When the news came out that Osama bin Laden had been killed, my brain was still floating in research for Robert O’Hara’s Bootycandy – specifically, research on anti-gay activism and hate crimes. So, perhaps it was natural that the seemingly triumphant fact of bin Laden’s death itself was completely overshadowed for me by reports of my nation’s collective outpourings of blind hatred. Nobody rallying at the White House or at Ground Zero personally hated bin Laden – they hated him as a symbol of the national trauma of 9/11.
And I find that disturbing, because that is what the victims of hate crimes are, isn’t it? They are merely the impersonal embodiments of an attribute that the attacker blindly hates. I’m not trying to argue that bin Laden wasn’t a dangerous and terrible person. But I do want to ask – where is the line between hatred and hate crime? When does a free speech-sanctioned opinion become violence towards another person? And most of all, is symbolic hate ever ok, even when it’s on the “good” side?
Take, for example, the case of David Parker’s son. In May of 2006, David Parker showed up at his first grader’s school in Massachusetts to object to a book depicting same-sex parents that his son brought home from school. He wanted to be warned when the lesson plan would involve gay issues, so that he could take his son out of class. When the principal refused, Parker would not leave, and eventually had to be removed by the police. The next day, his seven-year old son was beaten up on the playground – allegedly for being the child of a homophobe. There is some controversy about the attacking children’s motivations – in fact it seems probable that Parker and the anti-gay group Mass Resistance twisted a typical schoolyard fight – but let’s assume that a child was beaten up for being a symbol of homophobia, which is a form of intolerance. And isn’t intolerance one of society’s greatest evils? Don’t you, oh readers out there, hate intolerance alongside me?
But is it ever ok to attack someone for their views? Or to attack someone for the views of another person or a group they could be associated with? In what alternate reality would it be ok for us to go around kicking the crap out of the kids of homophobes – or even homophobic kids? I sit here, self-satisfied with my social liberalism and angry at the injustices rampant in the world, and I hate the people that enact hate crimes. I spent a whole day blindly hating Egyptian men as a group for what happened to Lara Logan, and I’m pretty sure it would not have been ok for me to go out and castrate the first seemingly Egyptian man I saw.
What happened on 9/11 was horrible. What happened to Lara Logan was horrible. What happens as a result of anti-gay activism is horrible. But does that horror mean it is acceptable to lash out against the people associated with causing it?
This is one of the many questions that Bootycandy forces us to address, and I find it haunting. There are very few examples of the victims of discrimination responding militantly, and I wonder why. Sometimes I even think that it might be a good idea to give violent intolerance a taste of its own medicine, but then I wonder – who would be the symbol that I’d choose?
~ Maura Krause, Literary Assistant