Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Whitman Sounds Ready for Hate Group

Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda is bracing for a visit by the USA's premier hate group, the Westboro Baptist Church. The Reverend Fred Phelps is scheduled to bring his congregation, which has the website GodHatesFags.com, to our county on April 24th to protest the fact that a high school was named after somebody who may have been gay.

The school paper, Black and White Online, has a good story on the preparations.
Most students don't think twice about the namesake of our school, Walt Whitman. However, one Kansas-based protest group, the Westboro Baptist Church, is taking a vocal stand against our school's name. Church members, who take offense to a school adopting the name of an allegedly homosexual person, plan to protest at Whitman April 24 from 2 to 2:40 p.m.

As news of the protest spread, students quickly reacted and began planning their own demonstration. Sophomore Ryan Hauck created a Facebook group for students to organize and discuss plans for the counter-protest. Within a few days of the group's creation, over 400 people RSVP'd to the event and wrote comments on the wall.

"Really the counter-protest is both to show that Whitman students won't stand for the intolerent attitude that the church represents, and also to give students a chance to point out the logical flaws in the church's ideology," Hauck said.

So far, principal Alan Goodwin supports the counter-protest and will allow students to leave class ten minutes early on April 24 to participate, although MCPS has yet to approve it. Goodwin also met with counter-protestors March 27 to discuss the legal aspects of the event.

Although the police will ultimately determine what students can or cannot do, Goodwin wants to bar students from other schools from attending.

"I don't want to worry about students from other schools coming," Goodwin said. "I trust Whitman students and it's about us, not other schools."

Responding to the protest might help the church gain more media coverage, but an effective counter-protest will cast a negative light on the WBC, sophomore and counter-protest organizer Amar Mukunda said.

"I truly believe that if we conduct the protest in a peaceful and effective manner, our message will be stronger than theirs, and they will not gain any positive attention or support," he said. Counter-protestors prepare for Westboro Baptist appearence

Kids seem more mature these days than when I was in school. Can you imagine being fifteen, sixteen, and your school is singled out because it was named after a poet, perhaps America's greatest poet, and he might have been bisexual or gay? My school was called North High, we didn't get this kind of attention.

Personally I don't read Whitman's poetry as having a homosexual aspect to it. He seems to me like someone who loves life and all living things, his "body electric" gets a charge out of being around people, male and female, he loves to look at people and talk to them and he loves the feeling of friendship and the intimacy of the soul. But you can read him as being bisexual, I suppose you could conclude he was gay. The feeling is that his sexuality is so integrated with his joy in being alive that it doesn't matter, he loves people without consideration for their gender and it may be sexual love, you just can't tell. That's part of what is so cool about Walt Whitman.
Although the protest won't change the WBC's ideology, counter-protesters plan to use a variety of peaceful methods to project their message, including reading Whitman's poetry, presenting speeches or protesting silently in the vicinity of the WBC.

"The only worries I have are that either the church won't show up or a counter-protester will do some stupid high school thing like throwing eggs at the protesters," Hauck said.

Members of the WBC often gain media attention through passionate public response to their protests, Goodwin said.

"The group thrives on riling up counter-protestors enough that they do something and the group can sue and get money," he said.

The church's founder, Fred Phelps, was a civil rights lawyer for 23 years, and gained attention for his work on the behalf of discriminated African American clients, but was disbarred in 1985 for falsely accusing judges. His background in civil rights gives him broad knowledge of protestor's first amendment rights, which he uses to his advantage, Mukunda said.

"What happens is that the counter-protestors harass and act violently or inappropriately towards the protestors and get sued," he said. "This money goes to the church so they can set up more protests and make more money."

If the WBC receives a permit to assemble, they will protest on the limited space on Whittier Blvd. in front of Whitman, but they cannot impede traffic, Goodwin said.

Oh, that's interesting, I wondered how they pay for all this.
Students received a letter from Goodwin March 26, in which he criticized the WBC's protest and assured students and parents that there will be a police presence determined by the size of the crowd that day.

Westboro also demonstrated at George Mason University and Towson High School on March 30, as well as Fairfax High School, in protest to a relatively large homosexual population at the university and the Gay-Straight Alliance and Diversity Club at Towson. A small group from the WBC showed up at the demonstrations and was largely outnumbered by students. A WBC spokeswoman confirmed the planned protest at Whitman in an e-mail to a Washington Post reporter, saying, "The children that attend that high school are taught 'Rebellion Against God 101' every day in every way."

The Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, KS, leads daily peaceful sidewalk demonstrations across the country to protest the "modern militant homosexual movement", which they say poses a threat to the U.S., according to their web site.

Several teachers intend to use the protest as a real-life example of classroom teachings. One teacher will use the opportunity to read Whitman's poetry in class, while another plans on teaching about civil rights protests in-depth in his NSL class.

This really isn't a big deal, this group of nutty Baptists goes around trying to upset people and occasionally they succeed at it. It looks like the students at Whitman have the right idea, they can turn out and counterdemonstrate, let the press and the Westboro people know that our community does not support this kind of hatred.


Anonymous Robert said...

58. Here the Frailest Leaves of Me

HERE the frailest leaves of me, and yet my strongest-lasting:
Here I shade and hide my thoughts—I myself do not expose them,
And yet they expose me more than all my other poems.

April 21, 2009 2:46 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

71. To a Western Boy

O BOY of the West!
To you many things to absorb, I teach, to help you become eleve of mine:
Yet if blood like mine circle not in your veins;
If you be not silently selected by lovers, and do not silently select lovers,
Of what use is it that you seek to become eleve of mine? 5

"Eleve" means "student" or "pupil."

April 21, 2009 2:50 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

This is what Whitman had to say about same-gender marriage:

"54. I hear it was Charged against Me

I HEAR it was charged against me that I sought to destroy institutions;
But really I am neither for nor against institutions;
(What indeed have I in common with them?—Or what with the destruction of them?)
Only I will establish in the Mannahatta, and in every city of These States, inland and seaboard,
And in the fields and woods, and above every keel, little or large, that dents the water, 5
Without edifices, or rules, or trustees, or any argument,
The institution of the dear love of comrades."

April 21, 2009 2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Kids seem more mature these days than when I was in school. Can you imagine being fifteen, sixteen, and your school is singled out because it was named after a poet, perhaps America's greatest poet, and he might have been bisexual or gay?"

I can imagine it.

It would have been no freaking big deal.

Giving the kids an excuse to leave early will be appreciated by them.

April 21, 2009 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"perhaps America's greatest poet,"

Have you heard of Longfellow, Dickinson, Eliot, Pound and Frost?

Whitman sucks.

April 21, 2009 3:09 PM  
Anonymous David Fishback said...

Anon writes:

"Have you heard of Longfellow, Dickinson, Eliot, Pound and Frost?

"Whitman sucks."

Ah, the eloquence of the opposition.

Perhaps you would rename Walt Whitman High School after Ezra Pound, the World War II Axis propagandist who spent 12 years after the War at St. Elizabeth's mental hospital because his fame as a poet saved him from treason charges.

April 21, 2009 5:48 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

This is what Whitman had to say about same-gender marriage...Robert, you seem to like the idea that Whitman was gay, but I read this a whole different way. He describes himself as setting out to promote "the institution of the dear love of comrades." Exactly -- Walt Whitman overflowed with his love for people, and his poems express that. He did not feel any pressure to attenuate his love for men as well as women, to admire their appearance and their words, to empathize with them and love them as comrades, and that's what makes him great and what makes him uniquely American. "It was charged against [him] that [he] sought to destroy institutions" because he didn't care what people thought, of course most people inhibit their love and joy in living, and he wasn't going to bother with that. He didn't mind that people felt bound by norms and peer opinion ("...really I am neither for nor against institutions...") but he intended to elevate the sentiment of "the dear love of comrades" to an institution. There is nothing about gay marriage here.

Similarly in the other passage you quoted, he seems to be saying that any student of his has to have a heart overflowing with love, as Whitman's did, he says the student must have (presumably hot) "blood like mine." It has to be someone who "silently selects lovers" and is selected by them, meaning, it seems to me, that the student should be someone who falls in love at the drop of a hat and attracts the love of others. A teacher who wrote this today would probably be suspect, but it seems to me to fit Whitman's magnanimous overflowingness perfectly.

I don't know if Whitman was gay or straight, and prefer to think it doesn't matter. The kind of love that he expresses transcends that kind of distinction, it seems to me, Whitman's goal was to be and experience everything. He wouldn't care if somebody said he was gay, but I doubt he would restrict himself with such a label, gay or straight, if it would reduce his ability to flow.


April 21, 2009 7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, but his poetry is definitely more interesting than the pseudo-mystical Whitman crap (no more cracks about eloquence).

I'd go for Eat a Peach High School or Hope is that Thing with Feathers Middle School any day.

April 21, 2009 8:37 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

I think we disagree on this Jim, but you're right, Whitman can be read either way. He is certainly a spokesperson for the american notion of tolerance and celebrating but integrating differences.

I spent about an hour after work reading some of his prose essays on line. He wrote during and after the civil war, and captures the pathos of that conflict.

Interesting, he referred to confederate generals as "secesh" generals, which is perhaps is slang for "secessionist."

I'm a big fan of Whitman; we have a school in FFX named after him also.


April 22, 2009 8:53 AM  
Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

Jim noted:

“The Reverend Fred Phelps is scheduled to bring his congregation, which has the website GodHatesFags.com, to our county on April 24th to protest the fact that a high school was named after somebody who may have been gay.”

This seems like the perfect opportunity to bring out the “God Hates Figs” signs -- after all, there is plenty of evidence for it in the bible:

Matthew 21:19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.

Mark 11:13-4 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever.

Jeremiah 8:13 I will surely consume them, saith the LORD: there shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall fade; and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them.

Jeremiah 29:17 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.

Have a nice day, and stay away from figs,


April 22, 2009 10:08 AM  
Blogger Tish said...

Figs are the sexiest fruit I have even seen. My parents grew figs. The feel of a perfectly ripe fig, just picked and warm from the sun - well. Women like me who are very fond of men - well. Figs - well.

la la la la (thinking of puppies, kittens, knitting)

In other news, the counter-protest Facebook site is very interesting. The primary student organizers are working hard to get their message out - they want a very controlled, peaceful, non-confrontational protest. The biggest concern is that a student (in the counter-protest or just leaving school for the day) will over-react and give the WBC an excuse to sue. They point out that MCPS, not an individual, will be sued.

Students from other schools are not allowed. Signs are not allowed. Organizers expect a strong police presence and area asking students from other schools not to try to sneak in.

It appears as though the school does not want anyone from outside the school to counter-protest, but that is not explicitly stated. All-in-all, the student organizers seem to be doing a great job.

April 22, 2009 10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Students from other schools are not allowed. Signs are not allowed."

Allowed where and by whom? WBC won't be on school property and if students from some other school choose to come by, they have that right.

April 22, 2009 11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"WBC won't be on school property and if students from some other school choose to come by, they have that right.".........

And that would include you too, "Anonymous"! We all will be looking for you carrying your "God Hates Fags" sign and shouting out the most vile and obscene accusations that cannot even be printed on this site. After all, you have to have at least one outlet for your loathesome homophobia and hatred!

April 22, 2009 12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be on either side of this but I do take umbrage to those who think they have the right to forbid participation in peaceful protests of any kind.

You should be, too.

April 22, 2009 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look, obviously Walt Whitman was a sleazeball.

The worst thing he did was inspire the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.

Let's change the name to the Lovely Dark and Deep Woods Secondary School.

April 22, 2009 3:35 PM  
Blogger Tish said...

WBC cannot hold its demonstration without a permit, which it has. They cannot demonstrate on School Property and they cannot obstruct traffic. What I have read is that the Police will assign an area to them where they can demonstrate. No one is preventing them from demonstrating.

The administration at Walt Whitman High School has the obligation to secure the school property. They are completely within their rights to bar students from other schools from a student demonstration on school property. MCPS is liable for what happens on school property. If any counter-protester confronts WBC physically, WBC can sue MCPS. I suspect the ban on signs is also to remove the temptation to whack a Phelps, but I'm not sure. We might not like them restricting the demonstration to Whitman students only, but this is something they CAN do.

Now if someone else wants to make private property available to counter protesters, or if someone wants to get a permit for a counter-protest, go for it.

April 22, 2009 9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone not on school property can observe the demonstration by WBC and make any comment they want, including Whitman students.

You all are quite right, however, that WBC does not engage in violence and disruption. They gain an advantage when their opponents do, which happens often. The Whitman students are foolish to counter-protest if want to advocate for gay rights. The risk is too high as it is impossible to that all their supporters will act intelligently. Ignoring WBC would serve that cause better.

Is that irony, Jim?

April 22, 2009 11:37 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

and also to give students a chance to point out the logical flaws in the church's ideology," Hauck said.LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, and I am so sure they will see the error of their theological ways.

Good grief...the naivete of youth is a mixture of alarming and refreshing...you know, sort of like a cold shower after working all afternoon in the yard.

April 23, 2009 1:15 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Ignoring WBC would serve that cause better.

Is that irony, Jim?


April 23, 2009 6:53 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

The God-hates-fags-folks use the same tactic as the CRW; they seek to INFLAME people in the community to judge others as sinners and worse.

Hey Orin, why don't you suggest the CRW and the Phelps clan "take a moment and cast a cautionary glance at poor Eliot and keep in mind this pearl of wisdom,

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.Matthew 7:2"

April 23, 2009 9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The God-hates-fags-folks use the same tactic as the CRW; they seek to INFLAME people in the community to judge others as sinners and worse."

CRW doesn't use that tactic.

As far as WBC goes, Jim said their tactic is to provoke gay advocates to commit violence against WBC and sue.

Can you guys get together for dinner and settle this division in TTF?

April 23, 2009 11:08 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

CRW doesn't use that tactic.

Yes they do.

Way back in January of 2005, when CRW still called itself RECALLMONTGOMERYSCHOOLBOARD, the leaders planned to INFLAME. The administrator may have titled his/her comment "CIVIL - NOT SUBMISSIVE," but the real intent is clear at the end:


In other words, aggressive tactics."

Here's the full text of that comment from the link I provided at 9:06AM.


I agree Mary with your post in the media section. There is a place for focused anger here. Lets not forget that this "quasi" elected board, immediately after the nationwide election which trounced the homosexual agenda, instituted a profoundly pro-gay curriculum. What they did was, and still is, outrageous.

This board is NOT going to recant anything because of "supplicant" appeals to listen to our position. The only thing that is going to get their complete attention is:

1. Continuing outrage streaming in to their castle headquarters
2. John Garza proceeding immediatley with his lawsuit. (Lawsuits tend to get peoples attention - merit or no merit because it forces them to deal with their legal team on a continuing basis)
3. 50,000 plus signatures between the paper petition and the on-line petition.
4. Tabulation of all the outrageous things said about us and this issue, and posted on both web sites.
5. Massive email campaign to inform and INFLAME.

In other words, aggressive tactics.

[Date=01-13-2005] Name:ADMINISTRATOR support@recallmontgomeryschoolboard.com, [Msgid=763681]

From "continuing outrage streaming" to "INFLAME" to "aggressive tactics" the CRW plan is just like the Phelps' plan. The Phelps clan loudly and aggressively proclaim their hatred for gays and seek to INFLAME homophobes to join them and/or contribute to their efforts while also seeking to INFLAME gay activists to "act violently or inappropriately."

Can you guys get together for dinner and settle this division in TTF?

Do you think Jim wrote the Black and White Online piece? There's no "division" here. You must be confusing TTF with the GOP.

April 23, 2009 4:09 PM  

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