It isn't often that a person's life and untimely death showcases the best and worst of America. But Apple co-founder Steve Jobs's passing last week exposed both elements.
Jobs was a successful businessperson, but that doesn't make him an American icon. It was his visionary approach, his entrepreneurial spirit, and remarkable drive for innovation that represents some of the best of what this country has to offer. It makes his story even better that he fell from grace in the 1980s from the company he had helped found. Eventually, he returned, and took the company to a whole new level, both in technology and its relationship with its customers.
You don't have to be a gadget addict to admire Jobs. I cringe when I see people separate themselves from humanity by an almost obsessive-compulsive use of iPads, iPods, and iPhones. But there's no doubt that those devices changed the world, for the better, if they are not overused and abused. The confidence, the risk, the optimism—all of the things necessary for Jobs to do his work are the very things that have contributed to the nation's successes over the years.
And the worst? That would be the perpetual protesters from the small, otherwise insignificant Westboro Baptist Church, who seem to spend so much time hating people that one wonders how they find time to worship God. The church members—known for anti-gay pickets of funerals of service members killed in wars—responded to Jobs's death in kind. They said they would picket Jobs's funeral service to protest the fact that Jobs didn't share their hatred of gays and lesbians. Never mind that there is no public service planned to follow up on the small, private affair to honor Jobs. Westboro Baptist Church got what it wanted, anyway—attention.
The fact that the church is allowed to express such vile views is also a testament to the ideals of this country, the fact that no matter how offensive your views are, you have the right to express them. How unfortunate that the church mocks the First Amendment by using it for such destructive means. Jobs was a visionary. The Westboro Baptist Church looks backward.