Stop Hate 2000 Newsletter September 5, 2002

Dear Friends,

"..change the world one heart at a time...The tendency that we all have is venting our anger upon the weak or pushing down the weak. In some ways, we don't want them because of the fact that they are fragile and in need of help." --- Jean Vanier.

We're writing this towards the end of the day, when it seems right to be a little reflective of last year's tragedy, and what meanings it may have.

First, anybody who had forgotten it was retaught that all our actions affect each other. There really is nothing in this world which people do that does not have some result on somebody else. Nobody can afford to pretend that we can escape from the rest of the world into some sheltered corner. The rest of the world has a way of reminding us of its existence once in a while.

It had its meaning in illustrating how people show an amazing ability to rise to great heights. And sometimes how just the ordinary duties of life can be heroic. Many of the proclaimed heroes of September 11, such as the firemen and policemen of New York City, have not been happy or comfortable with the role, and they have not been getting happier or more comfortable as the anniversary has approached.

They react the way many such people have also reacted: they had a job, it was their duty to do it, and it would not be possible to act in any other way. It's a story which resuers of people in peril have always stated, and it does seem to a be a potential which we can find in ourselves. But it seems extraordinary enough to everybody else.

This kind of heroism perhaps is just acting in an ordinary way in the face of extraordinary circumstances. It allows us to think that there is an even quieter heroism practiced every day by a lot of people facing ordinary, but difficult circumstances.

As a symbol for a lot of other people, let us recall the firefighter whose body was found twenty feet away from the door with a lady in a wheelchair, and her companion. They could be identified. They had managed to get down forty flights of stairs, and had nearly made it outside when the tower collapsed. Clearly, not only the firefighter but also the lady's friend could have quite easily saved themselves by abandoning her.

It had its meaning, alas, for anybody who looked or seemed too obviously foreign. It shows this month in all the security guards having to be hired to protect both Synagogues and Mosques. Not only is this due to newcomers bringing foreign quarrels into the United States. A lot of it is Americans thinking that if they could only get rid of all those who are in any way different from them, everything would be fine.

That can have its implications elsewhere. We often avoid facing our responsibilities by finding another group to blame for failings which are really our own. That does something to explain the thinking of Al-Qaeda, although it doesn't necessarily explain all of it. It is a little too easy to find one cause, and then think that's the sole cause of something.

We were informed of an interesting report issued by the Attorney General for the State of Florida on 30 August, covering hate crime statistics for the previous 12 months compared to the year before. Statistics are always slippery things, and nowhere more so than with hate crimes. However, they can still be useful.

Florida police reported a general increase in hate crimes in that state, from 269 in 2000-2001 to 335 in 2001-2002. More revealing, however, was a further breakdown. An unusually large number took place in the weeks after September 11. Moreover, the nature of them changed. In Florida, attacks based on ethnicity other than race or on religion had never come to more than one-quarter of such crimes. In the past year, they came to a little less than half. At the very least, their incidence doubled.

There was some very modified good news. Racial crimes fell in the same period from about 160 to 125. It's a useful reminder that hate can be transferred in any direction. In this case, patriotism might have had some effect in causing some who would otherwise engage in racial warfare take on real or imagined foreigners instead.

The full text of the report can be found at:

Http://www.myflorida.com/portal/Government

Incidentally, we should observe that either Floridans do not seem to be unduly biased people, or that crimes don't get reported as much. We don't have any national figures for bias-related crimes yet, but for the previous year, Florida's reported rate was 60% of the national average for the United States.

It's important, however, to state that the number of attacks in reaction to last year's tragedy were well below levels reported at the beginnings of either World War. So if we continue to be imperfect, we should be careful not to exaggerate.

Labor Day not only celebrates labor, but reminds us that labor resumes in earnest in September. Among the things which will be happening is some adjustment to the website. We've spent some time working out an altered arrangement of responsibilities. We haven't quite figured it all out, so please bear with us in the next little while.

Luis Partide wrote us a little while ago, raising a thoroughly justified question. He felt we were not paying attention to the substantial number of Hispanics who are victims of hate crimes. Since our purpose in maintaining the Stop Hate 2000 site was to explore the way in which bias and hate have universal implications in humanity, it's a fair point.

In part, we go by what information we are able to get. It is quite true that some groups which are obvious targets are also better organized and more vocal about things which happen to them. That's certainly no cause for reproach or blame. It does mean, however, that we don't hear nearly enough about others who are under attack, and who may not be so articulate or so well organized.

We can recognize the problem, but it can be more difficult to find a remedy. We continue to ask for any ideas, and any news which helps us keep a broad understanding of how hate and violence can turn on any group, in any way.

We have had some other comments come in, some of which were complimentary, and some of which, as you can see in our Guest Book, are not. Actually, the latter tend to give us heart more than anything else. It's nice to know some people think you're sufficiently important to be worth attacking. We seem to have attracted the ongoing interest of white supremacist groups. We're flattered.

Some of the less than complimentary comments we get nevertheless can raise important questions, and are not completely mistaken. The most recent exchange on our message board, started by PyRoPeNgUiN may serve as an example.

Our attention was drawn to two other memorials. One is to occur at the University of Western Ontario, at London, Ontario, Canada. On October 11, there is to be a period of solemn silence in memory of Matthew Shepard and all other victims of hate crimes from the first school bell until the last one at 2:40p.m., followed by a rally at Victoria Park.

And Jenna Pegelow of Dunkirk, New York asked us to announce a planned Run Against Hate Crimes which she is organizing. The run would be followed by an educational and memorial session. The e-mail address we have for her is:

Jenp_69@hotmail.com

No doubt here will be many, many more throughout the next three months.

We have all too many times marked the deaths of victims of hate crimes. We have a less distressing death to note: less distressing in the way that death came.

Bill Wassmuth died at the age of 61 in Spokane, Washington, of Lou Gehrig's disease. A native of Idaho, he became a Catholic priest. While serving at Coeur d'Alene, he became a leading opponent of the Aryan Nation, the white supremacist group. He left the priesthood after his house was firebombed in 1986, so he could spend all his time and effort organizing the Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity. That organization does great work, and he was very supportive of us in our early faltering months. Bill is best remembered by the general public for his persistence and courage in bringing the Aryan Nations organization to account in the courts.

Which seems to be a good place to conclude for this month.

The Stop Hate US e-team


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