365 Project – Day 293 – Why You Need to See Kevin Smith’s “Red State”

A few years ago, my husband Steven started a little something called the People I’d Like to Have a Beer With List. Essentially it is a list of his idols, people that he thinks are deliriously funny, and people he would just like to sit around and talk to for an afternoon. You can think of it as sort of a Christmas wish list for adults. Instead of toys, Steven would like to ask Santa for a personal meeting with some of his favorite celebrities. Nothing stalkerish about it. He’d just like a couple hours to sit around and shoot the shit with some of the people he admires most. People like Matt Sorum, Seth MacFarland, Lewis Black, and his favorite director of all time, the one and only, Kevin Smith.

Now, most people know Smith from his films like Clerks and Mallrats, which he wrote, directed, and even acted in as the quietly lovable character named Silent Bob.

His most recent film, however, is a sharp detour from the comedies Smith is known for. The independently-financed horror film, Red State, is something else entirely. The reviews thus far have been a very mixed bag, but I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed it.

Now, perhaps I should explain, because when I say “enjoyed” I don’t necessarily mean that I am dying to watch it again tomorrow. In fact, as I sit here writing this, I am pretty disturbed by what I’ve just seen. I felt the same way when I left the theater after watching the movie Seven, yet it would probably be in my top 50 favorites if I was making a list. The reason? Because sometimes there are movies that just seem to resonate, that hit a chord, that hold up a mirror (however warped it may seem) and allow us to see, with razor sharpness, some of the most glaring issues in our society.

Red State is one of those movies.

If you are somehow still unaware of the beliefs or activities of the Westboro Baptist Church, it is definitely time to climb out from the rock you’ve been living under and start watching the news. While few of these protests have actually turned violent, I believe it is only a matter of time before we have another David Koresh, Waco-style massacre on our hands. And essentially, that is one of Smith’s points in the film.

See, we live in a world where we often prefer to deal with unpleasantries by burying our heads in the sand and pretending that nothing is wrong. We don’t want the burden of having to deal with things or having to put forth the effort to change them, so we just look the other way and ignore the warning signs. I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet by talking about it too much in detail here, but I think the thing that rattled me most while watching the film is that I don’t think the WBC is very far removed from the Five Points Church depicted in the film. When you’re dealing with this level of hatred and religious fanaticism, it’s only a matter of time before things get ugly. Real ugly. And I commend Smith for taking a stand against a group of people that even our federal courts can’t seem to bother with.

I’m proud to be a Nebraskan. I was born here, raised here, and even though I moved away to attend college, I found my way back here twelve years later to settle and start my own family. I was even prouder to be a Nebraskan when our state passed a law prohibiting the funeral protests that the Westboro Baptist Church has grown so famous for staging. Too bad the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals stepped in to reverse the ruling. But, we Nebraskans will fight it, all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to, because, like Kevin Smith, we believe in taking a stand against the things we know are wrong. We just wish more people would listen.

Tonight’s 365 Project entry is dedicated to Kevin Smith for writing, directing, assembling a phenomenal cast, promoting, distributing, and standing behind Red State, in spite of whatever criticism might come your way. Bravo, sir! I hope someday my husband gets a chance to check your name off his People I’d Like to Have a Beer With List, because you are definitely one guy we would be proud to say we know.

And if you’d like to do a little more reading about the recent repeal of the Nebraska protest law or what the members of the Westboro Baptist Church thought about Red State, click the links below.

8th US Circuit of Appeals opinion strikes down Nebraska’s restrictions on funeral pickets

Phelpses give mixed reviews to ‘Red State’

365 Project – Day 231 – United We Stand

Earlier this week, I got in a heated debate with someone who was throwing around some rather disgusting racial slurs and spewing hateful comments about an entire group of people based on their religion.

That kind of crap always gets me fired up pretty quickly.

I’ll be the first to admit it…I have a pretty low tolerance for ignorance and blind hatred. I just can’t understand why someone would choose to condemn an entire group of people based on something like their religious beliefs, or their skin color, or where they were raised. To me, that’s like saying you hate anyone who chews watermelon gum. Just because you don’t have a taste for it, doesn’t mean that everyone has to hate it.

One of the things that I loved most about the time I spent in New York was the fact that I was fortunate to meet and spend time with people from different faiths, different backgrounds, and all different walks of life. I have friends who are Jewish, Christian, Agnostic, Atheist, Muslim, and just about every religion under the sun. I have friends spread out across the United States, South America, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

And you want to know something interesting?

None of us are so very different after all.

Strip it all away, take away all the gods and the rituals and the differences in beliefs and languages and cultures, and we are all still human underneath. Unfortunately, these days, too many people have lost sight of that tie that binds us. I may not may not be a poster child for one particular tradition or set of rituals (though I was raised Lutheran), but there is one thing that I refuse to let go, and that is believing that all humans are connected by a higher power. Call it what you want–God, the Almighty, Allah, Yahweh, the Creator, the Universe–it is the reason we are even here and blessed with life in the first place. If I can spent my time here on earth loving and caring about my fellow human beings and doing what I can to make the world a better place, then I have done my job and I can be proud of the life I have led. Life is too short to spend it being miserable and hating people, and I am not going to waste my time doing that.

Unfortunately, some people use religion as a mask to hide behind to do some really horrible things to each other, and that goes for people belonging to all religions throughout history. Today, my family and I came face to face with such a group.

If you’ve watched the news or read a newspaper in the past 10 years, you’ve probably heard about the Westboro Baptist Church. The church is located in Kansas and is headed by a man named Fred Phelps. The small congretation consists mostly of Phelps’ family members and is known for its hatred of homosexuals and for its protests and picketing everything from school plays to military funerals. I am choosing not to provide a link to anything related to this group here on my blog, because I believe they are hateful human beings who thrive on attention, but if you’re curious to know more about them, just do a Google search.

Yesterday, my friend Nikki put out a call to all of her friends and family for support. Apparently, the Westboro Baptist Church decided top picket the funeral of Sgt. Patrick Hamburger, one of the 30 American soldiers killed in the helicopter crash in Afghanistan on August 6. My nerves still frazzled from my recent argument, I wanted desperately to do something to help. So, early this morning, Steven, Cadence and I headed to the church where Sgt. Hamburger’s family would be saying their final goodbyes.

I don’t think any of us could have imagined what we would experience there today.

By the time we arrived, just before 8:30 a.m., one section of the parking lot was already filled with people and motorcycles, and as Steven, Cadence and I walked up to the group, everyone was being handed an American flag. If you are not familiar with the Patriot Guard Riders click HERE, or the Combat Veterans Association click HERE to visit their webpages. I will gladly link you to this organizations so you can see for yourself some of the amazing work that they do. Hundreds of us–Combat Vets, Patriot Riders and local men, women and children–lined the streets and the entrance to the church, holding our flags and creating a buffer between Sgt. Hamburgers friends and family and the members of the Westboro Baptist Church who came to protest.

As luck would have it, the church owned a large chunk of property that led more than a football field’s length to a busy intersection, and the permit obtained by the WBC members stipulated they keep themselves another 600 feet from the property line, so we never even got to see them, hear them yell or read any of their dispicable picket signs. Rumor has it that at least one member may have gotten arrested after crossing the property line, but I have not been able to confirm it. Oh, how sweet that would be!

For nearly two hours we stood with our flags as the grieving family and friends arrived for the service. I was so proud of my little Cadence who spent her time playing in the grass and alternating between looking at books and digging in the dirt at my feet. Several Combat Vets and Patriot Riders walked up and down the lines offering cold bottles of water from coolers and asking if anyone needed a break. Each of them paused to give Cadence a high five and to thank Steven and I for coming, saying how wonderful it was to see all the little ones helping out too.

After the service had begun and the Westboro Baptist Church’s permit expired causing them to vacate the premises, everyone carefully rolled up their flags and returned them to the trailer, before heading over to the cemetery to regroup and greet Sgt. Hamburger’s family and friends once again with one final patriotic salute to the fallen solider. Unfortunately, Steven and I had one very tired little girl on our hands, so we had to head back home instead of following the group to the cemetery, but we are thankful that we did get to spend at least part of our day with such an amazing group of people.

These days, it is rather easy to become a cynic. With the endless barrage of negativity being shoved down our throats by the mass media, it’s a wonder there is any goodness left in the world at all. And yet, there is a whole lot more goodness that most people realize. We saw it today, up close and personal. So believe me when I tell you that there is an abundance of goodness out there, and also kindness and compassion and love and beauty and, perhaps most importantly, there is hope.

Tonight’s 365 Project entry is dedicated to Sgt. Patrick Hamburger and to all of our brave military members, both past and present, for their honor and dedicated service to our country, and to all of the Patriot Riders, Combat Vets and proud American citizens that took a stand against hatred today. Keep standing. Keep standing. Keep standing.

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