Fred Phelps has died.

Fred Phelps, founder/leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, has died.

This is a profound test of our ability to rise above the ignorance and hatred that were part and parcel of his message.

I do not celebrate the death of any human being. I wish he had dealt with whatever demons made him so broken and spoiled inside. I wish he hadn’t wasted the only life he will ever know.

I will celebrate the death of his message, whenever that happens: it hasn’t died with him, and that’s one of the things that makes it impossible for me to experience any joy at his passing. The other is basic human decency and the sometimes complicated and conflicting desire to be a better person than he ever chose to be. But I won’t celebrate his death, as much as the primitive lizard part of my brain begs me to gloat over it.

May he rest, not in peace, but in oblivion: forgotten. May his funeral not be picketed or protested, but instead completely ignored. May his message be reviled wherever it survives, and die the painful death I hope he was spared. May his “religion”, gnarled, twisted branch of a tree that grows in the shape that we nurture it to be, wither and fall.

We have work to do. Let’s not waste our time on those who deserve none of it, other than to learn our lessons about the bell curve of humanity, and move on.

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