Friday was a bad day.
A Marine from here was killed in Iraq last week. He was a member of the parish where the kids go to school, so funeral services were held there. A number of children from the school were chosen to line the route of departure (on the way to the cemetary) with flags--it was a class act.
I thought long and hard about attending the funeral mass, but finally decided that since I didn't know anyone in the family I'd almost be something like a spectator. While I wanted to pay my respects, I didn't want to be some guy nobody knew, lurking on the fringes.
Then I thought about the Fred Phelps crowd and the Patriot Guard Riders. Fred Phelps, for those who don't know, is a pathetic lunatic who styles himself as a Calvinist minister. He claims that since the US military doesn't actively persecute gays it is an evil institution. He somehow feels he has the authority to speak on God's behalf and claims "God hates fags". His mind is so twisted that he feels he has to attend each and every military funeral to compound the hurt that parents, relatives, spouses and children are feeling by holding a little protest rally attended by signs bearing messages such as his signature "God hates fags" as well as even more hurtful signs thanking God for smiting US troops, and in the case of Catholic funerals, signs declaring that the pope burns in hell. Incredibly, he has followers. Maybe not so surprising as even Charlie Manson and Jimmy Jones had followers. For the record, Phelps, a lawyer, was tossed out of West Point and has been disbarred, with the Kansas Supreme Court noting that he has "little regard for the ethics of the profession".
The Patriot Guard Riders, on the other hand, formed up specifically to counter Phelps and his pathetic followers. It's a motorcycle-based outfit, but they won't turn anyone down. They exist specifically to screen funeral-goers from the Phelps lunatics, and often escort the funeral procession on their bikes. A true class outfit, but it's a crazy world when people have to band together to protect mourners from hateful cretins.
Well, I decided that the Phelps crew wouldn't even be able to find this town on a map, and since I didn't want to be relegated to a spectator's role, I skipped the funeral mass (while delivering paperwork and a huge deposit to the school Snakeeater, Jr. has chosen to attend).
Got home to find out that Phelps' morons do have their sources. Apparently some of them actually can read. My son related to me that they were glued to the window at school watching protestors at the funeral. I hit the ceiling so hard that my wife actually hid newspapers from me. Those G*dda*m freaks actually hit our town and protested at that young man's funeral.
I spent Friday evening boiling and kicking myself for not attending the funeral. It wasn't a good night. I became a bit more philosophical today, realizing that had I attended the funeral there WOULD have been an incident, and I'd have spent the night in jail trying to figure out how to pick up the soap, all on the account of some worthless, hateful prick. The Riders are a class act, screening the mouners from the Phelps crowd. I'd most likely have failed their expectations and decked one of the morons.
As it was, the school principal went out and informed the cretins that they were on private property and not welcome. Police were then called. My son claims that some billy club action and at least one pepper spraying ensued. Unfortunately, he's given to exaggeration, but in this case I truly hope he was accurate.