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American University student Tara Culp-Ressler's blackout poem based on a Westboro Baptist Church press release.

Fighting hate with blackout poetry

So it turns out the Westboro Baptist folks aren't traveling to Tucson for the funerals of last weekend's shooting victims after all. They are, however, staging an event today at American University in DC.

How do we respond to Fred Phelps and his gang of shameless attention seekers? WBC's trademark homophobic vitriol doesn't deserve to be earnestly engaged; the organization aims only to provoke, offend and get on the news. But when these people come to our front doors, can we simply ignore them?

Students in my neighborhood didn't think so when WBC came calling a while back--they responded, as others have, with ridiculous signs of their own. Some AU students are doing them one better: following this website's lead, Tara Culp-Ressler has organized a group to fight hate with blackout poetry. Liberally redacted, WBC's vile press releases are transformed into more loving messages:

American University
will see truth,
the face of God.
Your God shall be in thine heart.
Teach thy children
that simple commandment:
God is love.

I like this response because it's both whimsical and positive, countering WBC's message without taking it seriously. It also strikes me as profoundly hope-filled: God's truth is found even in those places where it's been twisted into ugly lies.

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