Westboro Baptist Church
I photographed the Westboro Baptist Church protesting outside an inclusive church a few weeks ago in the Denver area. I usually try to share my photos within a few days. But I’ve been processing that morning since then, and I haven’t been able to articulate my thoughts on it. I was surprised by mainly feeling hopeful after shooting it. This was partly because several folks smudged me shortly after I got there. I was also moved by the kindness of the folks supporting the church and the parishioners. And also the nice cops.
I shoot mostly in Denver and DPD officers at these things often have a hostile vibe. But both these guys were what I’ve usually experienced from small town cops. One of the officers started talking about his dad dying in Vietnam and what it was like growing up without him. And how he didn’t fully feel the loss until he himself was a dad. I have no idea now what the segue was that brought it on, but it felt like a gift to have him share it with me.
But mostly I was struck by how the teenagers, while their messages were vile, mostly just seemed like kids. I talked to several of them and most of them were friendly. I know their history of protesting at war veterans’ funerals. And I can’t imagine trying to bury a loved one while people are shouting obscene, hateful things. But yelling and screaming at people as a form of protest or counter-protest isn’t useful. I know I’ve never been influenced positively by someone screaming at me.
I guess I expected them to be horrible people. Who else could believe that vile shit? But the truth is I left there feeling that there was hope for them. And I drove off feeling better emotionally than I did when I got there. Maybe love does trump hate.