Father of Slain Marine a Modern-Day Job
Albert Snyder, father of Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder (pictured), a slain Marine whose 2006 funeral was picketed by members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, is a modern-day Job.
Like Snyder, the sons and daughters of the biblical Job were killed by a force beyond their control. Like the biblical Job, Snyder has enjoyed the company of a set of "friends" who give him unwise counsel as to why travesty has befallen him.
In Snyder's case, these "friends" are a slightly deranged, thoroughly unconscious group of people who wish to advise him that his son's death came as the result of national tolerance of homosexuality. This message is not so much offensive as a shock to the collective faculty of logic, since the two are so utterly disconnected, especially while "Don't ask, don't tell" still holds sway.
Their untenable position brings to mind the rebuke of spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, who said of such people: "This misuse [of the word 'God'] gives rise to absurd beliefs, assertions, and egoic delusions."
Snyder's words to Westboro could surely echo those of Job to his friends:
I also could speak like you,
if you were in my place;
I could make fine speeches against you
and shake my head at you.
But my mouth would encourage you;
comfort from my lips would bring you relief.
"Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved;
and if I refrain, it does not go away.
Westboro Baptist's protest is so illogical, however, Job's condemnation of his friends' advice is more apt:
If only you would be altogether silent!
For you, that would be wisdom.
In the latter vein, Snyder has endeavored to take Westboro Baptist to court for intentional infliction of emotional distress. He won a large settlement in Federal District Court, but the verdict was overturned on appeal in a ruling that held Westboro Baptist's demonstration was protected speech under the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case in the fall.
Most experts agree that Snyder's case is not strong, especially so given its facts. Westboro protesters abided by the law, remained 1000 feet away from the funeral and Snyder himself was unaware of the protests until he saw a news report about them on TV later in the day.
The case calls to mind the National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie
, a 1977 court case in which a neo-nazi group threatened to march in a predominantly Jewish suburb of Chicago. The Supreme Court held in favor of the neo-nazis (though the march in Skokie never subsequently took place).
As counter-intuitive as it may sound to a grieving father, the case for non-reaction to people of Westboro Baptist's ilk is equally clear. Their non-sequitur protests are no longer news, let alone subject-matter for litigation.
But nothing need be lost."If you react at all . . . to unconsciousness," writes Tolle in The Power of Now, "you become unconscious yourself. But if you then remember to know your reaction, nothing is lost." (Italics original)
Or as Marcus Aurelius put it, "The best revenge is not to become like them."
May Mr. Snyder grieve as he sees fit. And may his troubles end where Jobs did, in deeper understanding of the nature of existence and a return one day to a sense of prosperity.