Stop Hate 2000 Newsletter April 5, 2001

Dear Friends,

We are sorry that we did not get a March Newsletter out. We hope this one will reassure you that we have not given up! We went through some minor restructuring of roles in our little collective, and it took a while to sort them out.

The first item of business is an announcement.

The Department of English at the University of Wyoming has been holding an annual Wyoming Conference in English, the 27th of which will be held on June 20-23 of this year. The Conference Director has appealed for papers on the theme of the Conference, "Crisis in the Text?" with particular reference to the University's own crisis of October 7, 1998.

If you are interested, contact the Director of the English Department directly: the terms of the call will not be clear to most outside that academic discipline. The Department has a website at:

http://uwacadweb.wyo.edu/english/index.htm
Click on "Wyoming Conference in English"
For general information, contact Amy Hollister at the following address:

Department of English
Box 33533
University of Wyoming
Laramie, WY 82071

Ms. Hollister can also be reached at amyh@uwyo.edu or (307) 766-6486.

The Conference Director, Caroline McCracken-Fleisher, can be reached at the same postal address, or CMF@uwyo.edu or (307) 766-5113.

Before we forget, if anybody has any thing that might help Brian, who has asked for help with a school project and is on the bulletin board, please write to him.

We have to note some new misfortunes.

There has been an attack on two Muslims in Silver City, NV. The details, as far as we have them, are on our bulletin board.

On 16 March, there was another misfortune regarding St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Santa Fe, NM. The church has been repeatedly vandalized, it is thought because it flies a rainbow flag so as to advertise itself as a gay-friendly congregation.

Just as we were putting this newsletter together, we had learned that there had been another fatal gay bashing, this time in Pennsylvania on March 6. Details are very sketchy (even the location is uncertain), so we can only report that it seems to have happened. If we learn more, we will try to remember to pass the news along.

The month of March brought the first of two trials arising from the death of Jesse Dirkhising. This case has been brought up on our message board. It has been difficult to find any coverage that does not have a particular ideological axe to grind. However, we have located two links, which have articles published locally in northwestern Arkansas. The original website is:

http://www.nwaonline.net/www.nwaonline.net

You have to root around somewhat in the website's archives to find the articles. At this writing, there is one for each year since 1999, when the incident happened. You will need to search for them.

A number of these articles, together with transcripts of prosecution court documents have been collected by eric williams at:

http://dev.healthyplace.com/communities/gender/gayisok/foa/dirkhsing.htm

The death of any child is a terrible thing, and Jesse's death is no exception. We think that the real story here is the low value we place on children who are not our own. A second trial will begin on May 7 and we will have more information at that time.

There was a pattern of family neglect and dysfunction, which ran across two generations, and affected both the victim and at least one of the perpetrators. Jesse's family seems to be having a particularly difficult time working through all the issues involved which might be the reason for the lack of general news coverage. If the family is wishing for privacy at this time then the lack of news coverage is thoroughly justified. They have our fullest sympathy: they are doing their best with a very difficult situation.

In looking at the various links we have built up, Jesse's fate is better understood with the ideas found in the Parents of Murdered Children and Charlotte Wetzel Foundation sites.

We have observed some comparisons with the Matthew Shepard crime. Both Matthew and Jesse were rape victims. Both, obviously, suffered very grim fates not necessarily ascribable solely to the evil character of their killers. Too frequently, the memories of both have been used by some who have no care or interest in them personally, but great interest in using them as sticks with which to attack others.

On this last point, we may well share some responsibility: if so, it is something we have wanted to avoid.

And this takes us to our last and most important topic.

At the time we would normally have been sending out our March newsletter, there was a lot of news about another tragic round of school shootings. One happened, and then a number of "copycat" incidents followed. These incidents speak so much to all the roots of hate and violence in our society, that we have been struggling to find a way to pull them all together. We found they seemed to reach nearly everything we have tried to consider since we started this website.

That has been partly reflected in the changes you may have noticed on our home page, and our links bar. It is easier to regret things than it is to find ways of preventing them, and we did feel some obligation to add some links, which would offer some possible ways of responding. Of course, there may be better ways, and we would welcome any ideas from you. We hope the new additions will be helpful to those of you who have been wondering what you can do.

Perhaps we should reproduce an exchange, which occurred between one of our first contacts and best supporters, Regan DuCasse, and a member of our group, John Day. Regan's comments have the carats in front of them.

There is nothing better than a life spent gentling children.
Children, that is, on the threshold of adulthood and in need of
adults who engage them in conversations on ethics and virtues
and purpose and healthy expression of their passions.
The outbreaks of hideous violence in our country are all the
results of kids left too long waiting.
Waiting for rescue, waiting for hugs and kisses, waiting for
undivided ears and minds
Waiting for who is in charge and has their back.
it is horrible to make a child wait for those things.
Then when they can't wait anymore, call THEM evil.

This is absolutely true and absolutely essential to say. As things stand, we have had a world where the young simply do NOT get the adult attention they used to get. I do not see any point in trying to build better yesterdays, but we do have to come to terms with that fact and what we do about it. It has been evident in the schools for 25 years now (which is why class sizes have an importance they didn't use to have). Simply put, the young have been demanding attention from other adults which another generation normally got when one parent was usually at home. And I do not mean the marginal ones. I mean regular, normal kids. However, I have already been on my soapbox about our society NOT valuing kids.

There are two sources we have to contend with. The actual, active hate which can take the less damaging ways of ridicule and taunting, or the more deadly ways of assault amounting to death. That is a little obvious, and the pattern of the physically and emotionally abused taking their anger out by physically and emotionally abusing others is an old and sad one. It is no excuse of course: other choices can be made. But it is literally a vicious circle. The abused then abuse others, who abuse others, who do it in their time, and so on ad infinitum et ad nauseam.

How we break this circle up has once again forced itself on our attention by the school shootings. They largely can be distinguished from hate crimes only in that they are not necessarily directed against groups of people others are taught to dislike, disdain and fear. Although, even then, there are some obvious targets who aren't too well valued. The inoffensive and un-athletic are usually the first. The unusually bright or unusually dim are others. The dynamic is not so different. The lesson of the shootings is that we cannot, as a society, remain indifferent to them any longer.

And that brings us to the second root of hate and violence. There IS a violence of neglect and indifference. Children do learn what they're taught. If they learn that they live in a world without love and kindness; if they learn that they are not valued except (possibly) by their parents; if they learn that are not worthy of adult consideration, those are the lessons they will apply.

So we do not pay much attention to the proper supervision and regulation of care for children whose parents must work, and have Charlotte Wetzel’s. We do not structure our schools to provide some compensation for the lower levels of adult attention available at home. Moreover, we want to look away when there are problems developing in them. Thus we get Columbine’s and the unresolved furies are directed against others when children become adults. In consequence, we have Matthew Shepard's.

It is often urged as a remedy that there should normally be one or both parents at home. Actually, there is a great deal of truth in that. But, leaving aside the moral and ethical questions of whether we would be willing to make the social changes to encourage it, we have built an economy over the past 30 years which depends on there being two sources of income in a nuclear family. Moreover, as a solution, the limitations have to be recognized.

Although it would do something for the amount of adult attention children get, it would not resolve the real issues, which led to this social change in the first place. To take one example, there were a great many abusive families in the "good old days", and a lot of young people (and old ones) were well out of control. The "good old days" were not a golden age; neither were they a dark age. They were a different time, that's all. Our problem is to find a way to deal with the situations in which we find ourselves, rather than to regret the passing of previous ones.

Should this seem to sound a trifle "liberal", we would observe a "conservative" side to it as well: there really are things worth keeping. There will be room for liberal and conservative approached to these questions, and there will be honorable disagreements between those approaches. But, however we do come at these issues, we do have an obligation to find a way to handle them.

The Stop Hate 2000 e-Team

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