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The conflict of freedom

By Jennifer - Posted on 02 April 2016

There are some days you just don’t want to leave the house. Like yesterday, when I had to get up at 6am, it was dark, cold, raining, I had to take 3 trains to do a 10 minute camera interview of people I did not want to meet. 

At first I thought it was a joke when we were asked to cover a protest by the Westboro Baptist Church near the iconic ‘Seinfeld diner’ in NYC for our online magazine. After all, it was April 1st. But WBC doesn’t seem to have a sense of humor. 

WBC is an organization that preaches hate, ignorance and bigotry. Even though they kicked out that hateful idiot Phelps before he died, they still preach a bunch of nonsense. I really didn’t want to give them a voice on our site, which I respect greatly. 

But it made a strange kind of sense: we cover science, space, and NASA in particular. When a “religious” group protests a NASA office in NYC for being involved in protecting the earth from asteroids, it made us curious as to why.  And, it’s my job.

The trains were cooperative for once, so I got there early. I saw 5-6 TV network trucks and Homeland Security vehicles, so I thought it would be a media circus. I went into Tom’s Restaurant and had a lovely breakfast. About 10 minutes before the planned time, 4 ladies showed up with protest signs, and moved to the median in the middle of Broadway. The TV trucks had gone, they had no interest. A few cops gathered on the corner, more cops than protesters.

My colleague and I ventured out and asked one of the ladies if she’d do an interview on camera, and she was happy to oblige. You see, hate groups love publicity, even if it’s bad. I held my camera up and made sure to get her t-shirt in the frame that read “God Hates Fags” and one of her signs read “Fags Doom Nations”. I felt queasy. My colleague asked questions, and he remained professional and calm throughout - I was impressed.

From what I could understand, they believe that we should do nothing if armageddon comes, and they think no one should ever take any action, because if god wills destruction it will be so, no matter what they do. So they came to protest NASA’s PDCO (Planetary Defense Coordination Office, which is actually in Washington DC) to tell them to just stop doing things, because it’s pointless.

At one point, I glanced to my left as a man stared from across the street as she said “your science blah blah blah” and rolled my eyes, to show him I was not into this at all. The interview lasted 8 minutes, then they packed up and left - on to their next protest.

We took off and posted the story in the afternoon. Comments poured in asking “why did you cover this?” “why do you give these idiots attention?” Though I think the initial aim was to make them look stupid (which is pretty obvious, they have no logic or even religion behind their arguments), it turned out to be more than that.

I thought about the US election and how much attention Trump is getting, and I’ve said the same thing every day “why are people giving this complete idiot ANY attention?” The WBC story isn't any different.

Strangely, the woman was all smiles, polite, and not once did she get angry or say she hated anyone (despite the signs), and did not claim to impose her views on anyone. One commenter criticized the story for not naming this woman we interviewed. I actually did not want to name her because people worse than her could more easily target and hurt her.

I felt conflict inside.

We live in the United States of America, “land of the free, home of the brave.” Trump, hate-spewing bigots, and anyone who has a pulse has a voice here. This is FREEDOM. No matter how stupid or ignorant the person is, we listen, then we agree or disagree. 

My colleague and I covered this story because we were curious, that’s all. Now you decide.