An opportunity came by me today which provoked some rather conflicting thoughts, so rather than spin them around silently in my fine Kenmore dryer of a mind, I'll share them with you. I am fortunate enough to freelance for a few different sites, one of which is Seattle Weekly. I haven't been able to do very much for them yet, because the freelance ops are usually snapped up by others by the time I see them, or the logistics of the events don't work out with my suburban-family-life schedule. Today, though, a photo gig came up via SW for this weekend that I could attend. I was ready to pounce on it...and then, I hesitated. It was more than just a gig, to me, anyway. I had to think this through.

I've written on here before exactly what I think of the Westboro Baptist Church, and I'd like to believe that most folks in our country would find them and their vile protests reprehensible on the most basic human level. The WBC, which could also stand for "We Believe Crap," or "Weasel Bitch Cowards," or perhaps "Watery Bowel Clenchers," is making a trip to Seattle to bring their anti-everything beliefs to a gay pride family-oriented picnic. Seattle Weekly wants to have a photographer there to cover it.

My first instinct was to take the job. The conflict between the LGBT picnickers and the WBC will make for excellent photographs -- "visually rich," you could say, and a lot of people will view them. The WBC will be vastly outnumbered by the likely-very-angry gay and angry-not-gay people that they loathe so much, and by the police that will be there to protect their right to free speech. The Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision this year, found for the WBC, which means their hate spewing can and will continue unabated.

It's here where I hit a wall. I have very strong feelings about the sanctity of free speech, and just as strong are my feelings against people whose sole purpose is to cause terrible misery and pain, and whose "non-violent" vitriol without a doubt contributes to real violence against their victims elsewhere. I appreciate immensely the powerful role photojournalists have in producing images that tell a story, even if the story is painful. I also have a problem with our nation's seemingly-insatiable desire to rubberneck at the ugliest, loudest, creepiest creeps out there.

Professionally, it's a superb opportunity. But, personally...photographing the WBC goes against my own little set of ethics just a little too much, and that is in no way saying that the person who took the job is wrong to do it. Not at all. There isn't a right or wrong here. I just had to spend a minute or so imagining myself at the picnic, while people screamed at people, or jeered at them, and my job would be to get in there, and say nothing. Click click click. Say nothing. I think it would hurt my stomach and my brain.

I just don't want to be the one who gives the WBC one more shred of publicity, because that is what they desire the most. The highest court in the land already said their message is good to go, but I'm not going to spread it. Even if there were one million people protesting against their handful of haters, even one pixel spent on creating an image that shares the WBC filth...no. I can't feed the trolls. Their story has already been told many times. It's too sad for me to repeat. I don't even really like writing about them again here! But I feel more settled now.

What I am going to do, since I will not be there on Sunday to do so, is make a modest donation to FoodLifeline, the organization Pride Picnic has selected to help out through the general entry fee to the picnic. Westboro won in the courts, and gets to rub their feces in our eyes and ears as long as we pay attention to them. I'm going to do my best to ignore them, and since the law won't shut them up, I think making a financial donation to something they don't like makes up a bit for my mentioning them here.  I credit comedienne Lisa Lampenelli for her inspiration here.