As the leader of Kansas’s Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps held himself up as a symbol of the sort of American bigotry that attempts to pass itself off as piety. Phelps and his church spent years protesting against just about every political or cultural event of any note, and they were not afraid to be outright hateful, picketing military and celebrity funerals. Phelps died of natural causes last week at the age of 84, and the members of the great and eternally sincere Los Angeles post-hardcore band Touché Amoré responded by printing up T-shirts with Phelps’s face and the words “good riddance.” The proceeds from those shirts, which have already sold out, are going to the Human Rights Campaign. Defending the shirts in a statement on Facebook, frontman Jeremy Bolm writes:
Let’s talk. While we were slightly surprised by the controversy our “Good Riddance” t-shirt created, we understand the points made by those of you who looked down on the design. We should have known many of you weren’t aware of the background of the shirt and it’s story.
Let me explain a little. We originally created this shirt in 2008 as a companion to the song from our demo that year called “wehatefredphelps.com.” The original shirt had a line from the song, “We’d love to see you in the ground,” in the place where “Good Riddance” is now. The size of the words align with the original design. Kids seemed to like it and it fit with the angst of the band. I originally wrote the song after going to multiple WBC protests to talk to the members of the church about their stance. After recording the song I even tried giving them burned copies and lyric sheets when they protested a Marilyn Manson concert here in LA in 2009.
Here we are years later, and the man has died. We got messages saying we should reprint the design, so we thought “we’ll do an updated version and have the proceeds go to benefit what the man lived the last years of his life trying to dismantle.” We feel there is beautiful irony in selling an image of a bigot and using the profit towards achieving equality for exactly what they hated. Which is why all net profit (money earned after cost/printing) will be going to http://www.hrc.org
Is it in poor taste? Depends on your taste buds. Poor taste to me is creating an evil cult to protest funerals, discriminate love, and who’s website is godhatesfags.com if you wanna just slightly scratch the surface.
The last remaining shirts will be gone sometime tonight or tomorrow, so THANK YOU for all of you who picked up the shirt and supported the cause.
Lastly, I firmly believe that art is best when it creates a public discourse on subjects that matter. So for us to see people talking about these sorts of things is exciting regardless, and we thank you for the conversation.
- Jeremy / TA
ps: here’s a link to the 2008 demo of wehatefredphelps.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ifvh7OQZemQ
pss; here’s a link to a bad scan of the original shirt. http://bit.ly/1kTyaPU
Meanwhile, as Mother Jones reports, Westboro Baptist Church members spent Friday night protesting against a Lorde concert in Kansas City for some damn reason. Locals responded with a counter protest, holding up a “sorry for your loss sign.” This strikes me as a slightly smarter response to Phelps and everything he represented, though god knows I can’t fault Touché Amoré for their rancor.