Over the weekend a quiet fundraising effort in the name of the late Robin Williams came alive. By late yesterday Planting Peace, a nonprofit group founded whose “purpose is to spread peace in a hurting world,” had raised more than
$40,000 ($55,000 as of Tuesday) for St. Jude’s Hospital Research Hospital, one of Williams’s favorite charities.
In the process, Planting Peace drowned out the cacophony of tweets by the Westboro Baptist Church, which had announced soon after the announcement of Williams’s death that it planned to picket the late actor’s funeral.
The church, best known for its “God Hates Fags” campaign and for its funeral protests, labeled Williams with the kind of ugly and inflammatory language it so often uses.
Why? Apparently because the Oscar-winning actor played a gay man in “The Birdcage” and a cross-dresser in “Mrs. Doubtfire.”
With the launch of Planting Peace’s initiative (formally called, “Remembering Robin: A Benefit for St. Jude“), I was reminded of the words of the philosopher Francis Bacon who wrote: “In taking revenge a man is but equal to his enemy, but in passing it over he is his superior.” Indeed, Aaron Jackson, a co-founder of Planting Peace, has taken the high road as he explained to the Huffington Post:
“We felt like launching a fundraiser for a charity Robin loved would be the perfect way to honor him and counteract the message of hate and intolerance that the Westboro Baptist Church continues to convey. Robin Williams played many different roles in so many people’s lives, and giving back to others was at the top of that list. His appeal crossed generational boundaries. I was personally impacted when I heard of his passing. This is a small gesture to honor his legacy and the difference he made to so many.”
It’s been years since I’ve written about a planned funeral picket by Westboro Baptist – and for good reason. The hate group appears to thrive on the literal and metaphoric ink about its efforts. But throw St. Jude’s into the mix and you’ve got my attention and I’ve broken my rule. After all, when the mission is to find cures and prevent catastrophic pediatric diseases, it’s not easy to stay silent or on the sidelines.
Every other week, Steven Petrow, the author of “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners,” addresses questions about LGBT and straight etiquette in his column, Civilities. E-mail questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org (unfortunately not all questions can be answered). You can reach him on Facebook at facebook.com/stevenpetrow and on Twitter @stevenpetrow.