How can we, as a society, be so damned casual about hate crime? How can we casually turn the page on yet another vicious attack? It is time to stop thinking that it does not affect us because the victim comes from a minority group. It is time to assert our commonality, our connection. It is time to resist!
Yet again, and to my deep distress, I read of a violent and unnecessary hate crime – in this case perpetrated against two gay men, who did nothing more outrageous than wear colourful shoes (something I have often been ‘guilty’ of myself).
There is, quite literally, no excuse for this kind of mindless evil.
What has happened to the idea that we attack only as a form of self-defence? And that we think twice before doing even that.
Why is it that, to some people, another’s sexuality or gender orientation is seen as such a red flag that they go in, with metaphorical spears and other weapons, in order to taunt and then destroy the fellow human being standing, or walking, or lying, before them?
When I was twelve, I took a bus journey in to Oxford – and, foolishly as it turned out, sauntered up to the top deck. There I was met by a large group of unruly, and vicious, bovver girls. They objected to me, accused me of looking at them and put the boot in.
Aged thirty, I was sexually assaulted in the street by a stranger; the attack was violent and left me with extensive bruising and half a tooth gone. Since the man went on to attack another five women that night, albeit less seriously, it was clear, to me, that he was acting out of hatred – of women.
Those hate crimes – and others like them – make me empathise with others so attacked, and also opened my eyes early to a central truth: if someone wants an excuse to release their rage, they will create one out of nothing: a look, shoes, the gender of your partner, your voice, your accent, the length of your skirt, the colour of your skin, the god you pray to.
The truth? Abusers always choose to act the way they do. It doesn’t matter what their background is – though many try and wangle their way out of responsibility by citing a crap childhood or whatever – since others from identical circumstances grow up without this pathological need to inflict violence upon body or mind.
The truth? These hate criminals have opened the doors of their hearts to hatred, to bigotry, to lethal narrow-mindedness, to covert eugenics, to a Final Solution that wipes out anyone who is not like them.
In old-fashioned, Biblical terms, they have done a deal with the Devil, entered a Faustian Pact.
When a human being allows hatred to fill up the tank of his or her soul, so that the vehicle is running on that sinister juice, he or she has willingly given up a goodly percentage of our shared humanity.
A choice, not the result of trauma.
No one should have to walk in fear (as I still do at night; as many now do during the day) because of their colour, gender, sexuality or religion. No one should ever have to put up with hatred expressed through words, fists and feet and worse.
The answer – which may well lie blowing in the wind – is not to store hatred ourselves and take it out on yet another random group of people. The answer, as St Francis so wisely said in his famous prayer, is to sow love where there is hatred. By this, I mean parents and teachers and wise elders stepping up to the proverbial plate and teaching their young charges the lesson of love and acceptance, of harmony and respect for all, of tolerance and of our shared divine spark being far more important than the things that we allow to divide us.
Let us not attack others for their perceived differences!
Let us acknowledge and cherish true diversity!