By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Sunday was a good day to be a fat man with a mustache in Colorado Springs. Not that every day isn't a good day to be a fat man with a mustache in the Springs, but May 1 held particular promise for mustachioed practitioners of the cellulitic arts. Because the parking lots of the innumerable dull corporate enterprises surrounding Focus on the Family headquarters all needed to be protected on Sunday -- otherwise, the fags would park in them.
"You protesters can't park there," one fat security guard growled at us, the froth gathering in his mustache. "So you just need to take it elsewhere."
What "it" might be was unclear, but there was no mistaking the disdain these guards had for the barbarians descending from the north. My car bore no rainbow sticker, and my friend Monty and I were there only to cover the protest, not participate -- okay, maybe we were looking for free-swinging hippie chicks, so what? -- yet we were eyed suspiciously by countless crack security teams. Even the family peering through their blinds as we parked in front of their house regarded us cautiously, as if our wacky liberal beliefs might cause us to break out in ass-fucking at any moment. Which is really only half true.
At the actual demonstration, there was no ass-fucking to be seen. Just impassioned supporters brought together by Soulforce, a group promoting freedom from religious and political oppression for the GLBT community, there to protest the ever-growing influence of James Dobson and the hate spewing out of his hotel-like compound. The scene had a carnival feel, with bright colors and balloons and a man on stilts waving a giant streamer that children chased in the street. Some people queued up for hot dogs and coffee, while others gathered by the stage to listen to the caterwauling of two "performers" named Jason and deMarco, a pair so bland and uninspired that I initially mistook them for a recording. (Note to Soulforce: Ditch Jason and deMarco, STAT.)
Mercifully, Jason and deMarco were soon replaced by Colorado Springs councilman Richard Skorman, who delivered some thoughtful words on how Focus on the Family taints the image of his fair city, after which Denver's own Reverend Gil Caldwell delivered a fiery sermon. Monty and I watched the speeches until we felt properly informed and political and righteous. Then we went and looked at the crazies.
And, boy, were they crazy! I'm talking smear-your-face-with-your-own-shit crazy! These were the Westboro Baptist Church boys, headed up by that old closet homo Fred Phelps. Phelps and his Topeka crew are so crazy that they weren't just picketing Soulforce, but Focus on the Family, for being too tolerant of homosexuals!
Quarantined behind yellow police tape, the Westboro clique flossed signs with catchy slogans like "God Hates Fags," "Thank God for AIDS," "Pope in Hell," and "Fags Doom Nations." One Phelps fan in gray sweatpants paced back and forth with an enormous wooden cross. Another, noting the difficulty I was having scribbling his justification of his indefensible stance with near-frozen fingers, remarked, "Don't worry, it won't be so cold in Hell."
I moved on to two boys, aged fifteen and sixteen and both with the last name of Phelps, and asked if they liked what they were doing. "We're fulfilling God's word by rebuking them," Isaiah, the younger one, said, gesturing toward the masses. "They will either curse God or weep and then repent."
"And if they do repent, is your work done?"
"They will never repent," Isiah told me. "Just like a leopard cannot change his spots, someone used to doing evil cannot stop."
"Then . . .why are you doing this?"
At that, Isaiah rattled off a litany of the sound-bite-ready catchphrases he's been force-fed since birth, like "orgy of lies," "depart from inequity," "reprove, rebuke and exhort," and passages from the book of Leviticus. His supply exhausted, he then stared blankly into the distance.
"Wouldn't you rather be out skateboarding or hanging out at the mall?" I asked.
To my right, Monty was arguing with another Phelps acolyte who spoke in an irate, high-pitched tenor. Monty asked him the same question I'd asked the children of the corn: If God had forsaken the homosexuals, then why waste time protesting them? God hadn't forsaken them, the tenor said; he'd cast them off. Isn't that the same thing? Monty wondered. He'd cast them off, the man insisted. The two played the synonym game for several minutes before things seemed to swirl out of control. "He cast them off, he cast them off!" Monty's guy screamed as another crazy Kansan shouted, "Jesus preached about hate! Jesus's love is not for you, you workers of inequity!"
From the stage, a Soulforce speaker calmly countered the insanity with a quote from the Lakota Sioux: "We are all related."
God, I hope not.