Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Hate Makes Waste

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Hate Makes Waste

Article excerpt

FIRST THE GOOD NEWS. THERE WERE FEWER major crimes in the United States during 1998 for the seventh consecutive year. A single major crime is, of course, one too many, but the continuing reduction in such crimes, as reported by the U.S. Department of Justice, is cause for happiness, if not satisfaction.

Several causes for this diminution come to mind. Our general, if unevenly distributed, economic prosperity probably accounts for fewer "money crimes"--armed robbery, burglary, auto theft--and might even account for a reduction in some crimes of domestic violence.

But all too often, news of a particularly horrific crime shatters any complacency we might have. Some of the latter are properly called hate crimes, because they arise not in the pursuit of money or in the throes of spasmodic fury that sometimes mark the worst of domestic violence, but because they are directed at a member or members of a particular group.

Matthew Shepard was a 21-year-old Wyoming college student, 5 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 105 pounds (his dimensions matter in this terrible story as does the fact that Matthew was gay). He had the misfortune to casually meet two men and a woman who kidnapped him, took him to an isolated rural spot where they savagely pistol-whipped him, and left him tied to a fence in bitterly cold weather. There his almost lifeless body remained for several hours until a passerby, almost mistaking him for a scarecrow, reported the crime to authorities, but too late to save Matthew's life.

This horrible assault was, astonishingly, first reported as a robbery, but the overwhelming public reaction to it forced a recognition that hatred of Matthew's sexual orientation was the cause of the brutality that led to his death.

Other recent hate crimes have been just as shocking. Blacks in the United States are anything but strangers to violence that targets that artificial category called "race." Their skin color, varying from black black to a cafe-au-lait shade, almost indistinguishable from what we quixotically call "white," has made all too many of them victims of haters. Public lynching, once so common to our shame in the United States, has all but disappeared, but the vitriol that brought enjoyment to lynchers sadly still exists.

To wit, the hideous fate of a Texas man accosted by several Ku Klux Klan wannabes, tied to the back of a car, and dragged over roads, mangling his body beyond repair. …

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