It sounds like some neofascist group, doesn’t it? Just the opposite, it seems. The job of the Patriot Guard Riders is . . . well, let them tell you through their mission statement:
“The Patriot Guard Riders is a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation. We have one thing in common besides motorcycles. We have an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security. If you share this respect, please join us.
“We don’t care what you ride, what your political views are, or whether you’re a ‘hawk’ or a ‘dove’. It is not a requirement that you be a veteran. It doesn't matter where you’re from or what your income is. You don’t even have to ride. The only prerequisite is Respect.
“Our main mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. Each mission we undertake has two basic objectives.
“1. Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.
“2. Shield the mourning family and friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors.
“We accomplish the latter through strictly legal and non-violent means.”
In other words, the mission of the Patriot Guard Riders is to attend funerals of American soldiers – when invited – and to shield the mourners from attacks by the members of Westboro Baptist Church – Yeah, that church. See, Fred Phelps and his ilk like to show up at soldiers’ funerals to torture the families. They figure that the U.S. is too gay-friendly (ok, I must have missed the news bulletin on this!) so anyone who fights for the U.S. is bound for hell as a punishment.
The Patriot Guard not only shields the family from such hatred, but it refuses to engage the protesters in return: “If you’re looking for a group that protests, counter-protests or confronts any organization, you’re in the wrong place. The PGR is not a protest group.”
Pretty cool, huh? Now, I’m not a dyke on a bike, and to be perfectly honest, seeing all the Harleys and burly guys in bandanas and links to veterans’ associations makes me a tad uneasy.
But I’m hooked enough to want to know more. If these folks really are what they claim to be, and I hope they are, then there’s going to be at least one card-carrying lesbian joining their next Georgia mission.
Oh….an important side note here: I support the speeches made at Coretta Scott King’s funeral. The speakers were requested by the family and what they said was consistent with Mrs. King’s life and values. Totally different thing than unwelcome intruders coming in to make a fuss.
Oh, and one more thing: that link above for Fred Phelps? That goes to the Wikipedia entry on him. I don’t know how much of it is true, but hoo boy, it makes for a whale of a Lifetime movie.