Patriot Guard Riders stand against hatred
Anyone who pays close attention to Fred Phelps and his hateful Westboro Baptist Church have likely noticed they're having a lot less fun these days.
Even as they're denied entry into foreign countries -- both Canada and Britain have turned them away -- their pickets of slain American soldiers' funerals are dwindling.
This can be credited at least in part to individuals like Sam Cottle, Jim Boland, and the more than 150,000 Americans who make up the Patriot Guard Riders, an organization that, since 2005, has protected the funerals of American soldiers from the WBC's demonstrations of hatred.
The Patriot Guard Riders have sought and recieved invitations to many such funerals, where they stand shoulder to shoulder with American flags and block out the WBC's protests. Never have they raised a hand in violence against the WBC (regardless of how much the WBC deserves it), even though they've been spit at by frustrated WBC protesters.
"We don't react to it," says pastor Tom Cottle.
Like many members of the Patriotic Guard Riders, Cottle is a Christian pastor fed up with Fred Phelps' and the WBCs' pollution of Christianity.
Others are simply fed up with the WBC's attempts to turn what should be a solemn day for the friends and families of deceased soldiers into a forum for their hatred.
Jim Boland joined the Patriot Guard Riders when he first heard about the WBC and their pickets. "I said, 'That isn't right. I'll go up there and see what's going on.' The protesters did not show up, but the whole town showed up. The Patriot Guard had at least 80 people on bikes and in cars. That's when I met some of my friends for the first time."
Certainly, Jim Boland has a great many friends now. Not merely among the Patriot Guard Riders, and not even merely among the friends and family of dead soldiers. Jim Boland and those courageous enough to stand with him have made a great many friends among anyone who opposes hatred, anywhere.
The actions of the Patriot Guard Riders are much more than an act of patriotism. Their actions are a triumph of the human spirit and of human compassion over vicious, inhumane, hateful, and evil people.
Their actions have taken a common reaction to the WBC and their theology of hate and transformed it into an act of simple, compassionate heroism.