I got out of my car this morning and heard faint shouting. I remember. WBC is supposed to be here today. I walked by where the CDA police had blocked off the street, and headed toward the Student Union Building. As I got closer, I saw colorful signs and heard a cacophony of noises. At first, I was angry.
I knew that members of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas had scheduled time to come up and protest the NIC production of "The Laramie Project" - a play that chronicles monologues from the people in Laramie, WY, after a young gay college student, Matthew Shepard, was brutally tortured and murdered there for his sexual orientation. I also knew that the WBC is infamous for protesting at military funerals - not against war or the waste of human life - but that they were glad these soldiers were dead because they died for what the WBC sees as a damned country for its extension of rights to LGBTs.
While I was cursing the people holding the signs in front of the SUB, which I have come to regard as a cozy, safe zone, I got closer, and realized that there was more to what I was seeing. The gathering I saw first was actually the counter-protest that NIC students and others had organized. By the time I got there, which was half an hour after the start, there were still about 50 or more people - unlike the 200+ there originally. The WBC people were of the other side of the street, coralled into a small portion of sidewalk.
And then I was smiling.
The fight for rights and justice does for me what I imagine church/temple/mosque does for religious people. I have dreamed about protests since I was little, desperate to be a part of something larger than myself.
The dozen or so WBC people could not be heard.
My people - my school - was singing, and cheering, and shouting. They were waving signs that said things like "I love my aunt" and "There's a reason Dorothy left Kansas," and waving American flags.
They sang "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" and later, the National Anthem.
What must be understood about me is that I have not felt patriotic since I was eight, and Bush was "elected." After that November, I spent eight years hating my government. Even with Obama in office, I find that I cannot love my country as I should - I have missed a crucial stage in my intellectual development, and my patriotism died because of it. Being proud of my schools happens rarely, and I was too new to NIC to cultivate true loyalty.
But today, NIC won my love. I am a proud NIC student.
With so much love and acceptance pushing against the hate, the WBC signs ("God hates Fags" and other nonsense) looked almost laughable.
Love really does beat out hate. (And may it always do so)