October 2016

Some Nightmares Turn Real

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We’re in a beige room. A bunker and I am messing with the dial.

“What was that” she asks

“I think something about killing” I think I heard

“Strange.” says another in the corner.

She has a worried look but nothing happens, so we try to brush it off. 

I twist the knob and there comes a chirp from the speaker, barely audible but you can hear it was something. Something ominous.

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Learning from Hate-Megan Phelps-Roper at ADL in San Diego

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Megan Phelps-Roper at ADL Turning Points in San Diego

The screen was dark but the sounds soul-piercing. Loud, cutting phrases of a pastor’s sermon, a hateful, angry pastor of the Westboro Church broke the silence. The violence of the words made children’s brows furl as several hundred of them looked down on his image on a large screen in front of them. His words made one as uncomfortable as a shot of cheap vodka. The video describing the teachings of a fundamentalist church in Kansas. Towards the end of the video, a woman with signs and eyes hidden by sunglasses speaks. In her voice is hatred, righteousness, pride and self-assuredness. Not fifteen feet from me, sits the same woman. Appearing similar and yet clearly, this is an entirely different person. Calmness and kindness seems to permeate her, a stark contrast to the face above me on the screen. She is Megan Phelps-Roper, the grand-daughter of Fred Phelps, the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church. Megan was born into the church and left it and her entire family four years prior. As I looked over, I imagined what it must feel like to hear her old self say those angry words, and thus, becoming even more uncomfortable. It was at this point that she quietly stood up and with the royal fluidity approached the podium, took the microphone and looked up at the middle school and high school students in front of her as the sound cut out and their eyes silently centered on her. Megan’s steady and clear voice takes over: “I am Megan Phelps-Roper and I was the person in that video.”

Read More »Learning from Hate-Megan Phelps-Roper at ADL in San Diego