Patriot Guard can ride in the front of her parade

Communities make tough decisions every day. Decisions about
what’s best for residents: like who can march in the Fourth of July
parade.
Communities make tough decisions every day. Decisions about what’s best for residents: like who can march in the Fourth of July parade.

It wasn’t until I read a letter to the Dispatch editor (winning its Golden Quill award) that I learned that the group that had been prohibited from participating in the Morgan Hill Independence Day parade provides an enormously valuable service. They’re not just a motorcycle group largely consisting of veterans who served our country, they also work against the Westboro Baptist Church.

Quoting from that letter, “I assured Mr. Hunt that our riders are professional and would follow the request of no revving. He said he couldn’t make any exceptions for our group, a group that was formed in 2005 to protect bereft families of fallen military members from the Westboro Baptist Church.”

That’s no harmless little church in the vale, folks. I’ve know about the Westboro church and its infamous leader Fred Phelps for years, since my husband grew up in Kansas where the group started.

The church’s official website, I kid you not, is www.godhatesfags.com. What an uplifting, spiritually-fulfilling church to belong to! They’re also anti-Semitic, just to add a little spice to the mix.

Church members stand daily on Topeka street corners with signs like “Fags die, God laughs.” Last month, they made national headlines for picketing the funeral of a family that had gone down in a plane.

The signs read, “God threw down your plane.” Not that it matters to me, but it should to them: the family was a heterosexual, married couple with two young children aged 7 and 5, flying to visit family for Easter.

They’re virulent, picketing any event that will gain publicity. They picketed Michael Jackson’s funeral, Matthew Shepard’s funeral, and earlier this year the funeral of Christina Green, the 9-year-old who died in the Tucson shooting. They protested at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C. They say Obama is the Antichrist. After the 2008 earthquake in China, they put out a press release thanking God for the deaths of the “impudent and ungrateful Chinese.” They’re CRAZY.

Finally, the Westboro Baptist Church enjoys picketing funerals of fallen soldiers, carrying signs that say, “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

Enter the Patriot Guard Riders.

At the invitation of mourning military families, they attend funerals to provide necessary protection from the Westboro picketers. Their website is a haven of wholesomeness: their main message is respect. Their two stated missions are to show respect for fallen heroes, and to shield their families from “interruptions caused by any protestors.”

That means they can ride at the very front of my parade. You can even rev your engines, gentleman, and I’ll put cotton in my kids’ ears. By not letting them ride, we missed the chance to clap and show our respect for their noble mission.

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Another missed chance: shopping at Garlic City Books.

Employee AnnMarie Saaks talked with me recently amid an ironic flood of customers taking advantage of the $1 clearance sale. “It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “If half these people came in regularly, we wouldn’t be going out of business.”

Why didn’t the store work? With fixtures from the Wise Owl and bags from the Willow Glen Bookstore, perhaps a taint of those bookstores’ failures lingered?

“I have some opinions that are going to be unpopular with Gilroy residents,” she said. “Everybody wants a vibrant downtown, but no one wants to support it.” Ouch. Guilt. I’m about as voracious a reader as they come, but hadn’t really supported Garlic City, although I do regularly shop at parent store Booksmart in Morgan Hill.

My theory is that the library’s siting a few blocks away didn’t help. After all, if I’m after a used book for myself, the library is free. And if I want a gift book for someone else, I need to buy brand-new.

Owner Brad Jones disagreed. He felt the library’s temporary quarters was actually a boon, that they worked in tandem to bring book lovers downtown.

The good news is, they will likely rebrand as Booksmart Kids and return this fall. Jones said landlord Gary Walton is always “preaching” to him about finding a niche market, and kid stuff is now huge. True: you can’t turn in a circle without running into a stroller.

The only thing that might prevent this fantastic retooling? “We have no nest egg to go to,” said Jones, so he and co-owner Cinda Meister are talking to vendors to figure out a plan. Good luck, and I’ll try harder next time!

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