Megan Phelps-Roper

Everyone should watch this TED talk by Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church.

I remember defending this girl, and her family, after I first saw Louis Theroux’s documentary, ‘The Most Hated Family In America’.

She was always a good person; a strange blend of polite, dismissive rudeness topped with a smile and laugh; an inquisitive, engaging nature; and an evident desire to be a good person and help others.

The key point I saw, that many who were quick to judge had missed, was that her most obvious flaws were fully explicable.

Much of modern discourse hinges on the belief that people don’t believe what they explicitly profess to believe, and instead postulates nefarious intent then quickly devolves. But they do believe, and those beliefs have consequences.

A kind and friendly person appears, and behaves, a bigot because of their beliefs. Extricate them from those beliefs and the results are clearly evident. She is now levels above those who once demeaned and abused her for her positions, while their behaviour continues to this day and, if anything, appears to have worsened.

“I thought my rightness justified my rudeness – harsh tones, raised voices, insults, interruptions – but that strategy is ultimately counterproductive.”

Many could learn from that realisation, particularly the modern left. Failure to do so creates division where there is none, leads to a breakdown in communication, and has ultimately given a platform and power to people like Donald Trump or Pauline Hanson.

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