Monday, June 22, 2009

Hate Speech Kills

Homosexuality is legal in Iraq but is condemned by religious leaders. Recently, two gay men were murdered in March and four more were found dead in the Baghdad Shiite slum of Sadr City in April. Both incidents closely followed condemnations of homosexuality by leading local clerics. In Iraq, despite the legal status of homosexuality, Amnesty International reports that twenty five boys and men were killed in Baghdad between March and April because they were, or were perceived to be, gay.

This sort of tragedy happens around the world on a regular basis and often goes unreported as a hate crime. And the sweet part is that hate speech fuels this sort of hate crime. And hate speech is intentional, especially when people realize in advance what effects it would have. Unbelievably some people rejoice over such acts in the name of whatever God they worship, saying it was just punishment for their "crimes" and then they pass around the collection plate. Hate speech kills, what more proof does the world's religious leaders need of this? How much longer will this continue?

This deathtoll - which mounts daily in the battlefields for equality around the world are just more casualties in the so-called "culture war" - a completely unnecessary war that has cost so many innocent lives, and caused so many needless tragedies already. In Jamaica gay people flee for their lives, pursued by mobs who would tear them limb from limb, unfettered by law. Pictures of the execution of two teenage boys being publicly hanged in Iran circulate the world - their only crime? Being gay. In America a young trans woman is bludgeoned to death by a man who later claims "I killed IT." Fortunately he will have many years behind bars to ponder the inhumanity and cruelty reflected in his deed - and his words. In Russia and former Soviet nations, fledgling Pride events come under violent attack and threat of death - and even the police are reluctant to intervene.

Around the world, the pink community fights for recognition, equality and civil rights, against oppression, discrimination and annihilation. War? I would call it that.

Horrific tales of the barbarism evident in the Iraqi murders unfold with descriptions of abductions, victims having their anuses glued shut with surgical tissue adhesive and being forced to ingest a powerful laxative. The victims die writhing in terrible agony as their insides rupture. Such unimaginable cruelty, and all because of ignorance, hatred and intolerance - propagated by hate speech.

The irony and added insult is that these monsters probably think they are nice ordinary guys - good guys. Things like this challenge any remaining hint of belief in me that there is a God - and if there is, that he is a loving god. If anything, I have certainly lost all faith in humanity a long time ago.

Things like this sadden me beyond words. Horrors like this make me wish I was better at violence than words - and I am pretty damn good at words. Such people hate us - belittle us as "not being human" and "being evil" - and yet being capable of such unspeakable acts they still see themselves as "better" than us?

Not by a long shot. They deserve whatever harm comes to them - and may it come to them on swift wings.

It seems it is not unusual these days for clerics in Iraq to mix in a good portion of anti-gay rhetoric in their prayers and sermons. The same can be said for many Christian churches these days. Is it any surprise that devout believers take these messages to heart and put actions to them?

All propaganda and personal issues aside, regardless of whether you are straight or gay, if you believe in a loving God - you will resist all attempts by groups and individuals to spread unfounded lies and incite hatred against people simply because they happen to be different to you. Hate speech causes things like this.

A few in our community may call for the return of the death penalty. If only it were so simple. I would like nothing better than to reward the monsters responsible for such horrors and cruelty with a dose of their own medicine - but how does one justify death? It undoes nothing, it makes nothing right again, does not restore any balance. It just begets more death, more sorrow.

In the end, what is done is done.

And people cannot learn from their mistakes - or be utterly miserable because of them - if they are dead.

The death penalty may reward the killers for their acts of hatred, but it will not help the victims - nor will it prevent hate crimes like this from happening. Regretfully, imposing the death penalty on the instruments of these crimes of hate will not dissuade the people inciting the hate behind the scenes from continuing to do so in future.

Some countries still have the death penalty - and they still have hate crimes like this. Some countries USE the death penalty as an excuse and a tool to DO things like this.

It is hate speech that fuels crimes like this - hate speech that influences people and generates hatred for those they see as different to them and therefore "evil" in their view and deserving of "punishment".

The solution isn't the death penalty - the solution is to stop the hate.

What can stop these acts of inhuman cruelty and barbarism? What can stop the lies? What can stop the hate? The answer to that is far simpler than any of us realize.

Education in truth and fact.

Tolerance of diversity.

Love.

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