Letter from the Editor

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Funeral crashers

In the movie "Wedding Crashers," the comic stars discover that crashing funerals is the quick way to pick up vulnerable misses in black. And there are a few folks in every congregation who sit in on funerals for people they have never met, as long as it comes with a catered chicken dinner.

But there's nothing funny about the real hatemongers who are seeking to attract attention to themselves by protesting at the funerals of military people.

The first though that occurs to me is, you could just dig an extra hole and give such people a little nudge. Yo, watch that first step, fella.

But you don't answer hate with hate. If anything, you should pity them for their delusions. In the meantime, jail them until they learn some manners.

You just know the Governor's really cheesed off when he has a bill sent to Afghanistan by fax (how many fax machines do you think they have in Afghanistan?) so he can sign it immediately even as he tours the hot zone.

The reason was plain enough.

Army Specialist Daniel Sesker lost his life to a roadside bomb just a couple days before his 23rd birthday. He had been a police officer in Gowrie before being deployed to serve his country in Iraq.

The concern was that some heartless protesters were planning to protest at Daniel's funeral. As if his family has not paid a dear enough price.

For almost a year, some members of a church in Kansas have been going around picketing soldiers' funerals with signs like "Thank God for Dead Soldiers."

Some of them claim God is killing soldiers to punish America for condoning homosexuality. They also picketed the funerals of 12 West Virginia coal miners who died in a mine blast in January - you guessed it, that was God retaliating for gays too.

Un-flipping-believable. If anyone sees any sense in connecting sexuality with a military funeral, you had better lay down until it goes away.

In this space, we speak out at every opportunity in favor of peaceful protest, and for the right of people to share their opinions, no matter whether they are popular or even sane - or not. These people are no different.

But the right to free speech does not take precedence over common human decency. No one has that right - and no family deserves to have extremists cruelly disrupt a memorial service.

It's insane that Iowa has to pass a law overnight just to prevent such addle-headed ugliness, but it is not wrong that it has done so, even if only to protect a single young man's family from this kind of abuse.

If you want to protest over sexuality, knock yourself out. If you want to protest war, or immigration policies, Barry Bonds or the color of the sky - whatever trips your trigger.

But not this way. There is nothing to gain by inflicting unnecessary pain on innocent people.

Ironically, courageous people like Daniel Sesker have always answered their country's call in part to protect the rights of people who stay safely home to be free to march around and whine with their picket signs.

In most cases, for the legislature to pass some bill in such a hurried way to answer one isolated situation would be inappropriate if not knee-jerk.

In this case, I'm proud of them for being able to drop the partisan garbage that hamstrings so many important issues, and do what is only right to do.

When we needed him, Daniel Sesker went to do a dangerous job for us, and sacrificed his life in the process. The least we as Iowans can do for one of our fallen heroes.