Teaching by example in unintended ways

Later today, I plan to head down to Grandfield Oklahoma, just this side of the Texas border, to join some students in a counter demo against the Phelps/Westboro Baptist/Gods Hates Fags nutjobs from Kansas.

A week ago I had never even heard of Grandfield, Oklahoma, and maybe you hadn’t either, but some bad (in my opinion) decisions by school officials have brought more than a little attention to the small town south of Lawton.

The short version: A teacher was using The Laramie Project, a play about the murder of Matthew Shepherd for the “crime” of being gay, in her Ethics and Street Law class (how cool to have such a class!). A few parents decided to complain, the teacher was told to stop using the play, but because the students were upset about that, she wanted to help them deal with the issue and did a kind of funeral for the production. The school superintendent, who is apparently a huge authoritarian (to put it kindly), decided the teacher was being insubordinate and eventually got her to resign.

The Phelps connection comes from their mission to protest whenever this play is mentioned.

Here are some links to state and national news stories.

USA Today
And, of course, The Oklahoman finally did get around to it on Thursday, long after the Internet was buzzing with the story, and national publications had picked it up.

I missed joining another counter demo during the recent appearance of the Phelps in Oklahoma City (after gay pastor Scott Jones led a prayer in the state legislature), so I really appreciate them coming back down to our state. I’m really beginning to think that in a way they are doing those who believe in tolerance, love and equality a real service by showing the full extreme of what anti-gay bigotry is all about. I hope those who cloak their fear and bigotry behind more “respectable” veneer really take a look at their side of the fence and see if that’s really where they want to be.

I think Sean Penn addressed those people best when accepting the Oscar for his performance as Harvey Milk, another murdered gay man:

… sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support.

Thanks to James Branum at jmbzine.com for organizing statewide participation in the student led demo in Grandfield. I feel privileged to be able to support the courageous young people who are showing compassion and solidarity — the real “Christian” values — in the very difficult circumstances present at this time for the open-minded in Grandfield.