Stop Hate 2000 Newsletter June 29, 2008

In high school I was struck again by the power of words and their meanings. Saying things like ‘fairy,’ ‘slut,’ ‘sissy,’ and ‘dyke’ could shame kids, start little avalanches of ridicule, even get them ostracized. Everyone feared being different, even the cool kids. Why was similarity such a good thing?” Riki Wilchins in Queer Theory, Gender Theory, available from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.
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Stephen Moller killed Sean Kennedy. The authorities indicated they felt Sean Kennedy was murdered because of his sexual orientation. An article on the Greenville Online web site reports Stephen Moller pleaded guilty to a reduced charge, the charge of involuntary manslaughter. He was given a three year sentence. According to the article, there is some question about the facts of the case. Moller appears to have made the case to that he did not know Sean Kennedy was gay until after he hit Sean Kennedy. The article states that in a phone call to his girlfriend, shortly after he assaulted Sean Kennedy, Moller laughed, used profane language, made anti-gay comments, and bragged about the assault.

A three year sentence seems very light for the crime. In a Fox Carolina news article, Sean Kennedy’s mother, is quoted as describing the sentence as a “joke” and “a slap on the wrist.”

Those wishing to know more about Sean Kennedy are welcome to visit Sean’s Memorial Page on the Stop Hate site or the web site Sean’s Last Wish. Some people may wish to show support for Sean Kennedy at the Gay American Heroes web site.

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June is an important month. The month is when many communities celebrate Pride. At Pride, sexual minorities celebrate their identity with community events, and parades. June is also an important month to Black Americans. June marks an important event in Black American history. According to Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Juneteenth, which is also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day is a celebrated as a holiday in many American states. Juneteenth celebrates the day when the abolition of slavery was announced in the state of Texas. The Emancipation Proclamation was made in September of 1862, and was made effective in early 1863. In June of 1865, Federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas. One of their tasks was to enforce the emancipation of the slaves. Black and queer communities in the United States celebrate in June. Black communities celebrate liberation from slavery, while queer communities celebrate liberation from the oppression of the closet.

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There can be an element of fear behind prejudice, discrimination, hate, and violence. In some cases, there can be a basis for fear. The fear of people we do not know can protect us. This natural and protective fear can result in discrimination, hatred, or violence when the fear is expressed inappropriately.

The fear dynamic impacts on individuals, and on groups of people. For reasons of national security, one nation might fear another nation, one nationality might fear another nationality. At times, fear gets in the way of logical, rational thinking. Laws and policies can be implemented which might harm minority groups, stripping them of their rights.

After the terrorist attacks of 911, the United States feared other terrorist attacks. Given the loss of life on 911, the fears were justified. Some human rights watchdogs are concerned the legal reactions, and some military policies established after 911 have gone too far.

Omar Khadr was in Afghanistan when the American forces were capturing the country. He was accused of killing an American soldier. Currently, Omar Khadr has been held in Guantanamo Bay since about July 2002.

An Ottawa Citizen article states Omar Khadr has been charged with five war crimes. The Ottawa Citizen article says Khadr’s lawyer has not been given access to some of the interrogation summaries. Not having access to all of the interrogation records might make it more difficult for Khadr to have good legal defense. Another Ottawa Citizen article tells us Khadr claims he was tied for hours with his arms over his head and was choked. We gather confessions were the result of torture. The article states he was denied a blanket and the Koran, and was shackled in painful positions when he said the confessions he made were not true. The kinds of torture Omar Khadr claims were carried out were likely to have been very painful, given the nature of the wounds from which he was recovering. Evidently, the man who started interrogating Khadr was Joshua Claus, who the article says was courtmartialed for his role in the death of another person in custody.

Countries have a right to defend themselves from attack. They also have a right to place people on trial for violating the law. We are not taking a position about Omar Khadr’s guilt or innocence. The courts need to decide that. There are, however, some concerns regarding the possibility he was tortured until he confessed to things he did not do. Other concerns exist regarding Omar Khadr’s case. He is being tried as an “enemy combatant.” An Amnesty International summary article titled “In Whose Best Interests? Omar Khadr, Child ‘Enemy Combatant’ Facing Military Commission” points out international law does not recognize “enemy combatant” status. Soldiers are generally not charged for killing armed enemy troops in combat conditions. To this writer, it appears United States law essentially makes it legal for United States forces to kill armed enemy soldiers in combat, but makes it illegal for enemy soldiers to kill armed United States troops in combat situations. Of equal concern is the fact that Omar Khadr was 15 years old when the alleged events took place. The United States, according to Amnesty International, ratified an international agreement on how children in armed combat should be treated. The primary principle is that the best interests of children must be taken into account. Amnesty International feels the best interest of the child “must be a primary consideration.” Attempts to rehabilitate and reintegrate child soldiers would logically be major goals.

Amnesty International summarizes how they feel Omar Khadr has been treated as follows:

Every step of the way, the USA’s treatment of Omar Khadr has failed to comply with such principles. No consideration was given to Omar Khadr’s young age by his US captors except perhaps to exploit it during interrogations. While the USA’s treatment of so-called “enemy combatants” has violated its international obligations, the fact that children have been among the targets of this detention policy has added an extra layer to the assault on the rule of law and respect for human rights in the USA’s “war on terror.”

We are hoping that enough time has passed since the 911 terrorist attacks for legislators and judges to start carefully reviewing United States policies, practices, and laws to ensure national security, not either fear or hate, are not the reasons for laws, practices, and policies. Laws and policies implemented after 911 might need to amending to respect the principles of international law and human rights. Then we can feel more confident that we are pursuing justice, not either revenge or hatred.

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Last month we wrote about Tyler Oakley, a gay You Tuber and college student who created a video about hate language. We are pleased to report Tyler Oakley’s video “Speak Out Against Hate Speech” was featured by You Tube. His video has been watched over 345,500 times. Over 14,400 comments have been made about his video. To date, more than 180 people have posted video replies to Tyler Oakley’s video. Well over 6,500 people rated the video. Tyler Oakley is making a difference.

Anybody with news about hate crimes or discrimination is welcome to email us.



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