That’s former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, delivering the opening remarks at today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence. As you may remember, Giffords was shot in 2011 by Jared Lee Loughner, whose list of complaints against her included her failure to completely answer his question, “What is government if words have no meaning?” at a 2007 campaign event. Something is wrong with Loughner’s brain. Thanks to that and his legally-purchased Glock 19, something is wrong with Giffrords’s brain now, too. After she struggled to speak on an issue that affects her and thousands of other Americans on a very personal level each year, Wayne La Pierre took the stand to disagree with her, because that is his job.
Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church and relentless cockbag, seen here with a map.
Camus famously remarked that by age 40, every man has the face he deserves. Fred Phelps is considerably older than 40, and his face has been startlingly disfigured by constant, hateful yelling. He looks like evil Gerald Ford, or possibly the alien from Enemy Mine. Phelps is the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church,* a small congregation in Kansas that has drawn national attention for its protests at the funerals of Iraq War veterans, Elizabeth Edwards, and anyone else that might draw attention to their message, which is pretty much that God hates everybody. “You cannot preach the Bible without preaching the hatred of God,” Phelps is fond of saying. His essential contention is that, because the United States tolerates homosexuality and abortion, everything bad that happens is God’s punishment and should be praised. He’s what theologians call a complete asshole, and his indecent, message-free publicity-mongering embodies all that is worst in protest. Earlier this week, Phelps announced Westboro’s intention to protest the funeral of Christina Taylor-Green, the nine year-old girl shot by Jared Loughner during his attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. That’s why the Arizona legislature quickly passed a law yesterday banning protests at funerals. It’s also why I’m making this rueful face when I say that they shouldn’t have done that.