The Documentary covers four groups – The Ayran Nation white supremacists, the Westboro Baptist Church (hence our being on their list for picketing on their website.), the Israeli/Westbank Conflict and the Iraqi/American conflict. Mike Ramsdell went in and filmed among these groups, openly telling them his purpose and why he was filming. There were chilling scenes that I will never forget…Each section here has been linked to scenes from the documentary, so please click the link to see clips of what we saw.
|Billy Roper, white supremacist leader of the White Revolution|
The deliberate hatred of the NeoNazi white supremacists, and their cool, calm erudite leader Billy Roper was the most difficult part to watch.
|Klansman at white supremacist festival.|
There was a White Supremacist summer festival, with kids who were encouraged to chase a greased pig…we live in the south and greased pig chases at festivals are not unheard of around here. However, they end with the pig being given to the victor who catches it – sometimes it goes home to become a pet for the kids, sometimes it goes home to the farm to grow up to become bacon and breakfast. Not a very animal rights sort of thing, but not the horror that we saw on the screen in front of us. The cute little pig was goaded into running with the kids in high pursuit; however when it was caught hours later in the dark, the kids kicked and stomped and beat it to death. I saw one very young child bring his foot down in a vicious blow on the pigs head…the adult with them was encouraging the carnage and cheering them on, and then gutted the carcass with his knife right there in front of the children. The kids ended the segment by proudly holding up the body for the camera. No child was horrified, or turned away in disgust or fear – it was clear that they had done it before and knew what was expected at the end when they ran the piglet to earth. Think about it – the kids learn killing from this, to treat life with contempt, and then hear their elders and parents call “niggers”, “Jews”, and “fags” pigs…it may have been the worst scene in the film.
|Children of the Westboro Baptist Church on the picket line.|
On to Westboro Baptist Church, and here again the Hate and it being taught to kids was appalling. They put their small children on the picket line with them, teaching them to sing songs, like God hates the USA and carry signs that say “God Hates Fags” and “Mathew Shepherd – in Hell for six years”. They showed a church service in the Westboro Baptist Church , with hymns that literally had hate lyrics and the looming presence of Fred Phelps, ranting that God hates everybody, that he laughs when people go to Hell, and rejoices in their suffering.
|Shirley Phelps-Roper, organizer of the picket lines.|
The cameras went into the home of Shirley Phelps Roper (no relation to White Supremacist Billy Roper, although the name is an eerie coincidence), to show her with her kids. She is one of the older daughters of Fred Phelps now about age 50, and is now spear heading the picket lines and the driving force behind them. That was confusing…at home in this scene, she was a loving gentle mother to her children, in a perfectly normal house (if you ignored the stack of Hate signs in the corner…) I have to say, I…actually like her. I see a strong, powerful woman. She is intelligent (she holds a law degree and is a practicing lawyer), loving, and amazing in her own way. But I disagree violently with everything she stands for and what she does to promote Hate. And I do think she has been damaged emotionally on the way by the poisonous upbringing she grew up in.
|Violence in Gaza - the Israeli/Westbank conflict.|
The Israeli/Westbank Conflict was heart wrenching – soldiers in the streets, constant attacks, children praising “martyrs” who died bombing buses, fear in everyone’s hearts of suicide bombings, families who have lost husbands, wives, children on both sides. One of the opening scenes about this was a gathering of Israeli women, outside in a pleasant spot for a picnic – it was called a Widows Dinner – they gather to support each other in the loss of their husbands.
|Car bombing in Israel.|
Both sides expressing hate, both sides expressing that they’d stop killing if the other side would stop killing them – but who will be the first to stop?
|American Troops in Iraq.|
Then the American/Iraqi troops.. While Ramsdell was there filming these scenes, one of the soldiers in the troop he went out with, was killed. Ramsdell was deeply shaken by this. A few days later, he was contacted by one of the other soldiers in the unit who said that the father of the young man who died wanted Ramsdell to come film his funeral! Ramsdell , stunned, went, and had a long talk with the father about what the documentary was about. The father still said, “Please film the funeral”, so he did. Then, Ramsdell went back 4 months later, and talked to the father again, to be sure that he understood the purpose of the film and was ok with it. He was.
And so it goes back and forth, in a cycle of hate and killing, mistrust and unwillingness to talk, unwillingness to be able to look beyond idealogical differences. How do we break the cycle? Continued in Part three....