I spent half the night working on a post detailing how much fun I had over New Years…but, truth be told, after reading a few news blogs after coming back home…it seems wildly self indulgent and frankly a lot less important in other weighty context. It is entirely useful at times to be roused from complacency and shaken awake, despite the fact that I’d much rather prattle on about great parties. All the charmed experiences in the world seem barren and lacking in the face of tragic realities. Its no question we live in a tumultuous world, but I will not, can not sit around and contemplate nothingness while otherwise blameless children are being made targets for no other reason than that it is socially acceptable to do so. I remember the story, the contemptible demise of Sean W. Kennedy in South Carolina. It was during the election cycle so I’m fairly confident few else do. Here we have a boy, who could have just as easily been one of the kids in an Intro class I T.A’d for, unceremoniously singled out by his attacker (one Stephen Moller) called a “faggot” and proceeded to smash his face in. The blow to the head and subsequent collison with the pavement reportedly severed his brain from his spinal column. It should be noted that  Mr. Moller apparently suffered a broken hand in the assault, and left a voice mail to one of Kennedy’s friends to the effect. “You tell your fagot friend when he wakes up he owes me $500 for my broken hand.”  Yeah, nice.(Not the remark of the remorseful, mind you)  

The following court case had gutwrenching appeals and testimonials from Mr. Kennedy’s mother, Mr. Moller out on $25,000 bail pending trial which ultimitley convicted him to serve 0-5 years for manslaughter. At present, only 8 months have been served and said “manslaughterer” is facing parole. I’ll forego the personal indignation I feel here and focus on something I keep pondering while pouring over all this. Is it possible for bias crimes like this to be treated accordingly, to be tried fairly when the overarching society is saturated with Judeo-Christian ethics that more than passivley shrug off homophobia like this? There is a deafening absense of outcry from the right when kids percived as being gay are shot point blank in the head. There seems to be very few interested when interpetations of the bible or remarks from religious leaders mean absolute indifference to homophobic bullying , or subtextual incitement of violence.

I’m not entirely interested in parsing out the validity of the sentencing here, but more interested in what such a sentence conveys. Hate crimes are usually unerreported, and typically conducted by boys in groups between the ages of 14-25. What incidents like this inform me of is that these young men are simply taking the social cues and condemnation they are socialized with and running with it to often drastic ends. These kids become the de facto  status quo gatekeepers, willing to shock and awe those suggested outside of the norm back into place through intimidation and bruality (Anyone remember Emitt Till?) . And ultimitley, the typical indifference in the prosecution of hate crime legislation (and hell, getting legislation to even PASS on anti-homophobic hate crimes in some states) sends the message that this sort of intimidation is socially acceptable. Similarly, the ruling in the Kennedy case soidifies the idea that the justice system is only passivley invested in justice for Mr. Kennedy. That the anti-gay violence is only marginably more punishable than minor drug possession.

And here lies the problem. We as a society can and obviously do  have entrenched biases against persons of a particular cultural or ethnic monority status and not act on them with venemous intent some of the time. While these biases only lead to outright violent victimization in some instances, I remain confident that these instances can and ought to be nullified. As previous posts have indicated, I believe that religiosity has its place and religious institutions ought to be entitled to conduct their affairs accordingly. BUT, those that suggest that the homophobic bent in the Judeo-Christian tradition is more or less harmless or justifiable are missing the overlying problem.

I’m reminded of a recent case in my home state of Pennsylvania, where a group of young (drunk) college bound football players beat a hispanic man to death, simply because he was in the “wrong place” and talking to a white girl. Granted, the majority of us can state outright that it is wrong and shameful, but what I found fascinating about the story was the interviews with the football players parents, who all seemed “shocked” that their children could be capable of such unthinking brutality. I find these reactions curious. Young white men within the aforementioned age range are by far more likely to be the agressors in bias crimes. It becomes reckless not only to public safety but to the eventual futures of such youths to passively justify and reinforce bias crimes. As parents, authority figures, or concerned citizens its an act of bad faith and gross social irresponsibility.  When we as a society do not take the time to discuss why violence and intimidation are not acceptable means to deal with differences, the resultant brutality hangs on our heads. When we say nothing while kids are being bullied, and the vulnerable are being targeted we become just as guilty of this reprehensibleness through that solemn omission. When we advocate the continued marginalization of vulnerable groups by proxy of religion, belief or any other reservation, we continue this cycle. It seems obvious through the lack of outcry regarding some of the aforementioned documented instances that there are quite a few blandly unconcerned with spilled blood over a few dead gay kids. I can’t safely say that advocating and excusing these acts make us as a culture any less complicit in bringing them about.



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