunch. Under the umbrella of terminal homophobia, these goobers get their celebrity cred picketing at military funerals. Their wacky reasoning is that we are at “war” because of 9/11 which itself was caused by God’s wrath at America’s acceptance of homosexuality.
The irony is that this Westboro bunch is nothing more than the extended family of a hair-shirted nutjob named Phelps. A few dozen in-bred zealots who have mastered the art of media magnetism. By Thursday “Here Comes Westboro” was the local above-the-fold story. The media was hooked like a curious channel cat sucking down a doughball.
A few local left-wing hate mongers immediately tried to label the Westboro hate-mongers as right-wing hate-mongers simply because the words “Baptist” is included in their name. Calmer left-wing flatulators silenced their off-base brethren. Local hotbeds of left-wing extremism – Pullen Baptist and Olin. T, Binkley Baptists also claim “Baptist” as their denomination of choice. Labeling hate-mongers always get confusing.
Fred Phelps, the Jim Jones of this spoonful of proselytizing squirrels, is a life-long DEMOCRAT and strong supporter of Algore. REALLY? Yep, REALLY!
Flowery media eulogies comparing Elizabeth to Joan o’Arc, Carry A. Nation, Helen Reddy and Arianna Huffington had to fight for reader attention with reports of Westboro and the anti-Westboro groups announcing they would be on hand to shout-down and counter “those idiots”. As many as several thousand anti-Westborites will be on-hand to “counter” 6-8 Kansas kooks carrying placards about Sodomy, Satan and “where we will be appearing next week”. No indication if they sell t-shirts or CDs of their favorites homophobic hymns.
So what’s a curious Triangle community gonna do? Why fire up their cell phone cameras and hustle down to Edenton Street to watch the circus.
I’m thinking “The Picture” will include John “Swift Boat” Kerry, Andrew “The Trusted Aide” Young, Vicky (Mrs Ted) Kennedy, Rielle & the love child, Gene Nichol, a contingent of Carrboro earth-mothers in tie-dyed granny dresses and three Westboro kooks holding signs with “Fornicate” misspelled.
I will choose the strategy of my friend State Senator Neal Hunt several years ago. George W was appearing in Raleigh. Blondie and I were queued up along with Senator Hunt and others of the Conservative persuasion. A local blow-dried talking head approached Neal ….. “Senator, what do you have to say about the protestors?” – motioning across the street to seven slouching bedraggled hippies standing by a dilapidated VW bus with a Carrboro license plate. ……
The clever solon smiled and replied “What protestors?”
NOTE: I watched the service on our local CBS affiliate. It was very well-done and, in my opinion, non-political. …. BL