Perhaps there is something about our language’s evolution or de-evolution that allows us to so easily comment “I hate” or “I’ll kick” or “I’ll kill.” Right now, a very high percentage of Americans (perhaps higher than on either side of the polls) are thinking and perhaps saying “I hate political ads” and that’s perfectly understandable. We’ve all been bathed in that home-stretch media assault that has become very much like a UFC fight without contact. We are immersed in images of violence and the hostility of protests every day (not without cause) and we are overwhelmed by those and upcoming decisions of future leadership. We are tired and would probably turn everything off if it weren’t for that tickling desire to remain connected.
I actually was surprised by one new independent political ad because it reminded me of where I was in 1998. Oh, yes, I was still waiting to see updates on the status of the June incident. Seeing the ad now reminds me of what great things have the potential to be born from tragedy and injustice.
Judy Shepard, has carried memory of her son Matthew’s death to what I hope is an eternal purpose … to defeat hate in the real sense of the word.
1998 reminded the country through national headlines that senseless hatred lived well and strong in our own realm. Barbarism festers still. In addition to Matthew Shepard’s death in early October, another absolutely hate filled lynching had occurred earlier in the year outside Jasper, Texas in early June. The victim, James Byrd Jr., was offered a ride by someone he knew with two other men and then he was taken out to a remote road, beaten, defiled, and dragged from the back of a pickup truck until his death. As a final statement of hatred the three assailants left his body in front of a church with an African-American congregation. The police found 81 pieces of his shredded body across a stretch of little used roadway and all the evidence needed to bring his “impulsive” killers to a relative justice (one was already executed, two remain imprisoned).
These two senseless deaths challenged most people’s concept how deep hatred can really be. The greater positive that they served was to help shape the arguments for and expansion of the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law. In 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act modified the scope of hate-crime to include and enhance motivations of race, perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
Those incidents occurred long before September 11, 2001 and the domestic and international deeds since then have shown America that we are targets from outside as well as inside. It’s unfortunate, but James’ and Matthew’s murders are reminiscent of our cultural spurring of hate and bias in our short 200-plus years. We need to stay vigilant in watching the hate that grows within as there are old roots there that can still sprout. We need to not take “hate” and other violent words so casually that they diminish in meaning or do the worst of thing of all: encourage.
“Violence is the language of the inarticulate.” Muhammad ibn Ali al-Ninowy (Syrian born Islamic scholar)