"See 'em again till the Fourth of July"
1. To Kill A Super Mutant
In Fallout 3—the open-world role-playing game designed by the makers of the Elder Scrolls series—you begin as a child, learning and discovering what kind of person (and gameplay character) you are going to become. Upon the disappearance of your father, you venture out from Vault 101—one of many underground lairs protecting Americans during and after nuclear fallout—and you seek the truth. The first things you see as you step out of the vault, far in the distance, are the ruins of two great national landmarks: the Capitol Dome and the Washington Monument.
Now, you’re not supposed to get all patriotic and inspired and head right for the National Mall. You’re Level 1 for God’s sake. You have almost no armor, no health, barely a weapon. You’ve heard there are Super Mutants over there. You’re supposed to follow the story, build up your strength and arsenal, and then get to those big monuments and huge, badass enemies. But that is the glory of open-world gameplay. You can go wherever you want. Be almost anything you want.
I got all patriotic and inspired and headed right for the National Mall.
What followed was a thrilling experience—and legendary performance on my part—where without much ammo and with virtually no health remaining, I slaughtered countless Super Mutants and militia guys as I climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I sprinted through the radiated reflecting pool and up the hill to view the crackling tower that remained of the Washington Monument, and ducked for cover and used precise aim and timing around the corners of the Capitol Building to wipe out even more mutated monsters holding miniguns.
All this made Barack Obama’s historic inauguration on January 20, 2009, even more entertaining for me.
I was one of hundreds of thousands trekking from a Metro station in DC and finding a way to the Mall. My girlfriend and I had arrived in DC early, but so did everybody else, and getting there through the downtown streets felt like a friendly, jovial, but important-enough-to-be-rushed march. Like everyone, we moved quickly, and fell into a bit of mob mentality: that’s where we have to go because that’s where everyone is going, right? We were all there for the historic moment when the first African American president would take office and deliver what was sure to be a monumental speech; but what I remember most was that fun walk before reaching the greenery and old marble, a procession of people of all ages and all races, everyone looking excited and proud—that is what made me feel like a part of history.
Then we got to the row of people holding signs that read, “GOD HATES FAGS!” As we passed them—they had a few riot cops nearby protecting them—they shouted what seemed to be directly at us all sorts of homophobic vitriol the likes of which I had never heard before. My girlfriend and I were holding hands. It would be clear to most that we were a happy heterosexual couple capable of producing Jesus-stamped post-marriage offspring, but that did not matter to these protesters: they wanted us to know that God hates fags, and hates us for being fag-enablers, and hates America and her troops for supporting all of fornicating fagdom. We were consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur, where bad people go when they die (which I learned from both the Bible and Kurt Cobain).
My girlfriend tugged at my arm as we climbed closer to the Washington Monument, where we could get a better view of the massive crowd. But I couldn’t keep my eyes off those protesters. They incensed me. And I said to my girlfriend, “You know, I shot a Super Mutant in the face right where they’re standing.”
2. Church of Christ, Hacker
Hacker and computer-related movies have always enthralled me, even though I have little-to-no programming knowledge and even though I worry about the amount of technology we’ve let into our lives. I absolutely love War Games, Tron, Sneakers, The Matrix…I even love Pirates of Silicon Valley. I’m sure most real hackers would tell us Hollywood hasn’t come close to representing their culture (the movie Hackers, for instance, just plain sucked, and I don’t remember any hacking in it), but still, I love the intrigue of infiltrating some big government mainframe from a dark room. Watching and reading about hackers, you get a very powerful sense of one person against many—or one person against a virtual machine equivalent to many minds, and sometimes it’s tough not rooting for the little guy.
One hacker, th3j35t3r, isn’t taking down government mainframes from a dark room like they do in lame movies. But The Jester is taking down websites related to the radicalization of young Muslims, and websites recruiting terrorists. He uses a tool he designed for Denial of Service attacks, rendering a site essentially out of order. He is also apparently ex-military, though he doesn’t say what military, nor where he is actually from. And he recently tweeted responsibility (with a proud, all-caps TANGO DOWN) for taking down the website of a little organization called the Westboro Baptist Church. His reason: for celebrating the death of United States troops. Their website: Godhatesfags.com.
The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday, March 2, that the Westboro Baptist Church’s anti-gay protests at military funerals and other events were indeed protected under the first amendment of our constitution. I find it hard to disagree. But I find their protests impossible to stomach, and I support the many bipartisan bills enacted to prevent their protests from taking place too close to grieving families during a funeral.
What are virulent anti-gay protesters doing at unrelated military funerals, you ask? I’ll quote the CNN.com article: “The church, led by pastor Fred Phelps, believes God is punishing the United States for ‘the sin of homosexuality’ through events including soldiers’ deaths. Members have traveled the country shouting at grieving families at funerals and displaying such signs as ‘Thank God for dead soldiers,’ ‘God blew up the troops’ and ‘AIDS cures fags.’”
These people also sometimes hold signs that read “Thank God for 9/11,” and “God Hates America.”
Like many ridiculously hardcore fundamentalists, it’s hard to pin down what these people actually support, because all they ever talk about is what they admonish. They hate Jews, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Hindus, Muslims, and pretty much every form of Protestantism other than their own. They hate our nation because it allows homosexuality to exist and perpetrate our culture; they think it should be a capital offense. They hate our troops—and call them fags and hundreds of other names—because they fight for a nation that supports homosexual agendas. They claim to separate themselves from racism because “Scripture” doesn’t support it; but anyone want to take a stab what they think of our first black president? You guessed it: ANTICHRIST. I wish I could say I was joking, but I was there, and just like Ace of Base, I saw the sign.
Bill O’Reilly of Fox News calls these guys evil. Even Jerry freakin’ Falwell called these guys nuts! As a fairly agnostic but still a Jesus-appreciatin’ Catholic, all I can say is that the Westboro Baptist Church protesters fulfill at least one requirement for sainthood: it’s a miracle they don’t get beaten up more often.
Counterprotests have been quite clever and effective. College kids have encircled them to prevent them from affecting memorials. Counterprotesters at military funerals have lined up against them and refused to move. Gay and bi couples have lined up near the shouting, sign-waving lunatics and started making out! Now that is constructive criticism at its goddamned (pun intended) best.
Giving these people more attention might be all they want. But Jesus drove the money changers from the temple. And these people: they’re just selling hate, and unlike Jesus, they don’t care about bringing people into the temple. I thought Christians wanted to be more like Jesus. I must’ve missed the part in the Bible where Jesus personally attacked, berated, or executed homosexuals. I also skipped over the section where He celebrates the death of soldiers, verbally assaults grieving families who have nothing to do with His church, or His views, or politics of any kind. And I also must’ve missed the part where Jesus wasn’t a Jew.
What I do remember from the Good Book is something often heard at weddings, and it’s so beautiful and glorious—and in direct conflict with the members of Westboro Baptist Church—that I feel compelled to quote a big hunk of it right here:
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.
“Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance…”
I have no faith that the protesters of Westboro Baptist Church will stop acting like children: noisy gongs going about demanding their way irritably, recording so-called injustices and wrongs, having already lost hope for the only country that would let them peaceably assemble. Of course, I see things partially and incompletely, and like everyone else, I’m not perfect; my character in Fallout 3, last I checked, was a supremely evil, Level 30 Harbinger of War.
And Jester, I bet you’re like the rest of us: Not a saint. But your recent Tango Down, that sure as hell wasn’t a sin: