Stop Hate 2000 Newsletter April 1, 2002

Dear Friends,

The date of this letter reminds one of us of a political story. In 1949, when Newfoundland entered Canada as its tenth province, it was originally scheduled to join the country unofficially at midnight on April 31. Opinion in Newfoundland had been sharply divided, to say the least, and the Province's first Premier and leading supporter of entering Canada, Joseph R. Smallwood, saw an obvious danger. He could well imagine the anti-Confederation party describing the whole business as an April Fool's Day joke! So, Newfoundland officially joined Canada at 11:30 p.m., on March 31.

It seemed no bad idea to follow this example for our April newsletter!

There's been a lot of news, just about all of it bad.

Perhaps the month was particularly dreadful for children killed by their parents. Most of us will have heard of the trial of Andrea Yates this past month, and the trial of Randall Dooley's parents in Toronto grinds on. We must also pause to remember the one Currie child in Ontario, the six Handel children on Vancouver Island, and the four Bryant children and their mother in Oregon.

This particular form of crime, so they say, hasn't increased or diminished in many, many years. The causes are pretty diverse, ranging from insanity to plain anger and meanness. Almost each of these tragedies has its own unique tale. But we could draw some attention that in three of the families, the parents had wanted to shelter their children from a wicked world. Perhaps we have to look at the evil which can lie in ourselves first. Or the possibility that families often can't do everything themselves. Or, any number of other things. In any case, it was a most terrible month.

A sad case refocused some minds on bullying in schools. That ties into so many other things, including most of what we call regular hate crimes. Some months ago, Dawn-Marie Wesley of Abbotsford, B.C.,then 14 years old, committed suicide after being particularly hounded by her classmates, one of whom went from threatening her to beating her up. One of them was convicted this month on March 25 of criminal harassment. A second was acquitted, when it came out that she had at first participated in the bullying, but had pulled out. Two comments form the trial are worth recalling.

The trial judge, Jill Rounthwaite, had some harsh words for a number of girls who were not on trial. They say a lot to all of us: "I was particularly dismayed that none of the bystanders had the moral strength or courage to stand in front of Dawn Marie Wesley, to tell the bullies to stop, go away, leave her alone....they added to their power and intimidation."

There was another story, too. The girl who was acquitted tried to apologize to Dawn-Marie's mother, who then embraced her and said "Please do not hold yourself accountable for her death. I ask that you not hold yourself accountable." And the girls reply was, "I hope my daughter is not a bully and doesn't get bullied. I wish I could have changed what happened. I have blamed myself for a long time. I wish I had not lost her. I wish Dawn-Marie's family had not lost her."

We will be reminded of two who took a more violent path to resolve their difficulties. The Arts and Entertainment's network will be showing a documentary about the Columbine High School shootings this month. More painful memories, but we must remember them if we are to learn how to prevent them.

And another two hate crimes based on sexual orientation were brought to our attention.

On February 24, Clinton Scott Risetter of Santa Barbara, California, died after he was set on fire as he slept in his apartment. The perpetrator, who has been charged with murder and arson, was very straightforward about the motivation. He was the nearest gay man whom he could attack.

Somebody who happily is still alive is April Mora, 17, of Denver, Colorado, who was attacked by four very brave young men on march 26, who carved the word "Dyke" on her forearm. They threatened a lot worse, but happily they didn't do it. Necessarily, this brings to mind somebody else, who did have the courage to try and intervene when he saw somebody being bullied in a schoolyard, and who was ultimately killed because among all the reasons why he was an easy target, he was also gay. That, of course, was Matthew Shepard. His death was forcefully recalled by "The Matthew Sheaprd Story" on NBC, and "The Laramie Project" of HBO. As of now, we are not aware of any plans to rerun either, not if tapes will be made available to the public. We'll try to keep an eye out for either. Watch our message board if you don't hear by way of newsletter.

However, the stage play script for "The Laramie Project", which is significantly different from the movie adaptation can be obtained in book form. It is available from Vintage Books. It's longer, and it explores a lot of subtleties both about Matthew and Laramie that the movie could not do. Have a look at the following website for details:

We understand that MTV's "Anatomy of a Hate Crime" will be available on tape soon.

Despite the larger amount of attention paid to both of those movies, a third, "The Believer" may be more important in the long run. This was on Showtime in the United States, and it did not get the recognition it deserved. It is a fictional story of a neo-Nazi skinhead, who turns out to be Jewish. It is quite a probing look into the mind of a hater, and a better explanation of what happens and why in these crimes. But it is based on quite true story. If there is any word of a second showing, and you have access to Showtime, have a look at it.

Despite all this news, most of it bad, it is a time of reawakening in the northern hemisphere, duly observed as Easter, Passover, or the various observations of the Spring equinox. Perhaps we may hope for reawakening in other things. May it be a happy and blessed occasion however you mark it.

The Stop Hate 2000 e-Team

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