Hello Innermost Parts!

A little bit about myself: My name is Erica, I am a sophomore majoring in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies with a minor in Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies. I am a coordinator of the Brandeis Interfaith Group and on Hillel Board. I am really new at blogging and am exited to share my perspectives with you!

As I am sure everybody knows by this point, the Westboro Church is coming to Brandeis the morning of Friday, December 3rd , specifically targeting Hillel at Brandeis. As a Hillel member and Jewish Brandeisian who embraces diversity and pluralism, I feel personally hurt and violated. I know that I am not alone.

I also feel angry. There is a part of me who wants nothing more than to confront them, talk to them, do something ridiculous. WBC has the potential to bring out the worst in me, the worst in us.

When I really thought about both what they are out to accomplish, and our University’s values, I realized that direct, reactionary confrontation would not be the best response. WBC wants to prove that college students are irresponsible and immoral. They want us to cause a scene and get violent and react so they can sue us to further fuel their hatred. If we are not careful, we can easily end up being sued for assault and/ or indecent exposure. I am not saying that having fun or reacting is morally wrong- I am just saying that we would be giving them exactly what they want.

To be honest, even though Brandeis is a creative community, I do not think we could develop a response that they have not seen before. We would not be the first to start praying or kissing or drinking and we would not be more effective than anyone who has done this in the past. We are not going to be able to have a pleasant conversation with them, or make them change their minds. In my personal opinion, efforts to do so would be fruitless and counterproductive.

Instead, what if all of Brandeis united to create a response that was both meaningful and could work towards a larger goal?

It will be a much greater accomplishment if Brandeis took advantage of this moment and created a unified response, completely isolated from them, to support Hillel and our community by embracing and living our Brandeis values. We could also use this as a catalyst to fundraise for an organization that represents our concerns and interests.

If our responses are celebratory instead of reactionary, productive instead of abrasive, we can accomplish so much more. Lets love and respect each other instead of hating them.

Hillel, the Student Union and many other Student organizations are currently planning a festival to celebrate our diversity and campus culture of pluralism while showing support to our numerous friends who feel attacked and distressed. We are also going to be having a fundraiser over the course of the day for an organization working towards Brandeis ideals of social justice.

I am please to know that so many students have expressed the same sentiments and are energetic about developing a response for the morning that WBC is on campus. I look forward in working with all of you, sharing more details of our planned celebration, and showing ourselves and the world just how beautiful of a community we can be.

4 comments on “Celebrate, Don’t React!”

  1. Dan T. Says:

    I agree with this completely. I don’t think that there’s anything we could do that the WBC hasn’t seen before. They want us to react, they thrive on controversy. A big counterprotest shows that they’ve gotten under our skin and that’s their goal in all of this.

    If we use their presence to raise money for organizations that they oppose then they will have lost. We should use this time to raise money for Hillel and other groups that the WBC would oppose. We should also have a large “Thank You” card set up for everyone to sign so Pastor Phelps knows that it was his presence that allowed us to raise all this money for these organizations. This is not a new idea, it’s been done at rallies before. I think this would be particularly effective at the type of event you’re describing though.

    I’d love nothing more than to see this negative event turned into a positive celebration. Pastor Phelps has seen it all. But if his presence could be used as a fundraising opportunity, I think that’s what would really get under HIS skin. He needs to know that his visit inspired us to raise money for a lot of great organizations that he opposes and we embrace.

  2. Sara Says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself, Erica. Thank you.

  3. Shua Says:

    I was very much hoping someone at Brandeis shared these convictions. Really pleased. Great job, Erica.

  4. StevenHB Says:

    I found this block entry, http://westcoastwitness.com/2010/01/29/my-experience-with-the-westboro-baptist-church-hate-group/, to be particularly interesting. Note how WBC films its own protests to ensure that any assualt on its members is prosecuted by the local authorities.

    Be careful out there in how you respond.

    -A Concerned Brandeis Parent